It’s a shame that “The Good Dinosaur” will forever be regarded as one of Pixar’s black sheep titles. Because as a whole it’s one of their most original and unique tales that channels the modern Western to invoke a tale about family, getting over one’s own shortcomings, and learning that life is often senseless and unfair. Pixar uses the aesthetic of the dinosaur to help induce the idea of nature and how the environment around us is both an element we must fear and respect in the long run. As with most Pixar films, “The Good Dinosaur” doesn’t justify the idea of death with simplicity, nor does it coddle the intended target audience. It instead takes us through a large journey and tells us that yes, life is hard, yes life is very unfair, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop living.
Sometimes we just have to find a way to go on and look a bit deeper for fulfillment. With Arlo, he didn’t expect his dad Henry to be swept away by tidal wave during a massive storm, but somehow his dad does, and he manages to sacrifice himself for the sake of his son. While consciously he’s helping his son escape a natural disaster, his death also serves to exemplify the senselessness of life, and how in some moments it can snatch those that we love the most without any rhyme or reason. Arlo, the misfit long neck, finds a reason for his father’s death in a feral human child he names Spot. Though Spot was only trying to survive, Arlo places the blame for his dad’s death on the young child, and is accidentally thrust in a whirlwind of his destruction and terror of his own doing after trying to pit the blame on the child rather than merely accepting and moving on to more important issues in his life. Arlo is a part of a family of farmers and he has to help build up the food stock before winter.
Once he’s slipped from his family thanks to the destructive tidal wave, he has to find a way back home and ends up finding out for better and for worse how random life can be. Sometimes it’s rough and vicious, and sometimes it can be fruitful and beautiful. It all really depends on the perspective Arlo places on his surroundings. When Arlo is born, he’s something of a runt who can barely feed his wild chickens, let alone make his mark on his family’s farm alongside his brother and sister. Though his dad Henry has faith in Arlo and sees something within him that Arlo doesn’t until it’s time to really step up and save someone he loves. “The Good Dinosaur” combines the best of both Pixar and Disney, conveying their classic tropes of losing a parent, a young child stepping up to prove themselves, and the power of friendship, while also channeling the best of Pixar, which includes mature themes about grief, life, as well as only really conjuring up dialogue when absolutely necessary.
Characters don’t really speak unless they have something truly meaningful to say. Other than that, “The Good Dinosaur” places great emphases on facial expressions and the power of the eyes. Some of the best, most powerful moments in “The Good Dinosaur” offer zero dialogue, from Spot trying to show Arlo garnering a vision in his most emotionally trying time, to a gut wrenching moment where Arlo and Spot explain what happened to their families through sticks and dirt that show that even in the universe presented here, we’re all connected in some way. “The Good Dinosaur” doesn’t deserve to be scorned so much. It stands out as a Disney-Pixar film by sticking its feet in both camps and embracing the story formulas for both companies. It’s a beautiful, touching, and exciting tale of learning to grow up in a world where loss and death are a part of life.
“Following the T-Rex Trail” follows the movie crew as they go to a real cattle ranch to learn how to compose their storyline involving the T-Rex family. There’s a slew of deleted scenes with introductions, all of which range from three to five minutes. “Dino Bites” is a four minute look at the film’s characters having fun for the camera, “Hide and Seek” is a fun game where you have to find Arlo, and there are a slew of trailers for the film from various countries. Finally, there’s a wonderful audio commentary with Director Peter Sohn; Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann; Animation Supervisor Mike Venturini; Director of Photography, Lighting Sharon Calahan; and Supervising Technical Director Sanjay Bakshi. There’s a lot of keen insight in to development and production, as well as explanations for the film’s unique animation style. Kind of technical all things considered, but still worth a listen for fans.