We’ve come to set such grand expectations for Disney/Pixar, that anything that fails to reach the status of instant classic, we’re often very quick to dismiss. The creators of Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up and Inside Out have time and again found ways to inspire every generation in their audience with spectacular visuals, memorable characters, well-rounded morals and poignantly developed storylines. Sadly, The Good Dinosaur is not of the same cinematic value of its predecessors, but it shouldn’t be entirely written off either.
The aptly titled new animated feature from the studio is a simpler entry. It lacks the profundity and emotional complexity of Pixar’s other 2015 delight, Inside Out, but for smaller children in particular, it’s a spoon full of sweetness and charm that is perfect for the holiday season.
The Good Dinosaur is set in an alternate timeline, where the meteorite never wiped out the land before time or its inhabitants. Dinosaurs not only remain as the dominant rulers of the earth, but they’ve taken to living as frontiersmen and women in a classic Saturday morning Western that our parents and/or grandparents would have enjoyed. It’s an interesting spin on evolutionary theory, that presents a co-existence between man and beast, but with the roles reversed. The dinosaurs have developed sophisticated language skills and intelligence, whereas all humans remain as Neanderthals, with characteristics closer to that of today’s household pets. When we finally meet the first human character, a resourceful, but animalistic human boy, he’s quickly attached the moniker of ‘Spot’.
The film is centred around Arlo, a smaller, weaker apatosaurus who struggles to make his mark in his family and in the wider world surrounding him. He lacks courage and the word ‘fear’ is mentioned more times than in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. As can be expected, Arlo becomes lost in the great and terrifying wilderness and must overcome his fear as he makes his way back to his family.
While the story is weak and recycled from every other family film, The Good Dinosaur gets a lot of mileage out of its captivating state-of-the-art visuals that are sure to take your breath away. The stunning vistas and water animations are gorgeously photorealistic. Arlo and Spot’s journey almost seems like an excuse to allow the animators a chance to perfect their craft. The two travel through cloud-covered mountain tops, burnt-desert plains, lightning storms, waterfalls, pine forests, and meadows filled with fireflies. The beauty of this film, and the world it so greatly admires and represents, cannot be understated.
Take your kids for some family bonding and allow yourself to be swept away by the splendour of its imagery, just don’t go in expecting the usual Pixar gold standard. This is 100% Pixar-lite and we’re OK with this.