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Blu-ray Review: Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur”

Blu-ray Review: Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur"

“This is probably one of the
greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my life, probably the toughest gig I’ve
ever had,” says The Good Dinosaur
director Peter Sohn on the Blu-ray Audio Commentary. “I can’t tell you how my
journey on this thing has completely paralleled Arlo and his fears, not having
a lot of confidence. I remember jumping into this thing, being terrified of
this, trying to make a movie and my confidence levels dropped down like a
million, but… like Arlo and the characters that he meets—and the T-rexes and
Spot—you guys have been that ‘Spot’ for me, where you have helped me. And I
can’t thank you guys enough in terms of giving me that strength and


“I’d do it again in a
heartbeat, Pete,” says Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann.


Only a handful of DVDs and
Blu-rays have such revelatory features as those on The Good Dinosaur. It is no secret that this spectacular yet
intimate adventure is the “Jan Brady” to Inside
“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” But as the above quote illustrates, there
is an open sincerity inherent, not only in the film itself, but also in the
thoughts and feelings the filmmakers share on the various features.


Of course, younger children
can just watch the movie, though depending on the sensitivity of the kids; you
might accompany them, as there are some impactful moments of danger, violence
and extreme peril. Arlo spends a lot of the movie saying this: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

But here’s the unusual
angle: this Blu-ray package offers a way to better appreciate and enjoy the
film more than would have been possible in a theater, due in no small part to
the illuminating bonus features.

  If you have not seen the
film yet, the following is a rather unusual suggestion. Watch some of the extra
features first. Not all mind you, but just the ones that provide a prelude to
the film as a production experience, which, while ultimately satisfying, was fraught
with challenges. Director Sohn identifies with Arlo, but on a larger scale, the
entire film is like the timid dino—there are missteps that keep the story from
being completely focused, but there are also moments of unfathomable beauty and


Here’s a wild idea: before you play the film, watch these generously
lengthy extra features first:


1. Always begin with the cartoon. “Sanjay’s Super Team”: an exquisite short in which a
little boy’s action hero TV watching is disrupted by his father’s prayer
observance—and vice versa—this morphs into a wondrous fantasy steeped in
cultural iconography.

2. “The Filmmaker’s Journey” – Sohn and his dedicated and highly supportive
creative team don’t mince words about how this project shifted gears and went
into overdrive. Presumably there was only so much time to address the most
urgent issues and get the project into theaters in the best way possible—the
result being a film, though flawed like its protagonist, worthy of the immense pride
and love they share for the finished product.


3. Every Part of the Dinosaur – This goes further into the
exhaustive efforts to design the characters and create their world. To me, the
film plays better on a home screen because, when a film has such a strong
design sense, it can overpower the primary characters and their story. On TV,
it becomes more cohesive.


4. Following the T-rex Trail – This and “The Filmmaker’s Journey” are
the two most important mini-docs. It’s about a remarkable ranch family and
their approach to life. For animation fans and students, you can see how
getting to know such a family was pure gold for character development. If only
we could see more of this family. They’re great.


5. True Lies About Dinosaurs – Aimed at preteens, this is a jaunty look at how
the film plays fast and loose with the chronology of history, especially
blending species that had never coexisted. It’s a good feature to see because
it sets the stage for a film that asks the viewer to suspend disbelief and just
go with the flow.

Now it’s time to watch “The Good Dinosaur”! (By the way, does anyone else wish there had been
another title, like “The Journey of Arlo” or “Arlo & Spot?”? The chosen
title recalls the awkward “Great Mouse Detective” that was changed from “Basil
of Baker Street.”)

After the movie and a nice
cool beverage, enjoy the following:


6. Deleted Scenes – Of course, these must be seen after the film. I couldn’t help wishing
that the sequence between Arlo and his father had been left in. The film was a
bit of a downer for at least the first reel and the father-son moments made
them more identifiable.


7. Hide and Seek – These interstitials are perplexing, as they seem to come from another
film, like Ice Age or Open Season. In this comedy blackouts, the character play
directly to the camera and engage in wacky pratfall hijinks, not at all in the
spirit of the more lofty visions of the feature itself. Please do not watch
these before the movie.

9. Audio Commentary
– thank you! Not all Pixar releases include audio commentaries and it
is a glaring omission when that happens. In the case of The Good Dinosaur, getting
first-hand, genuine anecdotes and observations about the film as it is running
is one of the best things about DVDs and Blu-rays. The fact that the commenters
are so eager to credit as many members of the team as possible speaks well of
them as people.


8. Recyclosaurus – A little slice of life at the studio as the employees participate in
a dino building contest, using only things on the “free table”. These folks
appear to be having fun.

Note: Special Features noted above are only on the blu-ray disc. The only extras on the
DVD are the commentary and the short film.

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