After the Disney Renaissance came to a close in 1999 as a new millennium was approaching, Walt Disney Animation Studios started to make films that were more experimental and different compared to the crop of films they released in the 90s which resulted in limited financial success and sometimes resulted in critical duds. It's certainly one of the strangest eras that the studio has ever had, but I won't lie that I do applaud the ambition the films had and that I do enjoy most of the films that did come out during that transitional period. That being said, not all of the films were winners and "Dinosaur" is certainly not one of them in my opinion. Released in 2000, this was an ambitious film that combined computer-animated dinosaurs with backgrounds that were shot in live action and while it's a film where I do applaud the ambition, it's a film that really leaves little to be desired for me, resulting in quite honestly one of the dullest animated films to come out of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
On an island during the prehistoric age, a group of lemurs consisting of Yar (Ossie Davis), daughter Plio (Alfre Woodard), son Zini (Max Casella), and granddaughter Suri (Hayden Panettiere) has been living happily on the island with an Iguanodon dinosaur named Aladar (D.B. Sweeney). However one day, a meteor crashes into the Earth and its shockwave ends up destroying the island in a fireball blast. The family washes ashore on the mainland and soon bumps into a herd of dinosaurs led by its stubborn leader named Kron (Samuel E. Wright) who are on their way to the nesting grounds away from the dry wastelands. Hoping to get to the nesting grounds, Aladar and the others join with the heard bonding with two elderly dinosaurs named Baylene (Joan Plowright) and Eema (Della Reese) and a doglike dinosaur named Earl hoping to survive while being chased by a duo of Carnotaurs.
The film started off as a project between legendary visual effects supervisor Phil Tippet and director Paul Verhoeven back in the 80s and even had legendary screenwriter Walon Green on board. Eventually, Walt Disney Animation Studios was brought on board the project in 1994 with the project shifting medium from stop motion to rising computer animation and with the help of a VFX company called The Secret Lab, put together this film. It's worth noting this because the pitch of the film is more interesting than what we ended up getting as this is a film that has never really impressed me. My biggest problem with the film mainly comes down to the story which is just simply boring. It doesn't start off that way as it has a great opening sequence in which we see Aladar's egg starting off in a nest before being carried all the way to the island with the lemurs. It's an incredible sequence told all through visual storytelling that actually ended up as the teaser trailer for the film much like the Circle of Life opening from "The Lion King". However, where "The Lion King" certainly lived up to the hype that the opening promised, this film sadly does not as it starts to go downhill very fast devolving into a plot we've seen over and over again while bringing very little to the table. While watching this film, I just kept thinking back to much better films with dinosaurs with the whole journey to this green valley reminding me of "The Land Before Time" and even scenes with the Carnotaurs feeling straight of "Jurassic Park". The film even steals the film's famous moments with the water puddle vibrating due to their loud footsteps. I also wished the film didn't make the characters talk as was initially planned. The film would've been told entirely through the visuals, but Michael Eisner forced the filmmakers to make the characters talk and it really hampered the film considering the dialogue they utter ranges from being generic to unfunny. I'll talk about it more with the characters.
As far as the animation goes, I can say that parts of it have held up while others haven't. As previously stated, the film combines computer-animated dinosaurs with live-action backgrounds and some of the shots in the film have aged quite nicely particularly the opening scene, scenes that take place in the dark, and scenes in the dry wastelands. However, some shots have really shown their age with one shot involving Aladar walking on a beach looking particularly primitive. I also think that the meteorite scene has also really shown its age. I think the shots of the meteorite itself and even the initial impact which resembles a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud look decent, but the explosive shockwave and fiery explosion that come from it, not so much. It did not look very good almost twenty years later. Then there are the characters and they sadly don't leave much of an impression. I don't mind some of the lemur family as I do like Yar, Plio, and Suri though I will say that the son Zini is a bit annoying and obnoxious. He comes across like a horny teenager often calling himself the "love monkey" and stuff like that and it was really irritating. Though the biggest problem with the characters is easily the dinosaurs themselves as none of them were memorable in the slightest. Aladar is quite honestly one of the dullest protagonists Disney Animation has made. He doesn't have much of a personality or development apart from being strong and determined. He claims at the beginning of the film that he doesn't like kids so you'd think that he starts as immature and grows up, but it doesn't have that much impact because we see him happily playing with some lemur children before he says it. The other dinosaurs also are unremarkable with Kron being a standard stubborn character who refuses to listen to people, the elderly dinosaurs mainly just being kind and supportive, and even Aldar's eventual love interest Neera (Julianna Margulies) being sensible but also one note and it doesn't help that she and Aladar have no chemistry at all. I was just left so bored with these characters.
And honestly, I was left so bored by "Dinosaur" as a whole. While it does have some decent animation at times, the story is boring and unremarkable and the characters are exceptionally unmemorable. This is definitely not among my favorite films from Walt Disney Animation Studios and I don't really recommend it. It sadly feels more like a fossil than anything else.