Review: The Good Dinosaur

Once again, Disney and Pixar made an animated feature that can easily pull the heartstrings of both children and the inner-children of adult audiences. In their latest adventure, we have a cross between a heartwarming coming-of-age tale and a classic yarn about a boy and his pet. Sort of.

Image by Disney-Pixar

The Good Dinosaur explores a fascinating concept: What if the asteroid that struck the Earth millions of years ago, the one that wiped out all of the dinosaurs, missed?

The Good Dinosaur follows a young Apatosaurus named Arlo, voiced by Raymond Ochoa, who is separated from his home and family. Arlo is accompanied by a feral wolf-boy dubbed Spot, voiced by Jack Bright, and together they embark on an incredible adventure to get Arlo back to his family. Sound familiar?

If so, that’s because this delightful Disney-Pixar feature plays on the tropes of many familiar themes of Disney movies past, but that doesn’t hinder this movie’s identity in the slightest. Lush and eye-popping animation, and tender story make up the core of what The Good Dinosaur is.

Image by Disney-Pixar

Essentially, The Good Dinosaur takes cues from animated classics like The Lion King, especially with scenes between Arlo and his Poppa, voiced by Jeffrey Wright, and companion-based features like Finding Nemo, Arlo and Spot are journeying throughout the mountainous landscape, encountering exotic and dangerous creatures, on their quest back home, with a little bit of Homeward Bound thrown in.

Recently, I heard that this movie could be interpreted as a Western and the more I thought about it, the more I saw that connection. Arlo is this young yellow-bellied farmboy living out in this mountainous-area/wilderness, who ends up herding buffalo, dodging rustlers, with his trusty and protective companion at his side and ultimately returns home after discovering his inner courage; I definitely think this film takes cues from a western or two.

I definitely believe that director Peter Sohn, screenwriter Meg LeFauve, Erik Benson, Kelsey Mann and Bob Peterson have formed something that will linger with audiences in terms of story and the story meshes with visuals so beautifully, moments are created. For instance, when Arlo and Spot are bonding by the riverbed about the families they are separated from, I thought that was an aching and resonating moment from The Good Dinosaur.

Meg LeFauve did a fine job writing such a sentimental, funny and well-rounded story. Every loose end, every subplot, every detail comes full-circle in the end and I applaud the effort that went into making this film as strong as the visuals.

Visually, you could take this movie, frame by frame and hang those frames individually in an art museum. Either running though a flock of birds who take wing when they are startled, the Forrest Woodbush, voiced by director Peter Sohn, emerging from the woods to encounter Arlo and Spot, the animation in this movie is superb; quality Disney-Pixar at its best.

When it comes to the vocal cast, they do a good job. Jeffrey Wright, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Peter Sohn, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Pacquin, Sam Elliott all contribute to the overall story, each voice makes their character memorable.

I must credit Harley Jessup’s production design, the art department, the visual effects and of course the animation department. This movie is utterly gorgeous to look at and it especially works well in 3D.

The editing by Stephen Schaffer works very nicely. The story flows steadily and it doesn’t truly skip a beat in terms of the visual storytelling.

The Good Dinosaur truly is one of the best animated films of this year and a worthy addition to the legacy Disney and Pixar have established in the twenty years they have worked together.

Now the time has come to ask the question has The Good Dinosaur surpassed Inside Out as the animated film to beat? Tough question, even tougher to contemplate, but I’m going to have to say no, however it is up there.

I could see Inside Out or The Good Dinosaur winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in a few months.

I can’t exactly say that The Good Dinosaur is one of the year’s best films though. This is reasonably imaginative and it does pay homage to the films that came before it though, that I will respect, it’s just aside from the jaw-dropping visuals and visual appeal, the impact leaves much to be desired, but I walked away from The Good Dinosaur quite pleased.

I would definitely encourage anyone who is curious about The Good Dinosaur to go to theaters and see it. It’s very touching and I think kids and parents will thoroughly enjoy it.

Sidenote: I’d like to take a quick moment to celebrate that this is my 500th blog post! Yay!

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