I’m not sure why they called the movie The Good Dinosaur. It would have been more appropriate to call it The Really Good Dinosaur. Or The Stupendous Dinosaur. Or The One Dinosaur Movie You Can’t Afford to Miss. Last Saturday, I was invited by Disney to see an advance screening of the movie and even though I had seen all the previews, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I walked away with a big smile on my face and a good feeling in my heart. What more could you possibly ask for?
Admittedly, the plot isn’t particularly original. I’m not giving away anything by telling you it’s about a young dinosaur who gets separated from his family and has to find his way back. Part buddy movie, part journey movie, part coming-of-age movie, it never gets lost in these various genres and instead fulfills them all. The script is reminiscent of The Lion King but also has flashes of Lilo and Stitch. But even while it shares similarities with these other movies, it is definitely its own movie as well.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the movie is how incredibly beautiful every scene is. Often we don’t think of the surroundings as a character in the film, but more of an accent to the action. But in The Good Dinosaur the environment is every bit a character. The creators of the film treated it as such, giving it depth and movement, color and detail often found only in foreground characters. Director Peter Sohn said, “We didn’t want it to feel like a walk in the park. This world feels big even to a dinosaur.” And it does. Often times the environment is an antagonist for Arlo (the dinosaur) and his friend Spot (the boy). Whether there are floods or rain or lightning, it is seemingly indistinguishable from reality. Yet when the characters interact with the environment, it is also seamless.
Speaking of the characters, it is the relationship between Arlo and Spot that lies at the heart of the movie. Raymond Ochoa and Jack Bright do a great job of voicing Arlo and Spot respectively, but much credit has to be given to the animation team as well who make these characters lovable and believable whether they are speaking or not. The visualization of the characters sharing about their families, the adorable way they are able to show Arlo’s fear coming out of the egg, the scratch marks in the ground to show Spot’s efforts to help Arlo are all credit to the animation team. A movie like this shows the terrific synergy between all of the different aspects of filmmaking – acting, directing, lighting, animation, sound, and more. The story itself will tug at your heartstrings. This is most definitely the must-see movie of the Thanksgiving weekend. Take the whole family and walk away smiling.