Plot: What’s it about?
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!).
Video: How does it look?
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 wi th some bold and perfect saturation. Shadow and black level is also deep. You won’t see a finer image on DVD.
Audio: How does it sound?
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. Also included are English subtitles, plus Theate rVision. Like the Tarzan CE, Disney has provided this feature to the blind and those with poor eyesight. Basically, a voice describes the movie to you plus there’s the music and dialogue. The voice gives a ton of detail on what’s going on to really help visualize it.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Using their standard “Collector’s Edition” format like on past Disney CE discs (where everything is broken up in certain sections by development and element depending what they are), “Dinosaur” offers a very good amount of supplementary material that spans two disc. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Disc 1: The first disc includes things that are on the standard DVD edition, as well as some new items exclusive to this set. First off, the Film Facts Fossil Dig is a series of short featurettes that can be accessed separately, or, during the film. Similar to “The Matrix” white rabbit (and the other discs that ripped that off), a dinosaur skull will appear during the film and you can click it to be taken to that featurette, and when it’s done, back to the film. The clips include “3D Workbook: Opening Sequence”, “Lemur Live Action Reference”, “Live Action Shoot: The Ritual Tree”, “Progression Reel: The Meteor Strikes”, “Dinosaur Models”, “Deleted Scene: Scavengers”, “Scene In A Different Light”, “Voice Recording”, “Deleted Scene: Eema Gives Up”, “Storyboard To Film Comparison”, “Deleted Scene: Neera Saves The Dinosaurs”, “The Cave Miniature Set”, “Foley Sound Effects Demonstration” and the “Alternate Ending”. Some are longer than others, but many of these are really interesting. On a side note, it seems many people have trouble pausing the movie at points (myself included), but it seems to be the case when there’s a dino skull in the chapter. It’s too bad, really, since a good amount of the chapters have them. Oh well, fans of the film and anyone interested in the making of it will love these.
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 we get to the audio features. There’s a great Isolated Sound Effects Track in 5.1 (too bad there’s no isolated score), as well as two audio commentaries. Commentary One is with Directors Eric Leighton, Ralph Zondag, Visual Effects Supervisor Neil Krepela and Digital Effects Supervisor Neil Eskuri. This track took me from start to finish I loved it. This is a very technical commentary, but I’m a sucker for these with a movie like “Dinosaur”. There’s just so much to talk about and explain, as well as the whole process behind it. Each person speaks with much passion, and there aren’t any real gaps. They talk about redoing scenes, original ideas and certain shots and how they wanted to establish the film. If you’re the least bit interested on how “Dinosaur” was created, listen to this track.
Commentary Two has Producer Pam Marsden and the Production Team. Basically, Marsden is a guide and introduces us to a host of those who worked on the film. This track is obviously edited, and Marsden’s comments are read with much force (you can tell). Things aren’t always so screen specific, but there are some very good tidbits here. I really enjoyed James Newton Howard’s comments on what he wanted to create with the music, as well as those with the design and animation teams. If you want more of a variety in your commentary to get a really good idea of how many people and what it took to make this film, listen to this. While I liked the consistency of the first one more, this is still a good listen.
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. A really solid first disc, but we have ways to go. So on to disc two…
Disc 2: Everything you need to know about the making of the film is on this disc. You’ll find early computer animation development, the works. Once again, Disney really shows you the whole process behind an animated film. Before I begin, I’d like to comment on the menus. They are some really nice menus. They don’t really represent the movie, but rather, a computer as if you were working on the movie. So it’s pretty development geared, and let’s get the ball rolling…
The first section is Development. The first thing is a wonderful Proof Of Concept Test that was created in March 1996. Using storyreels and computer animation, this was the first presentation to give an idea of what the film would be like. It’s pretty impressive considering how old it is, and pretty interesting how far the story and film itself has come. It’s in non-anamorphic widescreen.
The really short Live Action Backplate during October 1996 also shows how far the film has come. Different characters, but there is a love subplot there like in the final film.
The Early Presentation Reel is from December 1996, and features concept art, models and some slight animation. It has some nice music too, and my guess that this was shown to exhibitors. It doesn’t offer much, but it is something. Another Presentation Reel dates back to October 1998, and is more accurate to the final film with completed animation and rough animation. It has scenes that are actually in the final film, so the movie had taken some definitive shape then. It’s a pretty nice reel. Finally, the Visual Development gives a good nine pages of art. Enjoy!
Creating The Characters is divided up into two sections: Dinosaurs and Lemurs. I’ll start with the dinos… In Dinosaurs, Designing The Dinosaurs is a featurette that has interviews with animators and some of the crew, plus has concept art, rough animation and completed animation. This featurette basically tells you how the dinos are modeled and animated on the computers. This lasts a good seven minutes. Check it out.
Building The Dinosaurs has interviews with the crew and clips from the film, and they show how the dinosaurs physical features are animated. It gives some good techniques and pretty insightful. This one lasts eight minutes. Give this one a spin too.
Finally for Dinosaurs, the Character Design section has art and models in the following parts: “Aladar Design”, “Aladar Turnaround”, “Kron Design”, “Kron Turnaround”, “Neera Design” “Neera Turnaround”, “Bruton Design”, “Bruton Turnaround”, “Baylene Design”, “Baylene Turnaround”, “Eema Design”, “Eema Turnaround”, “Url Design”, “Url Turnaround”, “Carnotaurs Design”, “Carnotaurs Turnaround”, “Velociraptor Design”, “Velociraptor Turnaround”, “The Herd” and “Unused Character Concepts”. Many, many, many pages to browse through and see. For Lemurs, the featurette Building The Lemurs has clips from the film, interviews with production members, concept art and basically tells how the lemurs were designed, and what was kept in mind to create them. Also, there are some things on how they were animated. Basically like the dinosaurs one, so look at this too. This lasts seven minutes.
Finally, there are Designs and Turnaround shots for Suri, Zini, Pilo and Yar plus Preliminary Lemur Designs.
Next section… The Production Process. The first thing here is Creating A Prehistoric World, a featurette with interviews from production team members as they explain how they blended live action backgrounds with computer animation. They talk about how the movie’s film design evolved plus on filming the live action. Pretty in-depth and a lot of behind the scenes shots and info, so look at it. It lasts a solid eight minutes.
The Monster Cloud is another featurette with interviews and clips on how they created “The Monster Cloud” sequence (the meteor scene). This featurette shows how it was created with computers and what skills the team used. There is also some rough animation. I loved this part in the movie, and I was very happy to see how it was made. A very good way to spend four minutes.
The Dino Cam is a sequence with commentary by Digital Effects Supervisor Neil Eskuri on how a scene is created using a dinosaur’s perspective. It’s basically a progression reel that moves by itself. It’s only two minutes.
Story Reel & 3D Workbook uses the scene “Aladar Joins The Herd”. It’s a production demonstration, so you can use your angle to see the story reel, 3D Workbook and final film. There’s also a comparison feature for this scene where you can compare the story reel to the final film or the 3D Workbook to the final film. It’s nothing new considering nearly every special edition Disney DVD has it, but it’s still a good addition on the animation process.
Finally, Progression Reels are production demos that move by themselves and have story sketches, 3D Workbook, modeling, rough animation and a lot more. It’s a bit more in-depth than the ones you control, and these have commentary with Neil Eskuri. There are three reels: “Opening Sequence”, “Aladar Meets The Misfits” and “Aladar Finds Water”. Since these go more in-depth, I say they are good for a watch, plus Eskuri offers good comments.
Music And Sound is an excellent section. It’s short and sweet, but I would have liked more. I think the sound and music is a crucial part to the movie and comes to represent a good part of it, and this section does it good justice, though I would have like to see some of Howard’s earlier composure demos as we hear in some of the early reels and as he mentions on the commentary. Still, I loved the score and there are some great sounds.
The first featurette is on the Music. It has interviews, shows Howard at work and gives a lot about the music. How the music fits, what it represents, it’s just a very well done featurette. It’s a good three minutes and worth your time.
The Sound Design featurette has interviews, clips and some behind the scenes clips of how the sound effects were created and how. It’s pretty neat and I liked this featurette a lot, and it is revealed how things were recorded and when. This one is also three minutes.
Finally, the Audio Mix Demonstration is pretty neat, where you can mix dialogue, sound effects and music from the meteor. This is a great interactive experience, as you see each sound element come together and how each is so important. It’s good to play around with a few times, and it makes you realize how signifigant sound really is.
Abandoned Scenes feature six deleted sequences: “The River Crossing”, “The Grandparents Perish”, “Struggle For a Resting Place”, “Bruton and Lieutenants Attacked”, “Death On The Trail” and “Old Gotoma”. Before the scenes, a page is given for some general background on why they were cut (Aladar’s original name was “Noah”). Some scenes are storyreels with music and sound, others, with rough animation. Pretty cool.
Finally, Publicity. Here there are three Trailers (one is a special convention trailer), four TV Spots (the Disney CE standard number) and two pages worth of Posters. Is that it? Nope…
“Dinosaur” also features many easter eggs on the second disc. I won’t give any away and they are pretty easy to spot (I thought they were), but Disney buffs will love the hidden dinosaur related items. So be on the look out for those… and that’s it. Once again, Disney creates a great set to satisify any fan of the film.
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 using their “collector’s edition” format. This is a must have title for any collection. I’m sure some of you don’t care that much for extras and will go for the standard version, but I highly suggest you get this two disc set which offers a very diverse and detailed history on such an involving project. You’ll gain a lot more out of it in the long run.