When Dinosaurs Ruled The Mind # 5: Disney’s Dinosaur

OK, after the long bout that was Walking With Dinosaurs (seriously, that thing felt like I was reviewing six movies), I’ll tackle something a bit smaller. So I figured, how about a family film? That should be easier, right? Well, we’ll see.

In case you’ve never heard of this film before, let me give you some insight. This isn’t a monster movie or a documentary, this is a Disney movie in the most common sense. The dinosaurs talk, and they are the main characters. But dinosaurs aren’t the only creatures starring in this thing. Let me introduce you guys to…

The Lemurs

What duh?

Time Traveling Cynodont? Did you have something to do with this?

So what if I did?

So what if I did?

Yeah, you dinosaur enthusiasts who have never seen this film are probably having a heart attack now. They’re the characters we are supposed to relate to, as they are primates, mammals, and tiny compared to the dinosaurs. And to be honest, I don’t mind their presence.

Oh, come on!

Oh, come on!

Raptor! What brings you here so early? I haven’t even begun to get to your part in this movie.

Quit being nostalgia blind! How can you possibly accept these modern primates in a film that takes place in the Cretaceous?

Quit being nostalgia blind! How can you possibly accept these modern primates in a film that takes place in the Cretaceous?

OK, true, I loved this movie as a kid, but now that I’m older I can look at something more objectively and not just love it because it has dinosaurs in it. And no, this movie doesn’t hold up as well as I remember, but I think the lemurs were a good idea. They’re human surrogates, and they fulfill their purpose. Lemurs were the first recognizable primates to appear in the fossil record, and they were around not long after the dinosaurs died out.

Smilodectes be representin'.

Smilodectes be representin’.

Not long? You mean ten million years? I think that's long.

Not long? You mean ten million years? I think that’s long.

Oh, I’ll get to you later. We’re here to talk about dinosaurs anyway. So let’s to to the genus that represents our main character Aladar.

Iguanodon

As far as Iguanodon depictions go, he’s not bad. He has the correct posture, in fact, he’s never seen standing on two legs in this film. I think it was actually the first time I saw Iguanodon depicted this way as a kid. The front feet are sturdy and hoof-like, furthering it’s quadrupedal stance. The only thing that’s really weird is that instead of a beak, they decided to give the Iguanodon characters lips.

UGH! It’s smiling!

This was obviously done to have the face read better emotion wise, but it gives the characters an odd, uncanny human like expression. It’s weird. Aladar as a baby also looks a little uncomfortably human too.

Rock a bye-OH GOD!!

Now, we get another breed of Iguanodon in this movie that looks a little different.

They still have lips, but they’re more beak like, and it’s not as intrusive. What really get’s to me is the nose ridge. They look a bit more like Muttaburrasaurus.

Yeah, this guy.

Yet, they have to be Iguanodon because one of these guy’s sister is an Iguanodon like Aladar. Maybe the makers of this film were going by the outdated knowledge that Mutaburrasaurus was just a species of Iguanodon. More than likely they just wanted a way for the bad guts to stand out.

Alright, let’s look at the friends Aladar meets along the way.

Aladar meets an elderly Styracosaurus, her ‘pet’ Ankylosaurus, and an old Brachiosaurus who is for some reason around at the end of the Cretaceous.

I leave my work wherever I go.

I leave my work wherever I go.

The Styracosaurus (named Eema), is a bit oddly proportioned, but I guess it makes sense since she’s old. More evenly proportioned Styracosaurus’ can be found in the background.

We’ve got this…

…and this.

Earl is an Ankylosaur of some description. He doesn’t really match any known genus, but for now, I’m going to call him a Pinacosaurus. Oh yeah, he also acts like a dog.

Interesting choice.

Baylene is your typical Jurassic Park-esque Giraffatitan wannabe Brachiosaurus.

And it’s all the more awesome because of it!

OK, we’ve got the main guys out of the way, how about the villains. Show me the carnivores!

Carnotaurus

Ok, so I’ll admit, the Carnotaurus’ are awesome. The filmmakers deliberately decided to stay away from the done to death Tyrannosaurus villain trope, and it pays off. But really, the might as well have put in T. rex. Why? Because these things are FRIGGIN’ HUGE!

Look at that!!!

This movie shows Carnotaurus towering over Iguanodon. In actuality, Iguanodon was bigger than Carnotaurus! Yeah, Carnotaurus was on the small side when it came to apex predators.

Take that horned freaks!

Take that horned freaks!

Not now, Melodramatic Rex.

:-(

😦

He has a name now.

This is needy Metriacanthosaurus if anyone's wondering.

This is Needy Metriacanthosaurus if anyone’s wondering.

OK, now let’s take a look at-

Surprise!

Surprise!

Oh, hey.

I didn't scare you?

I didn’t scare you?

You’ve been doing this a lot recently, plus, I’ve been having to deal with a bunch of other recurring characters.

You know, people aren't going to know what's going on if they come into this blind.

You know, people aren’t going to know what’s going on if they come into this blind.

That’s why they should read the other blog posts. So, can I get to talking about you? Thanks.

A good thing about the Velociraptors in this movie is that, well, the actually look like Velociraptors (hey, after reviewing three Jurassic Park movies you begin to appreciate things like that). Still, somethings missing.

Tweet, Tweet!

Oh yeah, the feathers.

Actually, they originally wanted feathers on this guy and the other small theropods in this movie.

Like this plucked chicken, duh I mean Oviraptor.

As evidenced by this concept art.

It’s a valiant effort for the late 90’s, but it looks tame compared to how we feather these guys now.

You see what I mean by plucked chicken?

But like I’ve said before, it was a pain in the neck to animate feathers in the infancy of CGI, so I’ll let this one slide for now.

I'm impressed, DG. You're not letting nostalgia blind you with this movie and are actually judging it objectively.

I’m impressed, DG. You’re not letting nostalgia blind you with this movie and are actually judging it objectively.

Does that mean you’ll leave me alone?

Maybe for now. But we won't leave for good until all the pieces fall into place.

Maybe for now. But we won’t leave for good until all the pieces fall into place.

Well that sounds unnecessarily cryptic. What are you talking about?

Time Traveling Cynodont is out! Peace!

Come on Raptor! Time Traveling Cynodont is out! Peace!

Raptor? Where did you go? Umm, OK. Now that we’ve got the main characters and villains out of the way, let’s take a look at the dinosaurs that populate the background.

Hey! We’re here too!

This movie is notable for using some lesser known dinosaurs to populate it’s sets. Why have Triceratops when you can have Pachyrhinosaurus? Still, there are a few stock dinosaursin this film, but the mix between familiar and new feels refreshingly different.

One of the earlier creatures we see in the film is a beautifully portrayed Geosternbergia (formerly a species of Pteranodon).

This is probably the best interpretation of a Pterosaur in a film I’ve ever seen. No S shaped neck, no bat shaped wings, and it’s even covered in fur! In the pic above, you see her being harassed by a flock of Icthyornis, and it’s refreshing to see such modern looking birds in a dinosaur movie. Usually when birds show up in these kinds of films, they’re usually the ‘half bird half dinosaur’ variety, when modern style birds were present at the late Cretaceous.

We see a few other dinosaurs in this sequence, including a Koolasuchus and a couple of roaring ankylosaurs most people label Talarurus.

Once we get to the desert, we meet a huge herd populated by several species of dinosaurs. This includes Pachyrhinosaurus.

download (41)

They seem to be portrayed fine, although some might argue he needs a coat of feathers because these guys should be in a cooler habitat. But this guy is in a lush environment.

Would that be like a future movie putting a musk ox with African animals?

We also get some Parasaurolophus.

Disney_Parasaurolophus

They’e also pretty good. They usually have correct posture (this pic shows him standing up, but at least he’s not taking the Godzilla stance). They do sport a frill at the base of the crest, which some scientist argue against because of lack of evidence on the neck bones to support such a display. However, I personally like the frill, so I’ll let it slide.

We also get some Stygimoloch.

stygimoloch

As you may know, the genus formerly Stygimoloch has since been described as a subadult form of Pachycephalosaurus. So I guess this means that there’s a bunch of teenage Pachy’s running around this movie looking for their parents.

We also get some naked Struthiomimus (or Ornithomimus to some).

I don’t blame them for that for the same reasons as the Velociraptors and Oviraptors. But it’s crazy when you see some of the concept art even had Stygimoloch feathered.

This was from the mid 90’s!

Finally for the dinosaurs, we have the little Microceratus!

Or Microceratops as it was then called.

These cute little guys are seen scurrying around in a few scenes. They’re good for the time, but modern reconstructions would probably sport quills of some sort, like’s those found on it’s close relative Psittacosaurus.

Thank you science!

Don't mention it.

Don’t mention it.

Before we go, I want to talk about two of the strangest additions to the prehistoric fauna in this movie. The first one is the lizard like creature Longisquama.

This creature had long feather like scales (some say they were actually feathers and that this creature was the ancestor of birds but I won’t get into that argument) and the film depicts it flying with them. This probably would have been impossible, with the structures probably being for display only. It probably would have been able to fly with them as much as a porcupine would be able to fly with it’s quills.

I would also like to point out that this is the only Triassic animal in this movie, while pretty much 99 percent of the other dinosaurs are from the Cretaceous.

The last creature I would like to mention is the Koolasuchus, which briefly appears in one scene.

You my remember this guy from Walking With Dinosaurs, which portrayed it I think a bit more realistically. Remember this creature once lived in the Arctic circle, and putting it in a tropical environment like this is kind of like putting a penguin in the Amazon rain-forest.

Alright, it doesn’t look like Raptor is going to bother me while I write down my final thoughts, so here I go. I can tell by the depiction of these dinosaurs that this movie wanted to be ambitious. It so wanted to be great. And under different circumstances, it could have. I mean, just look at this!

And listen to this!

You can tell they wanted to make something different and grand. But in the end, different just isn’t marketable. This movie isn’t great, in fact, I can’t bring myself to call it good. But for everything it does wrong, it does get a few things right. And I have to say, the dinosaurs in this film are gorgeous. The CG may not have aged to well, but the design and look is really cool, not to mention surprisingly accurate, despite the lipped Iguanodons and naked raptors.

Yeah, it’s still weird.

But all in all, I give this movie a good….

8 out of 10 stars (in dinosaur portrayal, remember. Why do I feel I have to keep stressing that?)

Next time, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to find out how this…

…became this.

Join me as I review dinosaur art in a new segment: Dinosaurs Over The Years: Oviraptor. 

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