From the innovative minds of Disney•Pixar comes a hilariously heartwarming adventure about the power of confronting and overcoming your fears and discovering who you are meant to be.
The Good Dinosaur asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely, and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? In this epic journey into the world of dinosaurs, an apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of.
Pixar's 'The Good Dinosaur' is a strange one indeed. Here's a movie that posits that the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs never happened. So, in the time that followed dinosaurs became intelligent and created an agrarian society. It almost sounds like a postulated story idea that would've been laughed about for a while and ultimately discarded for something else. Yet, it's with that weirdo charm that 'The Good Dinosaur' succeeds.
The fact that it was a full-blown western was a nice surprise. That's an aspect of the movie the trailers kept secret for the most part. Young Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is the runt of his Apatosaurus family. The movie thrusts him into a life-or-death struggle. Dinosaur-versus-nature paradigm that mirrors the formula of many westerns of old.
Born to Momma (Frances McDormand) and Poppa (Jeffery Wright), Arlo and his family farm the land beneath Clawtooth Mountain. Directors Peter Sohn and Cynthia Slavens opt to have the visuals fill us in with the backstory, which is nice. Meaning minimal dialogue is spent laying the ground rules of this weird new world we find ourselves in. Visual exposition will usually trump exposition through dialogue.
Arlo's fearful of everything. Poppa is determined to make his son into a man. This movie understands how sons look up to their fathers and how fathers push their sons toward greatness, even though they may push too hard at times. It understands that even fathers may be wrong some times. They may not fully understand that challenges facing their children and might have to learn the hard way.
After an unfortunate accident during a flash flood, Arlo and his family find themselves fatherless. Then Arlo is caught up in the river's swift current and washed away from the family farm to an unknown land. He soon meets up with a human child, later named Spot, who becomes his traveling companion.
Like so many other westerns, or road trip stories, Arlo and Spot meet up with eccentric characters along the way. Some of them are nice, others are mean. Arlo and Spot must learn courage, and they must survive against the brute force of nature all the while learning more about themselves, friendship, and the value of family.
Something noteworthy to mention is the peak photo-realism achieved by 'The Good Dinosaur.' Love it or hate it, there's one thing that can't be argued: this is some of the most realistic animation Pixar has created. The landscapes are stunningly lifelike. The water flows and moves like a real river. The animation here has effectively blurred the lines between animation and the natural world.
True to form Pixar lays on the sentimentality, but not in a cloying way. No, as the friendship between Arlo and Spot organically grows it earns the emotion it elicits. There's a tendency for the movie to wander into cartoon territory (think “The Croods”). Though, each time it feels like it's wandering off the path, Pixar's patented emotional tact rights the ship.
While 'Inside Out' stole the show this past year, 'The Good Dinosaur' contains its own joys. As the ending approached I glanced at my tender-hearted 4-year-old son and saw him wiping tears from his cheeks. Sometimes that's all you need from a movie.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set with one 50GB Blu-ray and a DVD. The discs are housed in a standard Disney keepcase which comes complete with a slipcover. A Disney Movie Rewards code is provided.
Just as expected, 'The Good Dinosaur' wows on Blu-ray. Its 1080p presentation is the stuff demo material is made of. There isn't a moment in this 90-minute movie where even one pixel is out of place or one instance of visual anomalies are present. It is a perfect presentation all around.
Clarity is insanely top of the line. Just the individual rocks making up the bank of the river after Arlo emerges from his harrowing journey are mesmerizing in their lifelike quality. The scales of each dinosaur are distinct and clarity is profound. Depth is immense. Colors are vibrant and full of life.
Black areas are total. Shadows are perfectly delineated. Detail is gorgeous. I can't think of enough great things to say about this transfer. If you're looking to show off your home theater's visual capabilities this is a perfect title to pull out.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is likewise very impressive. It features a wide variety of sound that constantly fills up the sound field. The experience is immersive to say the least.
One sequence in particular, when Arlo is swept away by the river, is full of some of the most engaging surround sound you'll hear on a Blu-ray this year. The river sounds like it's rushing directly over top you. The side channels are full of rushing currents, as are the rear channels. Up front Arlo gasps and struggles to breathe. Waves crash. The sub-woofer thunders with force. Whoa, it sounds great. And that's just one sequence. The storm is great too as howling winds whip around the soundfield with seamless ease.
Dialogue is clearly defined up front even when there is an immense amount of action happening. Directionality is perfect and so is clarity. I have nothing bad to say about this mix. Like its video counterpart it would make for some great home theater demo material for sure.
Audio Commentary – This is one packed commentary. Sohn is joined by animation supervisor Mike Venturini, supervising technical director Sanjay Bakshi, director of photography: lighting Sharon Calahan, and story supervisor Kelsey Mann. While it's indeed a crowded track, each professional offers unforgettable insights into what it was like making and animating this movie. It's an informative track that offers up some great information into the animation process in creating such lifelike animation.
Sanjay's Super Team (HD, 7 min.) – The theatrical short is provided, like it always is with Pixar movies. This ranks among my personal favorites.
True Lies About Dinosaurs (HD, 2 min.) – A recap of the dinosaur fiction that's shown in the movie.
Recyclosaurus (HD, 6 min.) – A little featurette about Pixar employees building a dinosaur out of reclaimed material.
Every Part of the Dinosaur (HD, 6 min.) – A look at character creation and the animation behind giving the characters their personalities.
The Filmmakers' Journey (HD, 8 min.) – A short look into the process of making 'The Good Dinosaur' the challenges, and how the filmmaking team bonded.
Following the T-Rex Trail (HD, 7 min.) – The filmmakers get to visit a real cattle ranch for some on-site training in cattle rustling.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 10 min.) – An introduction is provided explaining the scenes. There are three deleted scenes: “The Attack,” “Waiting for Poppa,” and “Building the Silo.”
Many were disappointed with 'The Good Dinosaur,' claiming it didn't live up to Pixar's own lofty ideals. However, I felt that its quirkiness – the fact that it's an oddity in Pixar's stable – is actually endearing. It's different, yes that much is true. Though Arlo's journey is fraught with danger and the screenplay is packed with some genuine emotion. Plus, Sam Elliot's voice is a damned national treasure if you ask me. Anyway, this Blu-ray has demo audio and video along with some worthwhile extras. It's highly recommended.