The film begins about 65 million years ago with scientists’ proposed apocalyptic extinction of dinosaurs, an asteroid zooming towards Earth in space. However, this asteroid zooms past its proclaimed target. Fast forward to present day in the American Northwest, two Apatosaurus are tilling the soil and farming the land with giant noses.
The Good Dinosaur proposes an odd form of story telling and conveying the underlying theme amidst the current-era of dinosaurs. This film follows Momma, Poppa, and three baby dinosaurs that hatch within 3 seconds of each other, the runt, Arlo, having the most trouble. He grows into a gentle-giant—in the shadows of his brother and sister.
After the first 20 minutes, dedicated to building the connection between viewer and dinosaur family, Arlo is now 11 and a puppet to his fear and paranoia. His father and him endure on a long walk, boldly showing off the beautiful sceneries of the sunset. When all of a sudden, a storm sweeps in and floods the river they walk by. Through the turbulence of the storm, (a similar Lion King cliché) Poppa saves Arlo before disappearing with the current of the river.
In the midst of the storm, Arlo builds himself a shelter out of trees, all while a small snarking, barking, non-talking human child, who Arlo named Spot, on all fours crawls quickly—developing a connection. However, in this relationship, the roles are reversed. The small, hyperactive child, wearing a leaf for clothing, hunts and scavenges what is found to be gruesome to Arlo, the herbivore. This antagonism quickly turns to friendship when Spot finds ways to help Arlo and joins him on his journey back home.
The weather in Arlo’s universe is particularly strange (keep in mind there’s no pollutants, or climate change, or depletion of the ozone). Clouds gather and swirl and rumble, following the flat plains, and mountains that Arlo journeys through. The movie focuses on photorealism, some scenes panning off into the skies, full of shots that can be mistaken for real-life.
The film as a whole offers a few lessons that can be understood by children—being true to yourself, and pushing to try your best; the story told in the fashion of the good dinosaur.
It’s no doubt that this film is not as emotionally wrenching as Pixar’s previous film, Inside Out—which broke box office as fourth-biggest animated debut film (after Shrek the Third, Toy Story 3, and Shrek 2). The movie tends to compare closer to other Pixar films like Wall-E and Brave, focusing on animated visuals and falling back on simplistic themes. But, as a whole, Pixar put out a successful movie, full of emotion (not to mention the Pixar animated short before the movie), enduring the journey of a boy and beast relationship, however, in this one, it’s hard to tell which is which.