I am writing about dinosaurs because I now have a turtle, and when she stretches her neck, she reminds me of a brontosaurus.
Actually what I think of is not as adult as “brontosaurus”. I think “long-neck” because I am part of the Land Before Time generation.
And by “Land before Time”, I mean the first movie, not the 18 bazillion sequels, which decreased in quality as they went along.
The thing with Land Before Time is that the first movie was produced by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. It was originally going to be a silent film. but they eventually added dialogue to make the story more clear. Many of the original elements were more intense than the final product, changes being made to be more appropriate for children.
I bawl every time I watch it. You might think that’s not often, but over the last year, that is simply not true.
See, when I was a kid, we used to have Land Before Time on VHS in one of those small paper boxes, not the giant plastic cases. It eventually got played out and had to be tossed. By this time I was on the verge of my teenage years and didn’t need “kid’s” shows like Land Before Time.
Then I got to college. I needed those shows again. I’ve re-read a lot of books from my childhood in the last few years. And those that I’ve obtained, I’ve read several times. I have a shameful amount of disney songs on my Ipod. I occasionally have Disney marathons with my girl friends.
Last year I was looking everywhere for Land Before Time so that I could re-watch it. It’s that one and Fern Gully (which I still haven’t seen again) that I really wanted to see to gauge how they fared compared to my memories.
I looked everywhere for Land Before Time. I looked in stores, in video rental shops, everywhere. I found the bazillion sequels, but I didn’t want those. The animation is different, the voices are different, and the plot gets shallower with each one (I’ve only actually seen the first few… two admittedly wasn’t AWFUL, but still nothing compared to the first).
Finally, I made my search known to one of my friends and her boyfriend. Matt immediately said “Oh, I can get that for you no problem.” And a week later I had the film that introduced me to dinosaurs and ruined the chances of me ever thinking of the scientific names first. Petri’s a flyer, I mean pterodactyl. Cera is a three-horn. And Spike, well he’s just spike.
What I may not have realized as a kid is all of the societal commentary that the film has. The species of dinosaur practice very strict segregation until their kids force them to come together. And even then, there’s a lot of tension between many of the adults. They’re not comfortable with each other.
The reason I cry like a baby every time I watch this movie is because of Little Foot’s emotion after his mom dies. He’s scared and lonely and in denial. He doesn’t want to go on. It’s heartbreaking. I have watched it several times over the past year and I lost it every time; I can’t help it.
And then, right as I think I will never stop crying, the cranky old dinosaur (who is the same voice as the narrator), comes along and tells Little Foot that life goes on. And Little Foot whines and says “I’m Hungry”. What does the old dinosaur do? Does he offer the poor young creature some food? No, there’s a famine. He has no food. He simply says “That too will pass in time” and moves along.
And then I laugh through my tears. Because it’s so great! He’s honest and real and doesn’t cut corners to spare feelings, and though it’s harsh, it’s also hilarious. Maybe it’s only funny because we need to laugh through the hard times, but you know what? That old dinosaur was right. Little Foot didn’t stay hungry forever.
Looking back at older films, I always learn facts about production and the actors. The girl who voiced ducky was also in All Dogs go to heaven. Sadly, she was a victim of child abuse and did not live to see adulthood.
Lucas and Spielberg weren’t involved in any of the sequels. Would they have turned out differently if they had been? I don’t know. The first film was very visual. A lot of it was filmed before they decided to add voices and dialogue. This focus on visuals is very apparent. There are a lot of scenes that are still silent. The silence is powerful. This is a time before words were necessary for everything. The world was heavier.
The focus of the sequels was characterization, I think, and the trials of growing up. Then as they progressed, the characters simply became tools to teach lessons and put in different scenarios. The seriousness was gone, and so was some of the power. I can’t say all the sequels are bad, because I haven’t watched them, but I can’t say I ever plan to. The first movie holds a special place in my heart though, and will always affect how I refer to dinosaurs.