On a strictly technical level, Dinosaur is an amazing advancement for animation. These majestic creatures, who exist today only as bones, are brought vibrantly to life and romp in a three-dimensional landscape. Directors Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton have fashioned an exciting adventure film which supposes that the meteors, which (in theory) wiped out all animal life on Earth, weren’t actually the end of the dinosaurs.
Unfortunately, the ambitious Dinosaur is undercut by the dictates of a G-rated Disney spectacle, where anthropomorphized creatures are touchy-feely (but mercifully song-free) and nothing gets shown onscreen which might frighten a 5-year-old. The result is a sanitized animal kingdom, where carnivores are bad, herbivores are good and the brutal reality of dinosaur life is neutered.
The iguanodon Aladar (voice of D.B. Sweeney) is accidentally transported as an egg to a dinosaur-free island and ends up being raised by a family of lemurs headed by Plio (Alfre Woodard) and Yar (Ossie Davis). This is scientifically questionable, but a good choice dramatically, because these small, lively primates provide the warmth necessary to humanize the cold-blooded reptiles.
After meteors rain from the sky and devastate their home, Aladar and the lemurs wind up as part of a ragtag dinosaur herd led by Kron (Samuel E. Wright) and his sister, Neera (Julianna Margulies), who are on a relentless hike across the barren desert to their nesting grounds.
Kron adopts a (boo! hiss!) survival-of-the-fittest attitude, whereby the weak are left behind to die. Aladar, who preaches compassion and inclusion, ends up standing up for the weak and equality for all creatures (a handy philosophy given that many here are the last of their kind).
The not-so-subtle lesson in Dinosaur is that different species must cooperate and band together for their mutual survival. Given what happened to the real dinosaurs, this comes off as a mixed message at best.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.