Disney moves fully away from the musicals of the Renaissance and jumps right into its Experimental Age of Animation with the 2000 film, “Dinosaur.” The film follows Aladar, an Iguanodon who is taken from his home as an egg and ends up being raised by lemurs. When a meteor destroys their home, Aladar and his lemur family find a herd of other herbivore dinosaurs
looking for a nesting ground that is plentiful with plants. Along the way, Aladar starts helping some of the slower animals while the leader of the herd, Kron, wants to leave them behind.
Eventually, Aladar and a few others get separated, find a different path into the nesting ground and Aladar goes back to save the herd from a carnitore that has been hunting them down. This is the very first computer animated film released by the Walt Disney Animation Studios. It looks beautiful. The animation style looks lifelike. At times, it’s easy to forget you are watching
what many would call a cartoon because it looks like it could be real. And, at other times, what was cutting edge in 2000 now looks like dated animation. That’s going to be true of a lot of films as they age, and it’s true of “Dinosaur” as well.
While I referenced some of the animation looks dated, that can be overcome with a quality story. We are almost 30 years removed from the first “Toy Story” film but it still gets a lot of love despite some dated and antiquated computer animation because of the strength of the story. Unfortunately, this is where “Dinosaur” fails. The story is coherent. It’s fine. But it’s one we’ve seen before and this version doesn’t really stand the test of time. We’ve probably seen Disney tell this story in a better way both before and since this film. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. It was just a movie.
While I may be critical of some of the 2000s Disney films, I rather enjoy the fact they took time to test new animation styles and new forms of storytelling. The returns from the Renaissance were starting to diminish and Disney was either going to fall into a rut or try something new. Trying something new allowed them to create many of the things that we love about the Disney
Revival. That’s why the Experimental Age is so important. The films might have faltered next to the films from Pixar and even some of the stronger efforts from Dreamworks. But, they needed to be made to prepare Disney for what was to come.
This film is not great. I would not recommend it to anyone who is looking to sit down and enjoy a Disney classic. I wouldn’t even recommend it to someone who is a true student of animation who wants to see the different styles that have evolved over time. I wouldn’t recommend this film at all. But, I’m still glad it was made. I’m glad I took the time to watch it. I just probably won’t watch it again.