ADAM Wow. They sort of head-faked us into thinking this was gonna be another Jungle Book, but it was actually like The Poseidon Adventure.
BROOM I don’t know what it was. It was like The Road, some kind of post-apocalyptic movie. Except then it wasn’t.
BETH But for most of it, it was. For seventy-five percent of it, it was really dark.
ADAM You were surprisingly gripped.
BETH I was. By the time they were in the cave, I was responding to it. I was talking back.
ADAM I’m not so sure that this was a failure, the way it seemed like it was going to be at the beginning, when it was all that swoopy CGI and that Kevin Costner music.
BETH There was no character development early on — or I was not paying attention —
BROOM So you felt like the “character development” — and I’m going to put that in quotes when I type it up — that existed later in the movie was… meaningful?
BETH No. Well, I don’t know.
BROOM You guys understand that the backgrounds were real film, and the credits just now listed all the places they went to shoot them?
ADAM That was cool. There were like eight different places that they filmed it.
BETH I felt like it had to be live, because the water looked way too good.
ADAM There wasn’t character development, but there was strong characterization.
BETH Yes, but I felt like I didn’t really see it until the middle of the movie. Early on — maybe it’s just because I was so turned off by the beginning — no one seemed appealing to me or worth caring about.
BROOM Tell me more about what you were turned off by at the beginning, because I, like I said, was surprised by how early and with what conviction you guys were groaning. It seemed like all we’d seen was sort of —
BETH Incredibly slow —
BROOM — sweeping, beginning-of-a-movie scenery.
ADAM It was the hackneyed sort of establishing shots, and then it was that sort of Rube Goldberg routine with the egg, which was kind of a turn-off, and then the “Mom, can we keep it?” routine, which we’ve seen literally like four times. And I was just, like, “oh, god. This is just gonna be CGI, and they have not thought at all about the story. It’s just gonna be the worst bits of every Disney story just mashed together as an excuse for this rickety CGI.”
BROOM And somehow we think it wasn’t that? I don’t think the movie really changed course.
ADAM No, then it turned into, like, Schindler’s List.
BETH It was just that it subverted expectations.
BROOM By having the apocalypse in it?
ADAM By having the half-hour of just death.
BROOM It was grim.
ADAM The trail of tears.
BROOM Which exactly appeared in Fantasia already. The dinosaurs trudging across the desert.
ADAM So yeah, let’s talk about that music.
BROOM The “Africa” music?
ADAM The whole thing. I called it “Kevin Costner music” because it sounds to me like the music in Dances With Wolves and in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It felt maybe a little antiquated for 2000.
BROOM Sweep. Spectacle. I found the atmosphere of the movie strange, and I didn’t know if the music was trying to compensate for that, or trying to be a part of that. I think the music ended up contributing to my sense of a strange atmosphere. It felt unearthly. I’m surprised you say that the “character development” was something that gripped you, because I felt like the characters were kind of at arm’s length, compared to most Disney movies. I mean, I recognized them, but it was like through a window.
ADAM She was just like Meg from Hercules. Cynical, allied with evil because she has no energy to fight back.
BROOM She wasn’t cynical. She didn’t really have a character. She was the sister to the tough guy, and she said “I don’t know what to think; things are so different now.” That was her whole character.
BETH I didn’t care about her.
BROOM There were the terrible one-liners that —
BETH — all Disney movies have.
BROOM Well, that the worst ones have. That a lot of movies now have. It’s the sound of a room of scriptwriters.
BETH “My blisters have blisters!”
BROOM Your blisters do have blisters. And then there were plot events that fit into this formula. And there wasn’t, for me, a sense of character in between. It sort of made the movie feel like it was happening in a strange other space.
ADAM There was the woman with the strong British accent and the woman with the strong African-American accent!
BROOM Yes. “Shame, shame on you!” She talked like an old lady, but she was in fact the strongest one of them. And that was sort of the revelation of that, the “hitting a rock until it breaks” scene.
ADAM I mean, this movie wasn’t good. It just wasn’t quite the nadir that I was anticipating.
BROOM Yeah, I agree. But this atmosphere; I’m trying to find the word for it. It had… like science fiction sometimes does, it hasn’t been fully realized and that’s part of what makes it unearthly or…
BETH Well, compelling, really. I think it’s part of what was gripping about it, that it had this otherworldly quality.
BROOM Yeah, exactly.
ADAM And pretend dinosaurs that did not have the characteristics of real dinosaurs.
BROOM Well, I think they actually were just lesser-known dinosaurs. They intentionally didn’t pick, like, Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex.
BETH Like, not popular dinosaurs.
BROOM Well, I’m not sure about “Carnotaur” — but the black lady was a Styracosaur, and their dog was an Ankylosaur.
ADAM I know that. And he was like an Apatosaur?
BROOM I’m not sure what he was. We can find out. [begins looking it up on Wikipedia] But you know that movie, The Dark Crystal? It’s a quest movie in a fantasy land, but the fantasy is so strange and otherworldly that your investment in the quest is sort of — you look at it in wonder and think “what am I looking at?” This seemed like it might be almost aiming at that.
ADAM A better ending would have been if they all evolved into birds.
BROOM Well that little voice-over at the very end — I was saying cynical stuff the whole time about how they’re all going to die, and then the voice-over said, “Yes, I’m not sure what to tell you.”
BETH “Let’s just remember this moment.”
BROOM Here it is: Aladar is an Iguanodon. Neera, Kron, and Bruton are all Iguanodons as well.
ADAM Yeah, I got that.
BETH Bruton looked a different type of Iguanodon. I guess he was just harder-edged, weathered.
BROOM Baylene was a Brachiosaurus, and Eema was a Styracosaurus. And the pet Ankylosaur was named Url.
ADAM Did you know those off the top of your head? I would have known Ankylosaur as a kid, but not now.
BROOM I said it before I looked it up. And look: “Carnotaurus, meaning ‘meat-eating bull.’ Only one species has been described so far.” It lived in Patagonia. The article does not have a “Carnotaurus in popular culture” section. But we could add it.
ADAM The movie Ice Age plays on the whole mammals versus dinosaurs thing. But that didn’t really get played up here.
BROOM This is very much like The Land Before Time, if we remember that, from 1987 or so [ed: 1988]. A Don Bluth movie, very tacky 80s kind of thing. Oh look at this: “The film was originally supposed to have no dialogue at all, in part to differentiate the film from The Land Before Time, with which Dinosaur shares plot similarities.”
BETH Thank goodness it didn’t.
BROOM I’m surprised at you two for saying “thank goodness!”
BETH It would have been intolerable!
ADAM Because the first six minutes was the worst.
BROOM I’m so surprised! To me, it’s the wisecracking that’s embarrassing.
ADAM But at least it goes down easy.
BETH Yeah, it just makes the time pass more quickly. The CGI just wasn’t that good. It was very noticeable.
ADAM Yeah, the CGI at the beginning looked like a USA television network extravaganza.
BROOM I would say the CGI was inconsistent. Because sometimes it was very good, I thought.
BETH Yeah, sometimes it was good.
BROOM When he got wet, I thought that was really well done. And I thought the live-action-beautiful-backgrounds idea was occasionally effective. I agree that it looked like ten-years-ago CGI, and that we’ve gotten used to a slightly slicker standard. But it’s mostly just that CGI is itself kind of distancing. You don’t really feel like you’re there.
BETH So you would have been okay with a ninety-minute silent dinosaur movie?
BROOM Well, they’d have had to construct it differently, obviously. All the more otherworldly, I would have thought.
BETH Yeah, okay.
ADAM What was the cartoon short we saw about how the seal leads the other seals into the protected cove? It was from one of the forties shorts, I think. There’s one where the seals go through this magical passageway under an island, and they end up in this cove inside an island, where they’re free from predators and it’s very beautiful.
BROOM Really? Are you sure that didn’t happen to the Smurfs?
ADAM Come on, guys.
[Google efforts along the lines of (“seals” “Disney” “island”) turn up nothing]
ADAM I don’t want to get distracted here, but this really happened.
BROOM You’re going to have to dig into it, because I don’t believe you.
BROOM So… this is just like that? Is that what you’re going to say?
BETH Find the review; I think we’re done.
ADAM Yeah, I don’t have a lot more to say about this other than, you know, if you’re composing the list of the five DIsney movies you absolutely never want to see, this is probably not one of them.
BROOM Really?! Compose it. Which are the five worst?
ADAM I don’t know. It’s too early to say.
BROOM Yeah, I think several of them are yet to come.
[we begin reading the New York Times review, but are interrupted:]
BROOM Okay, it’s been discovered that The White Seal, 1973, by Chuck Jones, is the film Adam had in mind. Good call; the ending is exactly the same.
ADAM That’s what it reminds me of.
[we finish the review]
ADAM That was a weirdly superficial review from A. O. Scott.
BROOM I don’t know, I think he took the time to give it what it deserved, and I’m not sure it deserved different from that.
ADAM I don’t know. “It had so many credits!”
BROOM I think that the over-emphasis on the credits in his review sort of matches the nature of the movie; it’s like, “technically something was done here, but I’m not sure what was done movie-wise.” Do we feel that this is really a Disney feature, that this follows in the footsteps of the tradition in any way?
ADAM Well, I’m glad that it was strange. It was a strangeness that was more interesting than — what was the worst one, The Fox and the Hound?
BROOM That was my least favorite. But, I mean, Mulan was pretty bad. What was the other one there? Oh, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but, no, that was better than this.
ADAM Also redeemingly strange.
BROOM That had a lot more spirit and eccentricity. I would pick that any day to watch over this. My recollection of this was that it was totally run-of-the-mill forgettable, and it turned out to be not, quite, it was a little more than that. But I think it will disappear very quickly, because the strangeness we’re talking about is in subtle tonal things, but what’s really going on is very run-of-the-mill, standard stuff, with stupid jokes. It’s kind of an insult to us. Right?
ADAM In the grand scheme of things, yes.
BROOM Would you show it to children that you cared for?
ADAM I might. It depends what else was on.
BROOM I wouldn’t really care. But I would be disappointed in them if they came to love it. I really made an attempt to watch it as a child would. I tried to be open to —
BETH — emotions that you would feel?
BROOM To the feeling of the space, which seemed to be its main thing. “Now they’re in the white-feeling desert, and now they’re in the blue nighttime.”
BETH Like how you watched Star Wars.
BROOM That’s right. And… I don’t think there was enough there that I would have liked the movie, as a kid. But there was something going for it on that level.
ADAM Do you think this captures the innocence of the pre-9/11 world, or eerily presages the destruction of the post-9/11 world?
BROOM I think the destruction in the movie was more disturbing to us because we are watching it in the post-9/11 world.
ADAM Oh, I’m sorry, I was thinking this movie came out in 2001, because all the DVD previews were from 2001. I was going to say it would be weird if The Emperor’s New Groove was the first post-9/11 one.
BROOM The first post-9/11 movie is Lilo and Stitch.
ADAM Which actually does make sense.
BROOM It was clearly in production before that. But yes, it’s sort of suitably humanist.