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Dinosaur: Collector's Edition

Reviewed by: Justin Sallows
Genre: Sci-Fi
Video: Anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS
Language: English, French
Subtitle: English
Length: 1hrs 22mins
Rating: PG
Release Date: January 30, 2001
Studio: Disney
Commentary: 2:Director and effects supervisors; Producer and production team
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: 13 (1-8 min.)
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: 3 Trailers, 4 TV Spots
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: 6
Music Video: None
Other: Production Notes, storyboards, production art, 14 effects and alternate scene vignettes, 7 sneak peeks, puzzle, game, dinopedia, 3 easter eggs, posters, audio mix demo, progression reels with commentary, multi-angle progressions, turnarounds
Cast and Crew: D.B. Sweeny, Julianne Margolize, Della Reese, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis
Screenplay by: Written by: Walton Greene
Produced by: Pam Marsden
Directed By: Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag
Music: James Newton Howard
The Review: Although it was not critically lauded at the time of its release, I really like Dinosaur. Although the integration of CG dinosaurs with a live action backplate is not as photorealistic as Jurassic Park or even Walking with Dinosaurs, it is believable. You forget that they are combined elements just as you would an effects heavy action film. The story, while somewhat lightweight, is compelling enough for us to forget for an hour and a half that dinosaurs are extinct. The film begins with a sweeping journey of an egg as it is fought over by dinosaurs and swept up by Pteronodons. Eventually it lands on a small island populated by lemurs. The orphan (a Disney staple) iguanodon Aladar's raised by the primates. When the great meteor strikes the earth it decimates the island and Aladar is forced to flee with a small band of his "family". They join a band of various dinosaurs as they trek to the breeding grounds. On this journey Aladar bumps heads with the determined and brusk leader Kron and finds love in his sister. He also befriends two aging dinosaurs who are constantly pulling up the rear. If one were to inject politics into the film, Aladar is the consumate liberal that believes they all can make it together by helping the weaker animals, and Kron the conservative that only believes in the survival of the fittest. It's this conflict that's at the heart of the story as they are each determined to exercise their individual ideals. The herd is torn between the two until the finale with the two Carnotaurs that have been tracking them catch up. While these themes are somewhat simplistic, they do hold the film together in a coherent narrative that we can identify with in our every day lives. The acting is good and never over the top as this type of fare runs the danger of doing. It's the sheer look of the film that impresses the most. The sweeping vistas give Dinosaur a size and scale that's fitting. The characters themselves are a little cartoony and characterized, but overall very successful in their realization. You would think that a movie so dependent on the alignment of multiple elements would have a "locked-off" look to it, but Dinosaur is very fluid, zipping the camera around, even running between the legs of a racing Carnotaur. This is an experience that bears several viewings to take in all it's beauty. The score is also very powerful, particularly in the stampede sequence. During the lemur pairing ritual, the Lion King roots of the composer are evident. Dinosaur is a successful venture that you should not deny yourself.
Image and Sound Let me put it simply, Dinosaur is the best looking DVD I've ever seen. The colors jump off the screen. The blacks are pitch black with no artifacting to be found. The contrast is so excellent your TV will almost fool you into thinking it's an HDTV. I can't wait to actually get one because this DVD must look like a window into the Cretaceous! I can't say enough glowing things about it. Keep in mind that there was no film involved because it was just loaded from the computers at Disney. There isn't the slightest hint of grain, dust or dirt anywhere. This is the new standard of DVD. Let's hope others follow in Disney's footsteps. The audio is superb and very involving. Split-surround effects are evident and the score thunders through all channels. The dialogue is crisp and clean. The sound effects were all created, so there was no possibility of noise during the production that could have degraded it's quality. An extremely impressive transfer all the way around. One note. I had a Samsung DVD-909 that refused to play this disc. I was so angry I bought a new player that day (Toshiba SD2300) that had no problems. I have heard that Disney is aware of this flaw that affected some customers but I don't know exactly what they're doing about it.
The Extras Complimenting this fantastic transfer is a bevy of supplements to keep you busy for hours on end. On disc one, you will find 7 sneak peeks(trailers) of various Disney projects including Atlantis, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, and the really cool-looking Atlantis game. Under Special Features you can examine Dinopedia, an encyclopedia of the dinosaurs seen in the film. There is a puzzle, Dinosearch, and a game called Aladar's adventure. This is kind of a neat first-person Myst-type game where you must find missing dinosaurs and water while dodging the hungry Carnotaurs. The break-through-the-wall ending is a little frustrating but keep at it. Lastly on disc one (aside from the commentaries, is the Film Fact Fossil Dig. These are 14 vignettes that offer added insight into specific sequences, even an alternate ending. These can be accessed individually, via the scene selection menu, or with an icon that you can choose to have pop up at the appropriate time in the film a la The Matrix's white rabbit feature. On disc two you really get into the belly of the beast. A deluge of sections appear on a menu simulating a computer screen. There are seven main sections for Development, Creating the Characters, The Production Process, Music & Sound, Abandoned Scenes and Publicity. Each of these sections have 3-5 subsections and some of these have subsections. Put all together, you will have an in depth overview of the making of Dinosaur. Development kicks off with 4 different test and presentation reels no doubt used to impress the brass and jazz the crew. They are entertaining and give a peek at how the idea progressed. Originally Aladar had a beak, as real Iguanodons did which is shown in these early reels. It's pretty obvious the beak had to go. Throughout this disc are several still galleries that preserve dozens and dozens of storyboards and production art. The first is found in development as they try to establish the look and feel of the film. Also in development is the first of 3 easter eggs! Just click the T-Rex skull to see this 6 minute clip introduced by Walt himself! It is perhaps the first bit of animation ever shown to a captive audience. It's kind of a vaudeville act with a live actor interacting with a cartoon dinosaur named Gerty. The next section, Creating the characters contains two 7 min clips regarding the creation of the dinosaurs and one 7 minute clip about the lemurs. These are accompanied by many stills of production art. The Production process pertains to bringing it all together. From location scouting to the inserting of the CGI characters. An 8 minute featurette talks about this and a 4 minute one refers to the "Monster Cloud" effect in particular. Also in this section is a multi-angle demonstration of the progression from story reel, to rough animation and to the final composite. Following this are three 4 minute sequences of same only with commentary instead of multi-angle. This section also contains the second easter egg, Outtake Errors. These are computational flaws that occurred during rendering. A curious if pointless feature. Music and Sound contains two 3 minute clips and an audio mixer which lets you discover how a sequence sounds with any combination of music, dialogue and sound effects. There are 6 abandoned scenes in the next section in various stages of development. All are interesting if decidedly unneeded for the story. Of particular interest is a sequence where Aladar rescues his grandfather from crocodiles while the herd crosses a river. Of most interest in the Publicity section is the final easter egg. Recycle Rex is a 12 minute educational cartoon about the joys of recycling. A cute feature, if somewhat out of place. WHEW! Now that's a packed set! I found all these supplements informative and fun. My one beef is the still sections because it took a few sections to blow up the picture once you selected it. Then you have to wait a couple more once you go back to the menu of thumbnails. Note: When I viewed these with my Samsung, the player would refuse to return to the menu once a picture was selected.
Commentary Well if you still want more after all that there's plenty. Not one, but two commentaries are available. I don't know how they fit them on the disc with two 5.1tracks, DTS and the above mentioned features. Both tracks fill in the blanks left by the supplements, and in some cases repeat them. Although these were very informative, they were a little stiff for me. These guys are all real computer geeks and they don't pull punches when talking up the specs. I think all the people involved with both commentaries worked very close together, because they almost say the same things. Where one would track be talking about a scene that just went by, the other would just be starting on a current one, so you could literally flip between them like changing a channel and not really be able to tell the difference.At times it feels like they're reading stereo instructions they are so detailed. I'm sure that will be right up some people's alley though, it just got a little boring for me.
Final Words: Wow, what a set! This is what DVD is all about. An excellent transfer with involving split-surround sound, and enough supplements to choke a horse! You won't get through all this in one sitting unless you have one of those blow-up hemorrhoid things! Plan on spending the weekend with this baby. I understand Disney is going to make their box sets even better in the future starting with Snow White at the end of 2001. I'm crossing my fingers The Lion King is next. If they are anything like this then I'll be first in line.

Send all Comments to Teakwood Productions
June 15, 2001