Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur is a good story, but one that’s all too familiar to fans of children’s movies.
The story centers around a Apatosaurus named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) who’s swept miles away from home by a river and is forced to be companions with a human named Spot (voiced by Jack Bright). Spot’s survival skills in the wild may be the only things that can help Arlo get back to his family.
The eye popping texture and animation is fantastic. It’s some of the best animation Pixar has done. The realistic facial expression and responses are reminiscent of Toy Story. At times, it’s hard to distinguish if what’s on the screen is animated or actual nature footage.
By far, the best part of the film is the relationship between Arlo and Spot. They bond they have, although 100% animated, looks like a real friendship on screen. Pixar movies have the ability to take a world you know doesn’t exist and make it feel real for 2 hours – it does exactly that with Arlo and Spot. As soon as you’re sucked in, that’s when they come for your tears.
As lovable as Arlo is, his journey is very similar to Simba’s journey in The Lion King. A lot of the film feels like Lion King Lite. Outside of the Arlo/Simba comparison, Poppa (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) and Mufasa have a similar life trajectory. The pterodactyls act like the hyenas, except with wings. The t-rex family fills in the Timon and Pumbaa/life lessons section of the story. Even Rafiki has a bizaro rhino take his place. Not to mention Poppa and Arlo walking alone in the grass for a father-to-son moment.
Did everyone making this film not watch The Lion King?
There’s no kingdom for Arlo to claim. There’s no evil uncle who wants what’s his. There are no musical numbers. But there are enough similarities to make The Good Dinosaur a little less enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong. The Good Dinosaur is a very well put together film. The animation and voice acting is incredible. But it’s lacking what made Pixar films so much better than the rest – their imagination. Nobody does it better. There’s usually a newness attached to their films that lets everyone know you’re seeing something that’s never been made. From Toy Story to Inside Out, the movies created entire worlds for their story and characters to exist in. The Good Dinosaur exists in the shadow of a world we’ve already seen.
The Good Dinosaur trades off The Lion King, instead of building a unique narrative like the Pixar films of the past. There are enough good pieces to make the film watchable, but it’s missing some the magic that makes Pixar films memorable.