2015 was the year with two Pixar films. The first was the wildly successful, Oscar nominated Inside Out… and the second is Pixar’s closest equivalent The Black Cauldron. The Good Dinosaur underperformed so much that it is the least successful Pixar film to date, earning less than 1998’s a bug’s life without adjusting for inflation. What went wrong?
The Good Dinosaur has a wonderful concept. What would have happened if the asteroid missed the earth? For Pixar, dinosaurs would have become farmers and somehow would have made room in the world for mammals to coexist. Once this concept is established, the story can begin. This is where the problems start.
Arlo is a young apotosaurus who is afraid of the world around him. When he gets lost in the wilderness far from home, he relies on a canine-like human boy named Spot to help him get home. His journey is filled with peril and adventure as he struggles to get back what was lost.
The Good Dinosaur grabs your emotions and slaps them against a wall, drags them through mud and spits on them before handing the remnants back to you. It fails to find a reasonable balance between lighthearted happy moments and sad experiences, putting nearly all of the comedic bits in the first twenty-minutes. The concept of a lost child navigating through a strange world on a journey home works in films like The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland where the world is fun. But The Good Dinosaur is a serious western and beyond Spot, none of the characters are lovable.
The only good thing about The Good Dinosaur is that it is visually breathtaking. The photorealistic worlds will have you questioning if they are computer-made or if Pixar didn’t film real backgrounds and insert CG dinosaurs into them ala Disney’s Dinosaur. But the overly stylized character designs don’t quite mesh with the landscapes and certainly aren’t enough to lighten up the dark story.
The Good Dinosaur arrives on home video on February 23rd with three physical buying options. This review covers the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, but a 3D Ultimate Collector’s Edition adds another dimension to these offerings while a standalone DVD release loses access to the film in HD.
As usual, Pixar delivers a perfect picture presentation. With a photorealistic environment, every detail is superbly rendered on Blu-Ray. The full range of color, from bright and intense to dull and black are authentically produced in your home theater. On DVD, everything feels softer, less vibrant and a noticeable amount of detail is lost.
The main audio option on Blu-Ray is English DTS HD-Master Audio 7.1 surround sound. It’s an incredibly dynamic mix, utilizing all speakers through almost the entire film. Other audio options include English 5.1, 2.0 and 2.0 descriptive audio. Other languages include French and Spanish 5.1. The DVD disc loses the 7.1 surround sound mix.
- Sanjay’s Super Team (6:48) – The amazing short that preceded The Good Dinosaur in theaters is offered in stunning high definition.
- True Lies About Dinosaurs (1:51) – This short feature is aimed at kids and reveals some of the untruths about dinosaurs that are featured in this film.
- Recyclosaurus (6:05) – Pixar employees challenged each other to create dinosaur art out of junk during production on The Good Dinosaur.
- The Filmmakers’ Journey (7:35) – This short making-of feature briefly introduces a few of the talents that helped make the film.
- Every Part of the Dinosaur (5:54) – The animators share the challenges of bringing realistic movements to dinosaurs and making Spot behave more like an animal.
- Following the T-Rex Trail (6:41) – Meet the McKay family in Oregon who served as the inspiration for the T-Rex ranchers in the film.
- Deleted Scenes (10:41) – Peter Sohn introduces three deleted scenes, “The Attack”, “Building the Siloh” and “Waiting for Poppa.” All three deleted scenes are presented in storyboard form.
- Commentary (1:33:38) – Dirctor Peter Sohn leads this feature-length commentary along with Kelsey Mann (Story Supervisor), Mike Mentorini (Animation Supervisor), Sharon Calahan (Director of Photography) and Sanjay Bakshi (Supervising Technical Director). It features great insight into the challenges encountered during production and some fun hidden details.
- Dino Bites (4:15) – A series of short animated gags that were used in promotional materials.
- Hide and Seek (0:59) – A short video of Spot and Arlo playing hide and seek.
- Trailers – Three trailers from around the world highlight the way the film was marketed. The non-English trailers feature English subtitles.
- Moment – North American Trailer 2 (2:25)
- Courage – Russian Trailer (2:30)
- Different – German Trailer (2:03)
There is one digital exclusive bonus feature through Disney Movies Anywhere.
- Just Listen (6:14) – The foley artists, composers and voice actors are highlighted in this featurette about the sounds of The Good Dinosaur.
The only bonus features on the DVD are Sanjay’s Super Team and the Commentary.
Packaging & Design
The Good Dinosaur Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack is housed in a standard sized Blu-Ray case with disc holders on the inside of each cover. Both discs feature disc art and inserts include a digital copy/Disney Movie Rewards code (150 points) and a Disney Movie Club flier. The case is housed in a holofoil embossed slipcover that really enhances the lightning bugs in the artwork.
Both discs open with ads for Disney Movies Anywhere, Finding Dory and Zootopia. Selecting “Sneak Peeks” from the menu plays additional ads for Wyoming Tourism, Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks and Disney Store.
I am sad to say that I don’t recommend The Good Dinosaur. As a Pixar fan, it’s hard to see them have a dud and I was hoping a second viewing of this film would leave me with a different opinion, but it did not. On a technical level, this Blu-Ray presentation excels. But if the content isn’t good, what’s the point? There are plenty of good dinosaur movies that are family friendly, but this ironically isn’t one of them.