Dinosaur – This was Disney’s first fully computer animated movie, with the backgrounds filmed live. It looks quite impressive, but unfortunately that’s all it really has going for it. The plot is rather generic and pretty slow, and it just doesn’t feel like a Disney movie. Maybe some songs and more comic relief would have helped. Apparently some attempts at humor were nixed, but so was the idea to have the film end with the extinction of the dinosaurs. It’s rather somber for Disney, but it could have been much worse. I get the impression that the animation studio wanted to make a movie about dinosaurs, but couldn’t really decide what they wanted to DO with the dinosaurs.
The movie begins with a carnotaur trampling a nest of iguanodon eggs while in pursuit of prey. One egg survives and is stolen by an oviraptor, but through a series of events involving several different prehistoric animals, it ends up with some lemurs who have never seen a dinosaur before.
The presence of lemurs at the same time as dinosaurs makes it obvious that scientific accuracy was not a major concern. The lemurs are the first characters we hear talking. The plan was originally to not have dialogue in the film, but Michael Eisner insisted on putting it in because he didn’t think audiences would go for it otherwise. The young iguanodon, whose name is Aladar, has fun growing up with the lemurs, but their lives change when a meteor strike destroys the land. Aladar manages to save a few of the lemurs, and reaches a place where a large herd of dinosaurs is migrating from the dead land to a valley where food is still plentiful. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s basically the same plot as The Land Before Time. Trying not to make the movies too similar was a concern for Disney, and the choice of somewhat more obscure dinosaur species probably had something to do with Jurassic Park having used all the cool ones. The main predator was originally going to be a tyrannosaurus, but it was changed to the less famous carnotaur. The carnotaurs in the movie are much bigger than the actual animals, however.
Anyway, the herd is led by an iguanodon named Krom, a stubborn type who sets the pace for the migration and has no problem with leaving the weaker dinosaurs behind.
Aladar distinguishes himself by helping out some of the older members of the herd, and also develops a relationship with Krom’s sister Neera. Eventually, Aladar helps the herd reach the last safe place, and they all live happily ever after. Well, except for Krom, who dies on the way. And I have to suspect that the resources wouldn’t hold out for very many more generations, but at least it’s a temporarily happy ending. There are even more lemurs living in the valley.
Overall, it’s definitely one of the weaker entries in the Disney animated canon, and I’m not sure I ever would have seen it if it hadn’t counted as one of the numbered films. I’m not even sure it did at first, but I can’t find any information on the renumbering online.