The Film ✮✮✮ 1/2
What if the supposed astroid that destroyed the dinosaurs missed? This question basically sets up the premise for Pixar’s newest film The Good Dinosaur, which tells an alternate storyline in which dinosaurs evolved more than humans. We follow Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), a wimpy Apatosaurus who is completely debilitated by fear. He’s the runt of a litter and, while his two other siblings quickly prove themselves and leave their mark on the family farm, Arlo stumbles time and time again. His Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) is patient with him.
After a storm separates Arlo from his family, leaving him hundreds of miles away from home, he follows Poppa’s advice to follow the river to get back. Along the way he meets a “critter,” a human boy named Spot, and the two team up and work together to make the trek back home.
The Good Dinosaur‘s scenery in the woody Pacific Northwest is extraordinary and breathtaking, from the flowing water and drizzling rain to towering trees and luscious fields. Many feared the Gumby, cartoony-looking characters would distract from the film’s realistic backgrounds, but that is far from the case. The characters and world blend so nicely together that it’s a visual delight. The Good Dinosaur truly is one of Pixar’s best looking films to date.
The story, however, is nothing revolutionary, but that’s okay. The premise of dinosaurs out-evolving humans is an interesting one to explore (although, I really would have loved to see this film set in the modern day to see what that evolutionary track would look like). We see our hero set out on a journey to Clawed-Tooth Mountain, which is vaguely reminiscent of another dino journey to the Great Valley, as he encounters obstacles and nuisances.
Overall, the film is exactly what its title tells us: good.
Bonus Features ✮✮✮
Typically Pixar wows us with its amazing, in-depth bonus material; however, with The Good Dinosaur, the features are mediocre, perhaps reflecting how the studio itself feels about this film.
- THEATRICAL SHORT – Sanjay’s Super Team: This short is the best thing to come out of The Good Dinosaur‘s release. It’s moving, funny, and enlightening.
- TRUE LIES ABOUT DINOSAURS: This feels like a mini documentary about dinos, which is only marginally related to the film. Instead of telling us what aspects from dinosaurs filmmakers decided to use for their film, the feature talks about all the different ways their dinosaurs differ. This would be fine, but the actual presentation is so disconnected from the film it feels like a stretch that was included just to fill time.
- RECYCLOSAURUS: Again, this is a feature that has less to do with the actual making of the film. Instead, it takes us inside the magical world of Pixar Animation Studios, so I’ll take it. At Pixar, they have a “free table,” where anyone can leave behind unwanted items for others to take. To celebrate this film, the crew used only items from this table to create some seriously cool dinosaur creations. May the best Recyclosaurus win!
- THE FILMMAKERS’ JOURNEY: Director Peter Sohn and his fellow filmmakers break down making The Good Dinosaur. Obviously this journey starts where Sohn picked up and took over. They barely mention this massive bump in the road and really don’t spend much time talking about it, which, while understandable from a PR perspective, is a bit disappointing. To truly understand this movie and how it ended up in its final form, it’s important to understand the whole journey. However, we probably won’t ever publicly know this story since Pixar will just sweep its past under the rug like it never happened, trying to paint a rosy picture for us. Either way, the insights Sohn and his crew share in this feature are great and much needed in a bonus feature set that is, for the most part, lacking.
- EVERY PART OF THE DINOSAUR: The animators on this film had their work cut out for them, since they had to animate a dinosaur who acts likes a boy and a boy acts like a dog. We get some insight into these challenges as the animators walk us through the nuances of each of the characters.
- FOLLOWING THE T-REX TRAIL: In making a film, it’s not uncommon for the filmmakers to visit some real-life locations inspired by their film. In this case, they get to visit a working cattle ranch and meet the McKays, “a close-knit family whose work ethic, generosity, and stories inspired the T-Rex ranchers of the film.”
- COMMENTARY: At least you can always count on Pixar to deliver an excellent commentary! This commentary is clearly the best featurette of the set and is led by director Peter Sohn, story supervisor Kelsey Mann, supervising animator Mike Venturini, director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan, and supervising technical director Sanjay Bakshi.
- DINO BITES: While nothing extraordinary, these original animated mini clips were released online in the months prior to the film’s release to help promote The Good Dinosaur. If you’re an animation addict, you’ve probably seen all of these roaming around the Internet before.
- HIDE AND SEEK: This is a short animated clip produced to promote the film. Unlike the clips above, it’s more fully animated (with backgrounds).
- DELETED SCENES: We have three deleted scenes, all from Sohn’s involvement in the film. Again, not to beat a dead dinosaur here, but I really would have loved to see deleted scenes from the film’s prior life to really see what was different and what changed. But, since that is never going to happen, these three little deleted scenes will do.
Like the actual film itself, the bonus features on The Good Dinosaur home media release are just good and far from spectacular (which we’ve become spoiled enough to expect from Pixar releases). While you’re not going to find much substance or deep insights in the bonus features, the overall film and set are still worth owning for the sake of completing your Pixar movie collection.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes