Disney/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 79 mins .
PG . PAL
Disney are on the forefront of the animation frontier with a simply spectacular resume behind them. From early on, Disney have been captivating audiences around the world with their artistically vibrant films. Technologically their films have been unsurpassed too, with a cocktail of innovations, experiments and beauty thrown in the mix. In recent times, Lilo and Stitch showed us beautiful watercolour backgrounds mixed with traditional Disney-style animation while Treasure Planet and Return to Neverland combined rich 3D sequences with cel animation, still capturing the look and feel of Disney. Dinosaur, made some years earlier, broke through the 3D animation barrier and seamlessly combined attractively filmed and photographed images with rich, detailed and realistic 3D animation. And yet it still hung on to the look of Disney. Now what is a common theme through all Disney films? Easy, family. Whether it be an immediate family such as Return to Neverland or Lilo and Stitch or a more abstract representation of a family in Dinosaur and Treasure Planet, the idea still rings loud and true, and makes each and every Disney effort a wholesome entertaining ride.
Ooh, I shouldn't have eaten that...
Now this film is rated PG, so that means parental guidance is recommended, and rightly so. Some sequences are quite intense for the little ones, so be with them as they watch this one. It’s not as cute and cuddly as Monsters, Inc. and parents can sometimes be naïve to the inclination of what a kids’ film really is. The story is simple enough for anyone to follow, and holds onto the Disney beliefs – adding some wholesome life to today’s corrupting generation. The film isn’t as great as other Disney productions story-wise, but the technological advances that this film made warrants it worth a watch, not to mention the stunning transfer on DVD and powerful score by James Newton Howard.
Hey, I can see my house from here!
Dinosaur tells the story of Aladar, a lost dinosaur adopted by a family of lemurs. This is where he grew up, not knowing about his own family. But disaster strikes one day with a horrific meteor striking earth, forcing a mass migration of the dinosaurs. Aladar, along with a small contingency of lemurs, heads off to find greener pastures, but they come across a herd of migrating dinosaurs, led by the domineering Kron. Aladar speaks his mind, annoys Kron, and gains the confidence of the older members in the herd as he stands up for what he believes in, even if it means fighting it out solo. But after an example is set, the family and mateship gained is sure to follow through, and true leadership can be seen.
Sorry, I couldn't hold it in...
If only the present day looked this good. The 16:9 enhanced video hits the living room in a richly detailed 1.78:1 aspect. This is slightly different from the theatrical aspect of 1.85:1, but really who can notice such a slight difference? With its complex production on mixing live background plates with CG animation, this transfer is beautiful to watch. Every aspect of the transfer is right on the target, with beautifully realistic colours, stunningly sharp detail and an artistically broad view of a prehistoric world. Artefacts of any type are well clear of this pristine transfer, with the short feature fitting comfortably onto a single layer. With the recent Disney DVD releases including Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life CE looking as stunning as ever, this 'Collector’s Edition' can line your DVD shelf boasting a gorgeous transfer. Why say any more?
You mean I'm not a lemur?!
Accompanying the fabulous video transfer is an equally as stunning audio transfer. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track rips apart the living room with astonishing power and precision. The subwoofer roars into action constantly through the film, packing a powerful punch. The soundstage that is created is incredibly broad, with superb fidelity and directionality. Rear speakers carry clear discrete signals, and offer extensive support to the score, as well as superb effects. The front half of the soundstage offers a wide range of effects and provides a rich stage which the remaining speakers can build upon.
There are a few astounding film composers working in Hollywood today. Hans Zimmer is one, Danny Elfman is another and a third is James Newton Howard. These three composers each have a resume behind them that shows they have the ability to write score after score, each equally as enveloping and individual as the last. Recently in Signs James Newton Howard provided a hauntingly emotive score, and his talent as a composer shines through in Dinosaur with an up-beat tribal feel that simply pulsates the living room, adding so much atmosphere to the already stunning feeling that you gain from the visuals.
Where to start? This two disc Collector’s Edition holds a vault worth’s of extra features, with quantities that rival those of Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life CE. And what is even better is that they are quality extras, as well as quantity!
A Dinosaur of a menu...
Disc 1 is the same as the original Region 4 release, with the same features. The audio commentary features comments from the directors Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag as well as visual effects supervisor Neil Krepela and digital effects supervisor Neil Eskuri. This commentary offers a great technical insight into the making of the film, and problems that the crew found during production. It's maybe not one for the kids, as it does tend to venture into some 3D animation hooplah, and as you would expect it isn’t explained for the novices in 3D filmmaking. One thing though, they comment on some apostles off of the coast of Australia, and say that there are seven. Can anyone tell me how many there actually are? 12? I thought so... Some people go ga-ga when it comes to behind-the-scenes viewing modes, but personally I find them annoying to watch. If you’re not sure what this is, look at The Matrix or Spider-man DVDs. The bonus about this particular viewing mode is that you can access each particular behind-the-scenes clip easily from the scene selections menu where a small skeleton icon is displayed. A few deleted scenes are included, as well as an alternate opening and ending. The music video is of a clip called Orange Blue. There's nothing terribly exciting in this 3:55 video clip of a song that just tends to lead nowhere. Just watch out for the guy behind the piano... creepy looks. Two games (Aladar’s Adventure and Dino Search) have been included for the kids, as well as the Dinopedia which is a simple dinosaur encyclopaedia. Capping off the first disc is a 4:47 theatrical trailer. Yes, it is 4:47 – no typos there. This trailer was Disney’s main advertising campaign for the film and is great to watch, but isn’t terribly pretty to look at, partially due to its low bitrate.
And now on to the colossus collection of creative colourful extras that are sure to inform each and every one of you. Like the recent Disney CE discs, this disc too is divided up into several segments: Development, Creating the Characters, The Production Process, Music and Sound, and Abandoned Scenes.
The Development section contains four featurettes and one gallery, and looks at the basic tests in 1996 to see how the concept worked, as well as the 1998 Presentation Reel used to show Disney executives where they were up to. The four featurettes are Proof of Concept Test March 1996 (1:56), Live Action Backplate Test October 1996 (0:25), Early Presentation Reel December 1996 (1:57) and Presentation Reel October 1998 (1:42). The gallery features 73 images of sketches, water colours and drawings which were concept art for the look and style of the film.
Creating the Characters is an in-depth look at the concept art and 3D modelling for the different dinosaurs and lemurs in the film. Designing the Dinosaurs (7:04) and Building the Dinosaurs (7:23) look at the creation of the dinosaurs with incredible technicality. The Character Design galleries hold a large collection of concepts as well as 3D turnarounds. Aladar has 40 images, Kron has 12, Neera has 6, Bruton has 24, Baylene has 3, Eema has 7, Url has 4, Carnotaurs have 8, Velociraptor has 11, the herd has 3 turnarounds and then there are 97 miscellaneous images. Each of these have turnarounds, except the miscellaneous images. Building the Lemurs (6:49) discusses the complexities of using fur and grass, as well as interacting with other objects. Preliminary Lemur Designs features 44 drawings, and Plio has 15 drawings, Yar has 13, Zini has 8 and Suri has 5. Again, all of these feature 3D turnarounds.
The Production Process goes into great detail in covering specific aspects of the film. Creating a Prehistoric World (7:40) discusses how filmed backplates were fused with 3D animation to create a stunning movie event. The four minute Monster Cloud featurette shows how the special effects in the meteor sequence were developed. The 1:44 Dino Cam featurette features a commentary by Neil Eskuri as he discusses how the Dino Cam is used to create the Carnotaur chase scene stage by stage. The Story Reel and 3D Workbook runs for 3:49 and looks at the scene where Aladar joins the herd. Multiple angles allow you to see storyboards, the 3D workbook or the final film. Progression Reels feature more commentaries from Neil Eskuri as he discusses the Opening Sequence (4:18), Aladar Meets the Mistfits (1:48) and Aladar finds Water (1:13).
The Music and Sound area covers only two aspects, the first a (too) brief (2:56) look at the music behind the film, composed by James Newton Howard. Sound Design (2:52) looks at the Foley effects behind the film – and the question remains after Jurassic Park - what did a dinosaur actually sound like? The Audio Mix Demonstration allows you to mix around with dialogue, music and effects to see how they play together in the meteor scene. This mixer just got so frustrating to play around with – real time mixing would be much, much easier.
Finally come the Abandoned Scenes, each with varying stages of development. Some rest at the storyboard scene, others as 3D workbooks and one that is fully animated. The six scenes are The River Crossing (5:13), The Grandparents Perish (2:12), Struggle for a Resting Place (2:19), Bruton and Lieutenants Attacked (0:55), Death on the Trail (0:25) and Old Gotoma (1:23). Some scenes are cut for a good reason, such as the grandparents scene, as the film is full-on enough for the little ones.
Dinosaur has been given the 'Collector’s Edition' treatment, and it has been worth waiting for. Now you can look behind the scenes of this technically amazing film and gain an insight into the advanced animation process. The disc itself holds up well, even two years after its initial release on DVD, and still stands out as a reference quality disc. Not quite a must have, but one for the kids during the holidays.