Like the hero of the film itself The Good Dinosaur has not had an easy journey. First announced by Pixar in 2009 the film was meant to be released in 2013 but with the third act of the film proving troublesome, directors leaving the project and schedule clashes the film was finally released last year. The same year that Pixar reaffirmed its unique excellence with Inside Out, the film that would rightly go on to win Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars. It’s any wonder The Good Dinosaur didn’t become extinct under such pressure.
The story sees the meteor that killed the dinosaurs missing earth and allowing dinosaurs to rule the earth and form a sort of farming come Western society. We follow a family of Apatosaurus who farm their land. Runt of the family Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is desperate to earn his family’s respect but lives in fear of everything. When disaster strikes Arlo finds himself far from home and fighting for his life. It seems like the end is near until he meets a lonely, and feral, human Spot (Jack Bright). At first the pair don’t get on but soon form a bond akin to pet and owner, in this world the human being the former.
The first thing you notice about The Good Dinosaur is how staggering and beautiful a film it is. Pixar have excelled themselves in achieving near photo-real designs with their landscapes. In fact so eye-poppingly gorgeous it is that you’ll find yourself asking if it is in fact real. In particular Pixar have nailed the aesthetic of water, every ripple, reflection and bubble so perfectly created you want to drink it all in. The characters remain cartoon like but this is essential in allowing them to be anthropomorphised and deeply invested in.
The story does feel a little tried and tested. Those third act issues are apparent from the first act. For Pixar The Good Dinosaur feels remarkably unoriginal for a brand that has become synonymous with smart, creative storytelling. So we get the typical Disney troupe of a death in the family, you know the ilk; Bambi, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, etc. Then there’s the buddy musing of Toy Story and the dinosaur characters are remarkably similar to the Ice Age franchise. That last one feeling ironic in so far as Ice Age was someone else having a stab at doing a Pixar.
The chemistry between Arlo and Spot is a highlight, as are the T-Rex’s lead by Sam Elliot’s drawl, who offer a fun twist on the cowboy archetype. But, unlike most Pixar fare The Good Dinosaur feels firmly aimed at the kids. Most Pixar films are but they present something for everyone, a humour that adults will love at while the kids bask in the colours and characters. The Good Dinosaur doesn’t achieve this level of Pixar-ness.
Far from the Bad Dinosaur but The Good Dinosaur never quite reaches the heights we’ve come to expect from the geniuses at Pixar. Middling to Good Dinosaur it is then.