Finally making it to the big screen after its much publicised troubled production history (complete change of story and voice cast with the director also
replaced). The Good Dinosaur is a 'what if?' tale that tries to imagine what might have happened to the dinosaurs if a meteor hadn't wiped them out,
combined with a 'boy and his pet trying to make their way home across perilous terrain' narrative.
In a clever bit of role reversal the 'boy' is a young dinosaur called Arlo, the 'pet' a feral human child christened Spot.
Young dinosaur Arlo lives on his family farm with his parents, brother and sister. The 'runt of the litter' he feels the need to prove himself and make his
mark. When his father dies in a flash flood after Arlo's unsuccessful attempt to catch a critter that has been stealing their food, he finds himself swept
away by the same river. Stranded miles away he reluctantly teams up with the critter he holds responsible for his father's death, a feral human child, and
tries to make his way home.
In terms of story, this is Pixar at its most conventional and over familiar. The ghost of The Lion King and its story of a son trying to prove himself
casts a long shadow over The Good Dinosaur. This includes a 'ghostly' visit from the father at a key point and a group of villainous pterodactyls that
serve the same purpose as the other film's hyenas.
If the story is less than ground-breaking, visually it shows Pixar going from strength to strength. It's depiction of the wide open spaces and power of
nature is often breath-taking.
The relationship between Arlo and Spot is also enjoyably and movingly told with the initial enmity between the two leading to touching friendship. The
reversal of roles also allows for a considerable amount of cute comedy.
There's also a nice nod towards westerns with a group of T-Rex cattle ranchers (one of which is voiced by a suitably gruff Sam Elliott).
So though it lacks the complexity and inventiveness of Inside Out, 2015's other Pixar offering, there is still much to enjoy here. It's certainly
beautifully animated and frequently funny.
Thankfully the traditional short is also a winner. After the woeful Lava, Sanjay's Super Team is the enjoyable story of a young Indian boy who finds that
the gods of his father's religion can be just as heroic as the tv cartoon superheroes he worships.