It’s a terrible thing to come after an absolute winner. Pixar’s Inside Out has raked in more than US$850 million (S$1.2 billion) at the global box office, according to estimates by, and has earned its place in history as the original film with the highest takings opening in America.

That’s a lot of pressure for The Good Dinosaur, and the movie could have avoided being in this predicament, if it had been released last year according to plan. Due to restructuring within Pixar, production time was cut in half, and director Bob Peterson and the film’s leads were replaced. Co-director Peter Sohn, who has only ever directed a Pixar short, Partly Cloudy, took over as director and made the bold decision to overhaul everything, from character designs to the cast to the entire story, according to British newspaper The Independent.

We can’t say if this was a wise gamble, since we can’t compare The Good Dinosaur with something that was never made. But what we can safely say is that the simple tale of a young dinosaur finding his family, and finding himself, is a good foil for the ingenuity and vividly color-coded splendor of its predecessor. 


Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), like just about every cartoon protagonist these days, is the misfit of his family. The youngest of 3 has been afraid of everything since birth. This fear causes the 11-year-old dino to be a burden to his 2 older siblings (Maleah Padilla and Marcus Scribner) and hardworking parents (Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand), who labor tirelessly on their family farm. Yes, you heard right. Dinosaurs behave like humans in this animated movie, and have been spared instantaneous extinction because the asteroid that was supposed to have hit earth about 65 million years ago apparently missed us in Disney’s retelling.


The strangest thing is not that dinosaurs have adopted human roles, but that humans are the ones who behave like actual animals. After a rainstorm sweeps Arlo far from home, he meets a Neanderthal boy, whom he names ‘Spot’ (Jack Bright), and adopts him as a pet. Spot crawls on all 4s and snarls like a dog when confronting a snake-like creature (that somehow has legs) that’s threatening his ‘master’ Arlo, and rubs his face affectionately on Arlo’s leg several times, just like a dog would. Throughout the movie, Spot is depicted as a stray ‘dog’ who, though originally hostile, faithfully accompanies Arlo on his journey to find his family, and himself.

As much as we love Arlo, we have to admit one of the best things that came from this Pixar film for us was the relationship and role reversal between him and Spot. It’s hard not to be won over by these 2 boys, who come from completely different backgrounds and are working together to face whatever nature throws at them, picking each other up when the other falls, and through this, learning to care deeply for each other like family. We have to agree with Sohn that the initial story concept of a father-and-son relationship between an older Arlo and Spot wouldn’t have been as compelling to us.


Off the bat, the movie certainly stays true to Disney – a story about self-discovery and friendship that still has great emotional depth and is overall a fun ride for the entire family. The Good Dinosaur draws parallels from previous Disney movies like Brother Bear, Finding Nemo and, in particular, the classic Disney tearjerker The Lion King: Annie-Award winner for the Best Animated Feature. Here we have Arlo, who’s struggling with his fears and the loss of his father, similar to The Lion King’s Simba. Arlo too strays from his home, and gets put into situations that force him to grow stronger, conquer his fears and face the world head-on. We even get a father-and-son pep talk scene, a definite tearjerker, and a group of hysterical pterodactyls and velociraptors reminiscent of The Lion King’s frenzied hyenas.

Sohn was not only invested in Arlo’s character because he was the director. As with his previous film Partly Cloudy, Sohn drew a lot for inspiration for The Good Dinosaur from his own experiences. Arlo’s timid nature mirrors Sohn’s as a minority growing up the son of Korean immigrants in New York, having to find courage and believe in himself. As The Good Dinosaur’s director tells The Independent, he hopes thatArlo’s coming-of-age story can help inspire kids facing a similar situation.


Pixar has always been known for their exceptional CGI animation, but this moviehas given us an unbelievable realism in the film’s landscapes, from the way the river flows, to how the leaves move, to how the mountains looks. Though achieving such precision was no easy feat for the creative team who had to trek through mountains to get each detail right. What’s even more impressive is how the studio managed to balance the cartoonish designs of the primary characters to fit the very true-to-life backdrop. Perhaps the superb quality of the animation of The Good Dinosaur is also due to the fact that its director has worked in Pixar’s art and animation department for 15 years, as has played a part in the art of movies like Finding Nemo, WALL-E, The Incredibles and The Iron Giant.

While it doesn’t blow our minds like some of the most memorable movies like Finding Nemo or the beloved non-Disney dinosaur movie The Land Before Time, and seems to cater to children more than adults, The Good Dinosaur lives up to Pixar’s reputation of making quality movies that inspire, are cleverly funny, and break your heart. Arlo’s journey to overcoming his insecurities and discovering his strengths was well-thought out and nicely paced. We were so invested in his growth that after 100 minutes, we didn’t want it to be over.

[xrr rating=4/5 display_as=textstars label=”Our Rating:”]


Release Date:          26 November 2015

Runtime:                  100 minutes

Language:                English

Rating:                     PG

Genre:                      Animation

Director:                   Peter Sohn

Cast:                        Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A. J. Buckley, Steve Zahn, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Maleah Padilla