We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story

We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story. Amblin Entertainment 1993.

Before watching the movie:

Despite definitely remembering a trailer, I couldn’t say anything more about what this movie is that isn’t on the poster. Cartoon dinosaurs in the modern day. There are a lot of names I recognize in the credits, but I don’t know what to expect other than John Goodman is definitely the lead dinosaur and Jay Leno’s character is probably a minor chomic relief player.

After watching the movie:

A bunch of dinosaurs are given “Brain Grain”, an intelligence-magnifying cereal, by Captain Neweyes, a man who’s devoted his life to fulfilling people’s wishes. Neweyes intends to bring the dinosaurs to present-day New York because “seeing dinosaurs” comes up so much in the wishes that come in on his Wish Radio. He tells them to beware his evil brother Professor Screweyes and meet up with Doctor Bleeb of the Museum of Natural History, then drops them in the Hudson River. Rex and the other dinosaurs meet Louie, a young boy running away to the circus to get away from his doting parents, but fail to connect with Dr. Bleeb. Louie also encounters Cecilia, a lonely girl whose parents are never there for her, and persuades her to join them. Louie suggests that the dinosaurs make their way through New York by disguising themselves as Macy’s Parade floats, but they are revealed and escape into Central Park. Louie and Cecelia find the circus in Central Park, a circus run by Professor Screweyes.

At times, the animation is quite ambitious. There are a few scenes where the backgrounds are CG, which works very well for flying through New York skyscrapers, and is jarringly uncanny for the naturalistic golf course. From time to time the character animation does some things that are very difficult to do in hand-drawn animation, and it usually works. There’s nothing special about the art style, but it serves what it needs to do.

The story feels incredibly weak and by the numbers. Things happen without any feeling of justification for them. Neweyes and Screweyes just kind of exist in the world on opposite goals and have magical technology that serves their purposes. I don’t have any problems with their central tools of intelligence manipulation and psychic radios for fulfilling people’s unspoken wishes/fears, but they both, especially Neweyes, seem like they’re in possession of unlimited power and so have to be kept on the sidelines. My biggest issue is how little it seems to matter that the dinosaur characters are dinosaurs. They don’t act like dinosaurs, most people who interact with them barely notice that they’re dinosaurs, and there’s not really any culture shock. They’re just dinosaur-shaped people that things are happening to, and despite the subtitle, this felt much more like Louie and Cecilia’s story than the dinosaurs’ story.

There’s so much money put into this movie and so little care. It seems more like a fever dream than a movie, and there are much better children’s movies that feel like fever dreams (The Brave Little Toaster comes to mind). Because really, this doesn’t have a plot, it has a series of events that happen, and also dinosaurs are there.

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