Disney’s magic touch brings to life 65-million year old dinosaurs in this wondrous tale of heroism and survival. Brilliant computer-generated animation, blended with live action backgrounds create a marvelous depiction of a prehistoric world set in the late Cretaceous Period.

In a stunning opening sequence we see the incredible journey of an iguanadon egg, carried from its nest and then, through a variety of means, carried off to a remote island. There it lands with a thump in the territory of a clan of lemurs.

Cautious but curious, Plio, the matriarch of the group, investigates the strange object which is now hatching. And inside, is the cutest little dinosaur you’ve ever laid eyes on. He is named Aladar and Plio raises him as one of her own, alongside her teenage son Zini and daughter Suri and with the help of the eldest member of the clan, Yar – the grandfather. Aladar is taught family values and teamwork, traits that will serve him well later on in the story.

It’s not long before Aladar (now voiced by D.B. Sweeney) is a grown iguanadon and disaster strikes their island paradise in the form of a vivid and quite scary meteor shower. It’s up to Aladar to save his family and move them to new ground. The rest of the lemur clan has been killed.

Soon, Aladar and the lemurs cross paths with a migrating mixed herd of surviving dinosaurs on their way to what they hope is the safety of their traditional nesting grounds. Aladar is urged to join the group by two old biddies, Baylene (marvelously voiced by British actress Joan Plowright), a 70-foot high Brachiosaur and Eema a crusty old Styrachosaur (cranky voiced Della Reese). The journey before them is long and treacherous with food and water nearly nonexistent along the way. Kron, the leader of the group warns Aladar and the others to keep up or be left behind. Predators in the form of very large, nasty, toothy Carnotaurs are never far behind, looking for stragglers to have for dinner.

Also in the group is saucy Neera (voiced by Julianne Margolies), Kron’s sister. A little more caring than the rest, she becomes the apple of Aladar’s eye.

The journey is survival of the fittest as nature would have it, helped along by the courageous and gentle Aladar. He makes a perfect hero, as he is forced to challenge Kron and vie for leadership of the herd, if the herd is to survive at all.

This film is actually quite suspenseful. The meteor shower and the immediate escape as well as the confrontations with the Carnotaurs are all nailbiters. The effects are beautifully done as are the expressions of the dinosaurs and even the lemurs. Some of the dialogue is a little lame (mostly coming from the lemurs) but it usually is and I don’t think it’s too annoying. It’s a quick moving, well told tale. My only real criticism is that it would have been nice to have had more development of the various species of dinosaurs as characters, but given the time frame that would have been difficult.

Other voices: Alfre Woodard voices Plio; Ossie Davis is Yar; Kron is Samuel E. Wright; Zini is Max Casella and Suri is voiced by Hayden Panettiere.

Lotta says
this is a spectacular film because of the spectacular images. A more complex tale with more complex characters would have pushed it up the ladder even more, but as an animated film goes, “Dinosaur” should keep you in your seat. Warning: too scary for the little ones, I think.