Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Land Before Time

The Land Before Time; animated fantasy adventure drama, USA, 1988; D: Don Bluth, S: Gabriel Damon, Candace Hutson, Judith Barsi, Will Ryan

The time of the dinosaurs: hunger and drought plague the land. Littlefoot, an Apatosaurus, hatches from an egg under care from his mother, grandmother and grandfather, since his father died. Together they travel towards the west to find the more prosperous "Great Valley" whereas the mother gives Littlefoot a leaf as a present. He meets the arrogant Cera, a baby Triceratops, who is attacked by a giant Tyrannosaurus. They are saved by Littlefoot's mother, but she dies from her injury while an earthquake creates a rift which separates the children from their parents. On their way, Littlefoot and Cera are joined by Petrie, lazy Spike and Ducky. In a trap, they push the T Rex into a lake and he drowns. The baby dinosaurs finally arrive at the valley, where Littlefoot meets his grandparents.

Shining animated film "The Land Before Time" is arguably the best film in Don Bluth's opus which became a hit despite the melancholic-bitter story about transience. Bluth here chose dinosaurs as protagonists, not humans, but that did not burden him at all in creating real, mature emotions and symbolical problems that encapsulate every aspect of family (for instance, the little Apatasaurus Littlefoot also has a grandma and a grandpa; has a hard time as an orphan) - Disney would here maybe fall into banal humor and sentimentality. Bluth's family extrapolation also gains tremendously due to touching music: in one great scene, Littlefoot sleeps in the footprint of an Apatosaurus; when he calls for his mother at great distance, she just simply approaches him with her long neck. Also, the scene where Littlefoot has a vision of his dead mother is one of the saddest moments in the history of animated drama and is an unknown classic. Would Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky be equally as gripping if they were spoken by dinosaurs? In this example, they would. The dinosaur characters are so remarkably far away from monsters and so remarkably close to real personalities, that the viewers could almost mistake them for humans. However, equally intense are also the suspenseful scenes including the Tyrannosaurs and the giant earthquake which creates a shift and elevates the hills, in a thoroughly impressive sequence. As a movie that seems as if its created before big budget cliches, "The Land Before Time" is a small jewel, an unique achievement. The most emotional dinosaur movie ever made, and one of the best dinosaur movies in the history cinema, in general.


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