[Pixar Countdown] ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is an Epic, Ambitious Work of Art

Welcome back to Pixar Countdown Reviews, which we take a look at and review all seventeen theatrical Pixar films every Friday leading up to the release of Pixar’s Cars 3 this summer. Take a look back at some of our previous entries and stay tuned every Friday as we cover all of Pixar’s incredible films. 

The Good Dinosaur is another one of Pixar’s most underrated films. With countless production problems, including a director change, many delays, and 6 whole years in production, it was easy to bash the film. But the truth is, The Good Dinosaur is a marvel, not just visually, but in its storytelling and its characters. It is a truly heartfelt, yet epic adventure film that hits all the right notes.

This is a very original story with a powerful bond between two unlikely friends. Many have said that the story is more simple and not as complex as other Pixar films. Is it true that it’s not as complex as, say, Inside Out? Yes. But is that a bad thing, especially in this kind of film? Not in the slightest. This is a film that is clearly going for something completely different and is, in fact, a very complex film, just in different ways than previous Pixar films. Here, the complexity falls in many different areas, including the powerful relationship building between Arlo and Spot, not to mention all the unpredictable obstacles that constantly get in Arlo and Spot’s way. These obstacles are particularly caused by nature, which is probably the most unpredictable antagonist there could be because it’s so naturally dangerous and Pixar really didn’t hold back in showing just how dangerous it could be.

One other amazing aspect in the film is its minimal use of dialogue. There’s dialogue in only about 20% of the film. Everything else is entirely visual storytelling. They develop the characters and the story with hardly any dialogue. Spot doesn’t even say a single word in the entire film! This was a very ambitious move for Pixar. Instead of making it very talkative, like so many animated and live-action films outside of the Pixar library are, they chose to let the story be told through actions, expressions and visuals, rather than words which I think is very bold and not only brings a more unique personality to the film, but lets the world and characters breathe and gives you time to take in all the beauty of this film.

A TRIO OF T-REXES – An Apatosaurus named Arlo must face his fears (and three impressive T-Rexes) in Disney•Pixar’s THE GOOD DINOSAUR. Featuring the voices of AJ Buckley, Anna Paquin and Sam Elliott as the T-Rexes, THE GOOD DINOSAUR opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 25, 2015. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The film has a great cast of characters. The main focus of the film is the relationship between Arlo and Spot, both of whom are lovable and strong, well developed characters who work very well off of each other. But there is also a great cast of side characters as well. Arlo’s family, especially his father, take up this first act of the movie, until Arlo falls in the river. But his journey home gives us a bunch of other wonderful side characters as well! There’s a trio of T-Rexes, for example, who really help in Arlo’s journey. There’s also a hilarious Styracosaurus who is voiced by the film’s director, Pete Sohn. There are many amazing characters in the film, but they never overshadow the important relationship between Arlo and Spot.

The animation is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The backgrounds, set design and overall animation have a painterly realistic style to it and the results are fantastic. The character designs are excellent as well, despite some people strangely criticizing them for being too “cartoony.” This more caricatured style is what Pixar goes with for many of their anthropomorphic characters and I’m not sure why Pixar is only now getting so much criticism about it. These kinds of character designs are also completely necessary for this film! As I mentioned before, this is a film that is mostly visual without much dialogue. This means they also use the emotions and expressions of the characters to tell the story. So, of course, they need a caricatured kind of character that can emote such expressions. The designs might not look real, but they make the characters feel real and a lot more human since they can express more personality with these stylized designs. This film would not have worked at all if the dinosaurs looked realistic.

The directing is phenomenal as well. Director Pete Sohn previously directed the short film Partly Cloudy for Pixar, but made his feature film debut with this film. He manages to create an epic, beautiful looking film with a huge heart, making it one of Pixar’s saddest films. I remember John Lasseter saying in an interview that this film was going to “gut you” and it certainly gutted me. Pete formed a beautiful relationship between two unlikely friends set in a very surreal, western-esque world where dinosaurs never went extinct. He really does have talent and I hope he gets the chance to direct more films at Pixar, because I see him being up there with the likes of Pete Docter, Brad Bird and John Lasseter.

The score for the film is incredible and so unique! It is composed by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna (finally not Randy Newman or Michael Giacchino!), and it uses many different instruments to give it a world music style, bringing both the surrealist and western vibe. It fits perfectly with this wonderfully strange world that is shown on screen.

The Good Dinosaur is Pixar’s Bambi. Both films have limited dialogue and view nature as an antagonist, among many other similarities in style and story, and I love how there are still films that have a more classic style being made. The film is unique, heartbreaking, comedic, epic and overall a real work of art and, much like Pixar’s other work, is an accomplishment in the art of animation.

Film Grade: A+

Join us this Friday for a review of Pixar’s Finding Dory. 

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