Disney should probably just steer clear of movies about dinosaurs. Their last attempt was 2000's average-at-best "Dinosaur" which followed an abandoned dinosaur on an epic journey through a vivid live-action setting. Similarly, "The Good Dinosaur" takes us on the coming-of-age journey of a dinosaur who doesn't quite know his place in the world but learns to survive in order to get back to his family. The story is awfully similar to “The Lion King” and I found the film to be underwhelming in comparison to the rest of Disney/Pixar's output. The timing of this film's release does it a disservice as it didn't have a prayer of living up to the creativity and popularity of "Inside Out." We usually get one Pixar movie a year and they released this one just five months after arguably their best film to date. I didn’t care for the placement of dinosaurs into human classifications (farmers, cowboys, etc.). I understand what the writers were trying to do but I felt like it just made it feel more cartoony. It just doesn't feel like a Pixar movie. The animation certainly does, but it's missing the heart of "Toy Story" and "Monsters Inc." (though I still cried). Aside from my issues with the story, “The Good Dinosaur” offers some of the most realistic computer animated backdrops and elements of nature that I have ever seen. It is hard to believe that these are not live action shots of water and foliage, but we run into the issue that they are TOO realistic for the cartoonish dinosaurs. To clarify, the animation of the dinosaurs is amazing. They have lifelike movements and their skin even has a lifelike texture. But the dinosaurs don’t look like real dinosaurs so they don’t fit in with the stunning backdrops of each scene. I did love the style and animation of Spot. I felt like he perfectly fit into the settings and he was the perfect cute counterpart to the main dinosaur. This really isn’t a bad film, but it had the potential to be amazing and just fell short. Actually, I would like to retract what I said earlier about Disney straying away from films about dinosaurs. They haven’t quite found a way to mix Disney magic with this setting and these unique characters, but the third time’s a charm! “The Good Dinosaur” may not live up to other films on Pixar’s resume but it offers a heartfelt story and delivers the story through amazing animation.
[Pictured: The disparity between the realistic backdrops and cartoony characters is a distraction from start to finish]