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Disney's "Dinosaur"

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Disney's Dinosaur is the first animated feature spawned by the studio's new $80 million digital-production studio, and the film's budget has been estimated at about $140 million. I'm confused: Aren't animated movies supposed to be cheaper than live-action films? At this rate, actors like Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford may soon decide there's more money to be made as digitally enhanced 'toons than as flesh-and-blood performers. In Dinosaur, the digital beasties, often combined with digitized live-action backdrops, are so expertly rendered that you don't really miss actors on the screen. The musculature and overall expressiveness of the iguanodons and carnotaurs and brachiosaurs and all the rest compensate for what is otherwise standard Disney whimsy: A meteor shower forces a family of lemurs and its adopted dino into a trek with a multitude of other dinos across predators' terrain to the promised land. The moral is that survival goes not to the fittest but to the chummiest. You have to stay together to make it. All this may sound ripe for musicalization, but thankfully we're spared; the only score is James Newton Howard's Lion King-ish throbbings on the soundtrack, which take a backseat to the plummy voicings of the creatures by the likes of Ossie Davis, Joan Plowright, Della Reese, and Alfre Woodard. With few exceptions, such as the Toy Story movies, feature animation has reached the point now where technical wizardry has far outstripped story values and dialogue. Dinosaur is no different. If studios are going to be paying out hundreds of millions of dollars for these films, shouldn't some of that money go to writers whose imaginations match the visuals?


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