2015 is a special year for Pixar fans – and animation fans in general – as it marks the first time in the studio’s decorated history that heralds the release of two motion pictures. The first, Inside Out, was a critically adorned coming-of-age tale that was as wonderful as it was original; The Good Dinosaur is the second, which is coming in hot as a fellow new IP.
Taking place in the land before time if you will, Pixar’s brain trust has dreamed up a world largely devoid of humans. That meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs and birthed the yawning Chicxulub crater in Mexico? It sailed on past, preventing an extinction event in the process. And so, that’s where the story of Arlo the Apatosaurus begins.
Due to release in little under a fortnight, excitement for The Good Dinosaur is beginning to reach its crescendo, and earlier today the first slew of reviews began pouring online, offering a rough cross-section of the critical consensus. Full of praises for the wondrous animation and visuals, the key takeaway for the Peter Sohn-directed picture appears to be of a visually stunning tale, but one that isn’t necessarily as memorable as Inside Out. More in line with Brave and A Bug’s Life, than the Pixar classics of Toy Story or The Incredibles.
Variety: “Serving up a sweet tale of interspecies friendship and a stunning prehistoric vision of the American Northwest, The Good Dinosaur is easily one of the great landscape films of 2015, even if what unfolds against that landscape isn’t always as captivatingly rendered. ” … “in a picture that, for all its signature visual artistry, falls back surprisingly often on familiar, kid-friendly lessons and chatty anthropomorphic humor. Clever and cloying by turns, it’s a movie that always seems to be trying to evolve beyond its conventional trappings, and not succeeding as often as Pixar devotees have come to expect. It’s no knock on “The Good Dinosaur” to note that it is neither as ingeniously conceived nor as emotionally wrenching as this summer’s Inside Out, a movie it doesn’t even try to emulate; it falls into that humbler category of Pixar efforts, like Brave and A Bug’s Life, that are content to riff engagingly on material we’ve seen before, rather than imagining an entirely new world from scratch.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “a visually breathtaking work of computer-generated animation that is ultimately unable to compensate for a disappointingly derivative script.” … “Following in the footsteps of the truly inspired Inside Out, this year’s second Pixar effort can’t help but feel safely benign by comparison, and although it contains some darker, more intense moments, it will likely skew to younger, dino-obsessed Thanksgiving holiday audiences.” … “the production’s photo-real naturalism is a true bar-raiser. Those CG-rendered backdrops, taking their visual cues from Yellowstone’s waterfalls to Montana’s grasslands, bring that custom Pixar cutting-edge technology into an exciting, new, wondrous place.”
The Wrap: “After a schmaltzy start, this Jurassic coming-of-age story blossoms into a tale as subtle, funny and moving as anything the studio has ever made. …. a fantastic and frequently exhilarating feature that showcases Pixar’s greatest strengths: technical brilliance, emotional texture, crossover appeal, and an impish sense of humor that takes the utmost advantage of the animated form. … The Good Dinosaur is a triumph of creativity.”
Screen International: “In some ways, The Good Dinosaur is one of Pixar’s most conventional films… But that template sets the stage for a mythic, visually resplendent treatment of familiar material, as first-time feature director Peter Sohn wrings considerable emotion from a tale that’s part Western, part Incredible Journey-style adventure.” … “although the humour can be inconsistent and the plot points a little obvious, The Good Dinosaur mostly transcends the archetypal storytelling by delivering a steady stream of simply stunning sequences. By now, it might be a given that Pixar’s movies are visually spectacular, but The Good Dinosaur may be the studio’s most purely cinematic, the richness of the design and the emotional power of the widescreen compositions stirring deep, almost primal feelings about childhood, the loss of innocence and the untamed ferocity of the natural world.” … “Credit, too, goes to a nervy score by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna, which mixes strains of country, Native American music and more traditional orchestral soundtrack. The juxtaposition might seem odd on occasion, but like the film in general, it’s proof that Pixar refuses to go on autopilot, pushing its artists into new, and sometimes quite rewarding, terrain.”
The Good Dinosaur opens in theaters on November 25 in North America.