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Click above to purchase "Dinosaur" at amazon.com

 

Dinosaur

review by Zach B.

Rated PG

Studio: Disney

Running Time: 82 minutes

With the Voices of D.B. Sweeney, Julianna Marguiles, Samuel E. Wright, Ossie Davis, Alfre Woordard, Della Reese, Joan Plowright, Max Casella

Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Sneak Previews, Four Featurettes, "Dinosearch" Game, "Dinopedia", "Aladar's Adventure" game, DVD-ROM

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Recomposed Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (27 Chapters), THX Certified

Over the past few decades of film, there have been many animated movies which have given new life into filmmaking. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" was the first animated film ever when it was released in 1937; in 1988 "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" blended live action and animation together seamlessly; "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and it's extraordinary visual effects with stop motion animation was pretty phenomenal and "Toy Story" in 1995 was the first totally computer animated film, right down to the very last pixel. Now "Dinosaur" is the next film to go down in these lines. With extremely detailed computer animated characters against filmed live action backgrounds, "Dinosaur" is an enjoyable romp and a technical marvel.

"Dinosaur" begins in a fantastic opening sequence, where we see the various dinosaurs living in their natural habitat, it's just really amazing to look at. Basically, an angry carnotaur rips through a nesting ground, leaving a sole egg untouched and behind. Another dino picks it up, and a whole sequence of events occur, and it somehow lands in with a bunch of lemurs. There, the dino in the egg, Aladar (voiced by D.B. Sweeny), is raised by the lemurs, and as he grows, everyone is happy with him. Sorta like Tarzan, but not. But everyone is threatened when a fantastic meteor shower (and probably the movie's best and most wild sequence) hits, and all is destroyed. Aladar and the lemurs go on for a search for a new nesting ground with a bunch of other dinos, led by the vicious Kron (Wright, who is excellent). Of course, the normal subplots occur. Aladar falls in love with Kron's sister, Neera (Marguiles), and actually has a lot more resourceful ideas for the group, and is a lot nicer, as he often stays behind to help others. This of course, leads to conflicts between Aladar and Kron. Along the way to the nesting grounds, a lot of events occur, dealing with raptors, carnotaurs and plain survival.

"Dinosaur" is of course, really predictable and nothing new to audiences. The story is pretty entertaining and is well balanced, and it moves at a very good pace. Despite that, I was somewhat disappointed in one aspect of the movie: dialogue. The dialogue needed to be much stronger, because words between the characters is never really intriuging, and it sounds pretty dumbed down for the most part. The story is good, and does provide many great moments, but the dialogue and some very slight plot developments were a let down.

But the dialogue does not really ruin the movie at all, surprisingly. It's still a lot of fun and interesting to watch, and you see a movie like this not for the story, but really for the effects (but the story did interest me anyway). The characters are likable, and if you're looking for comic relief in the movie, there is not a lot of it. And when there is, you'll have to give out a forced laugh because it's not put out that well, and comes from a swanky and lovelorn lemur. The voice acting by everyone is really superior, so that dialogue you hear will sound a little bit better because the emotion the actors put in give it the much needed depth.

But of course, the main draw of "Dinosaur" is the effects. They'll make you go "wow", they are incredible eye candy and a marvel to look at. The detail on everything is amazing, and it looks incredibly real. The live action backgrounds are pretty, so they fit in nicely with the computer animation. There are also a few amazing sequences in the film, which will seriously make you wonder how they pulled it off and take your breath away. Bravo, Disney, the high budget has paid off with this one (127 million, plus another 63 for their new animation studio "Secret Labs"). The film did make about 130 million at the box office, but more will come back to Disney thanks to this video release and their merchandising.

"Dinosaur" is an achievement in film history. Sure, the dialogue could have been better, but the project which seems like to have been in development forever (twelve years, but real work began six years ago) has surely paid off. The amount of effort that went into this clearly shows. While the dialogue could have been better, everything else surely makes up for it. To catch everything, you may have to watch it more than once. Parents beware though, there are some intense sequences which may scare little ones. "Dinosaur" is dyno-mite (yes a stupid joke, try to stop me! MGWAHAHAHA!).

 

Once again, Disney uses a direct digital-to-digital transfer and the result is flawless. This is by far the sharpest image I've seen on DVD, right up there with other digital-to-digital transfers such as Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life. No blemishes, shimmering, dirt, spots, grain, artifacts, noise or scratches. This anamorphic widescreen (in 1.85:1) image is breathtaking, with incredible detail. Colors and hues are dead on, the film looks very vibrant with some bold and perfect saturation. Shadow and black level is also deep. You won't see a finer image on DVD. Also included on this standard release is a recomposed full frame version, like "Toy Story 2" and "A Bug's Life". Basically, the image is cropped at points, but you don't lose so much of the image always (and sometimes gain more), as objects and characters are moved closer togehter.

I saw "Dinosaur" in the theaters and in Dolby Digital, and while the sound was good, I wasn't too impressed and wondered how the mix would be for DVD. The theater must have had their sound screwed up... the Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks are stellar mixes, if anything. It really doesn't get much better than this. All the channels on each track are used to full scale and with plenty of surrounds and bass. Each track is amazing, but I prefer the DTS because I felt the sound was a bit sharper and at points, there was more depth to it. Everything is brought to life on each track. The thunderous roars, the loud directional effects and James Newton Howard's beautiful score (I wish there was an isolated music track) all sound amazing and will really light up your sound system. Make no mistake, each mix is incredibly well executed and really dynamic.

I believe everyone should go with the Collector's Edition, considering for 10 bucks more at retail you get a ton more. Still, there's a good amount of stuff here...

Four Featurettes are included. There's a ton more of these on the CE with their "Matrix" like feature, but four of them are here for the viewing. You get "Better Dinosaur", "Sound Design", "Special Effects: The Monster Cloud" and "Where in the world are we?". These make for a good watch.

Aladar's Adventure is an interactive game meant for the younger ones. It's really just point and click, nothing special and pretty easy. It has some voice acting and nice graphics, and good for one play.

DinoSearch is another game that's not too hard, it's sort of like hide and seek. Using your remote, you attempt to find dino parts hidden. A few clicks is the game, pretty much. Still somewhat enjoyable.

The Dinopedia is a narrated guide to real dinosaurs and their habits, as well as other facts about them. It uses clips from the film too, so if the kiddies are researching a project for school, they may want to take a look at that.

Now, what would a Disney release be without a ton of Sneak Previews? This DVD has got em... "Snow White And The Seven Drawfs" (due out October 2001 DVD... the trailer makes the film seem more dark than family friendly), Disney's new theme park "Disney's California Adventure", their summer release "Atlantis" (looks pretty good), a prequel computer game to "Atlantis", "102 Dalmatians" and their direct to video release, "Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame II".

Finally, there are a few DVD-ROM features. Some weblinks and info on dinosaurs.

I personally think this movie is just a little bit underrated, but there's no denying that Disney has once again made animation history. While I think this movie may be just a little too intense for the really young ones (hence the PG rating), kids will enjoy the film and so will adults, but they'll probably be more amazed at the film's technical achievements. Disney has once again delivered an outstanding DVD presentation and some decent extras for a standard version. Again, I say go with the Collector's Edition... but there's a lot to enjoy here.

(4/5, NOT included in final score)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(2/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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