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The Good Dinosaur - Film Review

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by Jenny Rossiter (subscribe)
Writer, photographer, educator, explorer of places new, with a passion for adding fun back into life.
Published December 7th 2015
An Apatosaurus and His Pet Human
A flaming asteroid is barrelling towards earth, where dinosaurs are peacefully grazing. The asteroid is minutes away from a colossal, life-destroying hit. The dinosaurs look up at the ball of flames as it whizzes past their heads. Unphased, they return to eating.

The Good Dinosaur, Disney Pixar

'The Good Dinosaur' asks the question: 'What if the prehistoric life-destroying asteroid missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?'

Set in rough wild mountain scenery, the loveable rounded cartoon characters stand out from their surroundings. In 'The Good Dinosaur,' director Peter Sohn juxtaposes two styles of animation. His characters have a childish cartoon whimsy and the backdrops have photographic realism. Cinematographer, Sharon Calahan, spent many hours painting in Wyoming and Dakota. Her experience as a landscape painter clearly contributes to the beauty of the film. Having previously worked on 'Finding Nemo', 'Toy Story 2' and 'Bug's Life' as Director of Photography for Pixar, Sharon brought considerable experience to 'The Good Dinosaur'.

The Good Dinosaur, Disney Pixar

Animated clouds have been previously been painted in a matt finish. This is the first Pixar film that has achieved the difficult task of 3D clouds that respond to wind, rain and storms.

Down on the farm, Henry and Ida Apatosaurus, are awaiting the hatching of their babies. Arlo is born the the runt of the litter and struggles to feel as worthy as his strong brother and his funny, clever sister. His father walks with him under his protective tail and tells Arlo, 'Someday you'll make your mark and I can't wait to see it.' Before Arlo can become the good dinosaur, he must gain independence, conquer his fears and learn to survive in the elements.

Our hero, Arlo the Apatosaurus, learns that nature can be one of the most dangerous foes; a fact experienced by the filmmakers themselves when capsizing their kayaks in rapids on the river and losing a GoPro camera. Thankfully the camera, and its valuable reference footage, was recovered further downstream.

The environment is an expansive canvas of Arlo's emotions. Memories, fear and his father's voice tumble together in a torrent of water cascading down the river. The big expanse of wild country highlights Arlo's small size. Size is no indicator of determination and survival; a fact frequently demonstrated by Arlo's pet human. In one of the most emotional scenes, they expressively communicate their sense of family and loss with simple sticks and sand. The lines of family are later redrawn in a teary scene towards the end.

There is lots of teeth and there is comic relief. All the Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs missed the audition for villain. Instead they were hired as cowboys. Watching them gallop across the plains, rounding up long-horns is hilariously incongruous.You are unlikely to miss the visual allusion to 'Jaws'.

All the hallmarks of Disney Pixar's successful connection with both children and adults are here. It asks the deep questions: 'What is family?' 'How do I overcome fear?' 'How do I make my mark?' Unlikely friendships help our hero mature. Stabled Disney movies stand guard over their new siblings. Several times I saw echoes of 'The Lion King'.

The standout feature of this animation is the stunning scenery. The sky, the river, the wind in the trees all have their own voice. Sit and listen for they are beautiful.

Kids' Comments about The Good Dinosaur

'I like the friendliest dinosaur,' said Miss Ten talking about the Tyrannosaurus Rex family Nash, Ramsey and Butch, in what might be a completely new image for the species.

Was anything in the movie too scary? 'Nah' said Master Eight, who was seen wide-eyed and clutching his sister, when Arlo and Spot eat rotten peaches and see life through dreamy eyes.

What would you tell your friends about the movie, if they were thinking about seeing it? 'Go!' said Miss Ten emphatically.

'The Good Dinosaur' opens on December 26th.
All images and video The Good Dinosaur, Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.

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*Jenny Rossiter was invited as a guest
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Why? An entertaining thought provoking movie for all ages.
Parental guidance recommended.
When: Opens 26 December 2015
Previews at some cinemas on Sunday 13 December.
Cost: See individual cinemas for ticket prices.
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