Dirs: Ralph Zondag. Eric Leighton. US. 1999. 82 mins.
Prod co: Walt Disney Pictures. US dist: Buena Vista. Intl dist: Buena Vista Intl. Prod: Pam Marsden. Co-prod: Baker Bloodworth. Scr: John Harrison, Robert Nelson Jacobs, based on an original screenplay by Walon Green. Music: James Newton Howard. Ed: H Lee Peterson. Prod des: Walter P Martishius. Visual effects supervisor: Neil Krepela. Art dir: Cristy Maltese. Digital effects supervisor: Neil Eskuri. Main cast (voices): D B Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Hayden Panettiere, Samuel E Wright, Julianna Margulies, Peter Siragusa, Joan Plowright, Della Reese.
With more than 1,300 individual effects shots that place realistic-looking - but very humanised - computer-animated dinosaurs in spectacularly photographed real-world settings, Dinosaur is certainly a technical marvel (as it ought to be with a budget that reportedly falls somewhere between $130m and $200m). Audience anticipation and Disney marketing should guarantee huge openings around the globe.
The film's long-term prospects may be less certain, however. The mildly scary bits, which have earned Dinosaur a PG rating in the US, could make some parents of smaller children wary. More significantly, compared to the best of Disney's drawn-animation offerings, and to computer-generated work like Toy Story, Dinosaur rates only middling scores for emotional power and sheer fun.
The story - a coming-of-age tale with a hint of The Lion King's circle of life theme thrown in - unfolds as orphaned iguanodon Aladar (voiced by Sweeney) and his adopted family of lemurs join a motley herd of dinosaurs struggling to return to their nesting grounds. The 'characters' echo those from other Disney movies, but Dinosaur has none of the music - and not much of the comedy - that usually enlivens the studio's animal fables.
The dinosaurs have been beautifully realised by Disney's in-house digital studio (which was created especially for the film). So well realised, in fact, that the talking, smiling, frowning beasts of Dinosaur seem much harder to swallow than their stylised counterparts in classics like The Lion King and The Jungle Book.