This is one of the most remembered films in the series, and it I often considered the best.
The Beethoven’s 5th commercial is better than the film. I like the other trailers except for Sinibad. It is a fine film, but the trailer is a reason why it bombed terribly.
What is a major difference between Charles Grosvenor and Roy Allen Smith, the only two directors to do more than one film in the franchise? Grosvenor is better at coming up with plots, while Smith is better at developing them. The tenth film had on paper and screen the best plot of at least the sequels and maybe even the original. It had a big plot that took full advantage of being so late in a series, and it made many right moves with red herrings, songs, twists, and a mystery making it on paper by leaps and bounds the best sequel. There is one problem I cannot find out, and hopefully I will figure out why I do not consider it to be the best.
Of notable significance is this ends the full CG trilogy, which let the internal conflict come from the internal instead of the other way around. It also is the first film to use no music composed by James Horner. The usual list of creators is present.
I love this opening with the lava and a sharptooth fighting a longneck foreshadowing the climax. It then has Littlefoot having a dream where there is less gravity. Alec Medlock is now voicing him. Going in reverse order this is normal, but in normal order this is important since Thomas Dekker was involved in his voice for a record five movies. Normally scenes like this leave it as a small twist, and I was happy the writers did something different. It then get a little odd as the sun literally falls, and it is revealed Grandma and Grandpa are having a similar dream. It is never explained why all longnecks have this dream, but it seems to be part of intuition and a mystery that the viewers need to solve. I think it is instinct, which further shows how bad The Land Before Time XIII The Wisdom of Friends (13) is.
The next scene is surprisingly poor. It is the group playing tag, and eventually Littlefoot is too caught up in the sun, which results in him telling them about his dream (“Sleep Story”). Ducky and Petrie’s dreams are too generic to species instead of personality, but Petrie’s could be interpreted as getting braver. Cera calls them all dumb prompting Littlefoot to get some complicated revenge hurting her “brag bone.” After another night in a well done slow scene Grandpa tells Littlefoot they will be going on a journey, and this is the first time that a grown up suggested the journey.
It leads to our first song, “Adventuring.” I love it, and it is the new top song. It promises adventure, heroism, Cera’s cynicism compared to everyone else’s optimism is funny. It gives Mo a cameo (my brother was excited to see that in the trailer). It also involves very fast editing to give an action scene feeling, and at the end it asks to what will be an important part of the movie, Littlefoot’s friends wanting to come too.
After that when Littlefoot leaves it is strangely shown that he is sad when he was earlier happy. Maybe “Adventuring” does have a problem about not being too relevant to the story. This is actually the first scene that is better on the rewatch where the tune to “Bestest Friends” is played when Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike are missing him. The Longnecks are then in the desert part of the Mysterious Beyond, and then the rainforest later. Over there they meet Sue. I spent a bit of time wondering what Sue’ seemingly meaningless role is until I realized why it works. She is a red herring main guest character. It makes the real guest star even more of a shocker later.
Then comes Cera’s nightmare, the funnies part of the franchise. I think this is the last appearance of the brown stegosaurus. It always gives a really good laugh and it seems to show Cera just being arrogant, but also that she fears missing out on important adventures, and most importantly that she knows something incredibly important is about to happen. The little part with Mr. Threehorn cheering for Littlefoot the loudest is very fitting in chronological order. He had been warming up to him since at least The Big Freeze (8) and maybe even The Stone of Cold Fire (7). With that Cera rounds up the rest of the group to follow Littlefoot. It shows how much Cera has developed that she is not leading them to certain death. Based on earlier sequels and the most recent Spike would be in charge, but consider it middle installment weirdness. After some atmosphere is shown with the Longnecks to again praise the film the rest of the group follow their footmarks to find the swamp with a prehistoric crocodile. It is a very good action scene except for too much dumb luck saving the group and the crocodile deeming Petrie a better meal than Cera. I guess fliers taste wonderful compared to threehorns.
After escaping the first gray sharptooth in the franchise that is not a velociraptor (still a first to make it stick out), and with how dumb it was fortunately it will not be important to a serious climax later. They meet an old longneck named Pat. Pat is important to the theme and climax but not to the main story.
The Longnecks are now in an enormous herd, and they stop in a giant crater that they think was made by the sun. It is never explained but theoretically a meteorite from a long time ago or potentially giant moles. In the crater Littlefoot gets in a fight with Shorty, and Shorty’s surrogate dad, Bron comes. In a rewatch this is better, as we know Bron is being a surrogate dad and an unknowing biological dad at the same time. After he gets Shorty to apologize Grandpa comes up and gives the franchise’s biggest (or second biggest) wham line “Littlefoot, this is your father.” This scene does not work nearly so well on a rewatch, but I remember being very surprised as just a month before watching it my family was talking about how Littlefoot’s dad almost certainly died before the first one or in the great earth shake. Littlefoot then captures the longtime audience perfectly by running away and wondering where was he all this time. It also captures Bron’s sadness fairly well.
I will add that the longnecks in the background look very distinct. There is an Ultrasaurus and a Saltasaurus. They are all different colors. Bron finds Littlefoot and tells him what happened. He left to find the right place for a nest and was gone longer than suspected. This does fit into the story of the original, as they stopped going to The Great Valley only to nest. Apparently he got really lost, which is justified as he did not know where the nest was made earlier. It also makes it easy to assume he had some great untold adventures. He only quit looking when he became a leader of a herd due to helping every young lost longneck he found, and there were many due to the recent deaths, and he had great evidence Littlefoot was dead. It was very important to make this good since many fans looked forward to Allie or Doc showing up again in this film, and many fans thought Doc was Littlefoot’s father. I think this explanation is great. It keeps him very likable, but sows a real vulnerability. It leads to a sweet song, “Me and my Dad.” It ties well into having to choose family or friends and is a very sweet song. It is the least good song in the film, but it is still good.
After that it is shown that Shorty feels like Bron will now ignore him like everyone else. I think Shorty is the worst character here, as he is too one dimensional annoying despite having a complex back story. With Pat, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike Pat tells the story of how they think an eclipse is the bright circle falling. I like part of the mythology like the moon being jealous of the sun, but I think it makes parts of the climax underwhelming when there is no real danger. For some reason they are going through a place full of lava, and it burns Pat’s foot really bad. He tells everyone else to go on with out him, but they choose friendship in need over friendship that is not in need and excitement. It is a good scene that is very important to the ending and tying the two major plots together.
The climax basically starts with Shorty leaving until Littlefoot acts like he is a brother. It also shows more and more that Littlefoot will have to choose between his dad and grandparents. Bron wants to be with Littlefoot and supports him to come back with him. Grandpa is less decisive, but he thinks Littlefoot will choose his dad, and he is being supportive of it. Getting Littlefoot and Shorty out is an excuse for them to run into Petrie who tells Littlefoot his friends are coming.
The climax has so many incredible parts, but also it has two key mistakes. I was wondering when I saw it why it was not the earlier Gray sharptooth. I quickly forget when Pat throws him against a tree.
It looks good that the children will get to the safety of the crater and Pat has brown sharptooth beaten until the camera show his burned leg, and it becomes apparent Pat cannot stand well.
Fortunately Bron hears it and comes to the rescue. I should probably mention that the more active role they hinted at in “Adventuring” was more rock throwing. It is underwhelming compared to 3, and it really does not do too much to help Pat. Also Shorty, Ducky, Spike, and Petrie stay still afterwards for a surprisingly long time. At least the music saves that part. With Bron there he distracts the sharptooth and knocks him over by sliding under him and using his tail to knock him over. That was cool to see. I really should add that sharpteeth in this series have incredible durability compared to the herbivores and with the exception of 1 and 3 it is shown the most here. The sharptooth gets up and does very well against Bron until Pat comes to double team him with heroic music, but it is actually dark foreshadowing. After knocking the sharptooth all the way to a hard rock he gets up. To make it worse the gray sharptooth shows up, and then a green sharptooth reversing the heroic reinforcements. This is the first time the sharpteeth have received reinforcements since Six, but this is actually less intimidating. In Six they had to fight ambiguously “The biggest, meanest, most ferocious sharptooth ever” or the one from the original. Here it is the dumbest one in the series, a tough brown one and a random green one. It also leads to the first major problem in this climax, the huge longneck herd. Obviously Grandma and Grandpa join in. The rest are mostly excused for not wanting to risk death for a few strangers but I would think Sue (and he new boyfriend because of her) would join in making it 6-3. The sharpteeth put their smarter two members on Bron, as he is probably the best fighter in the franchise besides The Lone Dinosaur. With Pat having a bad foot the dumb gray one is on him. Littlefoot rushes to help his dad, and Cera’s reaction to him having a dad is too good. Littlefoot does distract Green sharptooth long enough for Grandpa to make his own sliding head slam. He later uses his head for bait, which sounds too risky,
to move sharptooth forward where Grandma can trip him off cliff. It is the first time they fought together since Two. With the gray sharptooth Pat is overmatched, but Cera knocks one leg up by ramming him (I will buy it) and Shorty gets underneath the other leg, which trips Gray Sharptooth instead of squashing him. As an adult I find this to be a major problem, but as a kid I thought that was cool, so I will let it pass. Gray falls down and Bron guides Brown Sharptooth into his fall taking them both out. An important moment to the theme is Littlefoot goes to his dad first. If he had to make the choice now he would choose his dad, but Bron tells him to go to Grandpa. It gives an implication his Grandpa needs Littlefoot more than Bron does, and it is implied he is keeping his son away from Brown Sharptooth, the most dangerous. We then get to the second major problem with this climax.
I like the art of the eclipse, and these sharpteeth are amazing to somehow still go strong, but the eclipse is just no real danger. It gives Sue some lines that should have gone to grandma. We then get to the choice that made me certain that Littlefoot was going to leave with his dad, and the franchise would end… That is why this is no where near as good after the first watch. It relies so heavily on twists and red herrings, and it works because I was so attached to these characters. It took all of the viewers’ attachments and made the emotional moments really strong. It actually backfired later due to making it seem like we were outgrowing the franchise when we put it in again. It leads to the new top song “Bestest Friends.” Michele Bourman and Amanda McBroom really out did themselves here. It is rightly played over the end credits, and this is a real tear jerker. Besides “If I had Words” from Babe this is the saddest song I ever heard especially when you think of friends who left. The actors singing especially Cera’s actress, Andi McAfee, are terrific. This one had me one hundred percent convinced the series was about to end, and Littlefoot would go with his dad. I was truly shocked when he chose to stay in The Great Valley.
Besides Sue the new characters are great, and I was disappointed Pat did not speak in the Later Sequel trilogy. It had great music, a flawed, but very good climax. Littlefoot was done wonderfully. The rest of the gang blurs in this one as one great unit. The two distinct stories merged so well. Bron was wonderful. This is the new top ranking film, and it will possibly have this distinction for a long time.
The five best songs are now 1. Bestest friends (10) 2. Adventuring (10). 3. flip, Flap, Fly (12). 4. How do You Know (13). 5. Things Change (12).
The climax rankings are now 10, 14, 11, 12, 13
The new running time order is 10 (85 minutes), 14 (82 minutes) 12/11 (81 minutes each), 13 (76 minutes).
The new film rankings are 10, 14, 12, 11, 13.