The second Disney film released in 2000 is also a late inclusion in the official canon; for years, fans debated whether Dinosaur belonged in the canon or not. Disney put that to rest in 2010 when they did that retrospective video to celebrate Tangled as their 50th feature film, including Dinosaur as number 39. Even so, the film remains an odd element among its hand drawn contemporaries making its inclusion more of a marketing campaign rather than an honest acknowledgement of its status in the studio's history.
I remember when Dinosaur was released. Disney promoted the film as a feat of technical wizardry where real environments were matched with state of the art (at least for the time) computer animation. The beginning of the film (which was also used as the film's trailer) remains a superb combination of gorgeous visuals and a compelling story which essentially is an egg's voyage. That prologue makes you interested in the film because you think you're going to see something different and exciting. Unfortunately, after that great start, the film devolves into a complete formulaic story with little excitement aside from some great visuals.
In his review, the late, great Roger Ebert said that the film's problems begin when the animals start to talk. And that's absolutely true. From the beginning you're watching something that looks very real and then, the characters just break that realism by behaving like typical Disney characters. I think that's the most frustrating thing. I know of course that there are many films where animals talk and I'm fine with that. But Dinosaur seemed to be poised as something grander to then be devolved into a "cutie" picture.
And that's not the only problem. I perhaps could have overlooked all that if the characters were complex and interesting creatures that you connect with. Sadly, the characters in Dinosaur are completely stereotypical characters that you've seen in many films and, what's worse, many Disney films. The story is very straightforward with few obstacles which in the end do not amount to much excitement. Most of the characters are one-note personalities with little appeal that the audience do not care about, making the film a completely forgettable affair.
Dinosaur had so much potential, it could have been something really great, but you get the feel that the crew was more invested in making it look great rather than working on a story that would've matched the beauty of those images. As it is, Dinosaur is not a completely terrible film but it's not a good one either; it's the perfect example of a wasted opportunity. Rating: 2.5/5.
Next Week - Animated Classic #40 Review: The Emperor's New Groove (2000).