Much delayed, The Good Dinosaur marks the first time Pixar have ever released two films in one calendar year, the first being Inside Out. It was meant to be their big release in 2014, but after extensive production problems, including a change of director, and a complete overhaul of the cast, it’s finally been released at the tail end of 2015. Normally renowned for their quality film making, it might be hard for even Pixar to overcome a year and a half of delays, and a film that doesn’t feel like it has the full confidence of the studio behind it.
The Good Dinosaur is the story of Arlo, a small and nervous Apatosaurus, who’s separated from his family, and is forced to make his way back to them through the dangerous world of dinosaurs. Along the way he makes an unlikely friend in the form of Spot, a feral early human child.
The marketing for The Good Dinosaur posed the question: ‘what would the world be like if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs never hit Earth?’. That question isn’t really addressed. Yes, the story is set millions of years after the extinction event, with early humans and dinosaurs existing in the same world, but it’s used more as a set up than an actual story device that’s properly explored.
That being said, it doesn’t really matter at all. The Good Dinosaur is very light on story. As with most ‘road trip’ style films, it’s about the adventures that happen and the characters that you meet along the way. On the whole, this film succeeds in both of those areas. Not everything that happens is hugely interesting, there’s a twenty minute section in the middle featuring a family of T-Rex that feels quite out-of-place, but generally there’s enough going on to maintain interest. Arlo and Spot are also so likable that it’s easier to watch some of the less interesting things that happen to them on their adventure.
One place this film really excels is the landscape animation. Every setting is near photo-realistic, particularly the scenes set in or around water, the only area that the film is slightly let down by is the design of the characters. They are a lot more cartoonish, and while their movements, skin and hair are all very detailed, they feel a little bit out-of-place in such realistic settings.
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