Sometimes it says “The Adventure that Started it all.” Other ones still say “From the Creators of An American Tail.” The box itself shows the dark backgrounds and Sharptooth watching the main characters. It is hard to pinpoint the trailers due to the different rereleases, and my copy is from 1997 instead of 1988. My copy has the series commercial used in 6. It helped make me view this as a very good dark prequel when I was the target audience for the sequels. Now I view it as the greatest animated film of all time, and I need to capture both views.
It has a different Universal Logo, and it seems to be of a galaxy.
Unlike the others where I could barely find any behind the scenes details I could find plenty here. If I do not say where I got something assume it came from http://www.cataroo.com/DBland.html. According to Ani Mat they made the opening while still finishing the story, so they animated a generic opening for a dinosaur film. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIVcL9KPCvQ around the 2:50 mark). He implied it was the part with the narration and the dinosaurs moving, but that has plenty to do with the movie. I suspect it was the underwater scene.
The underwater opening is incredibly beautiful. It even foreshadows four with the sea turtles. It waits a while to show the title, and the bubbles keep revealing the credits. It is directed by Don Bluth himself with Spielberg and George Lucas as producers. James Horner is the composer. The writers of An American Tail are back. I think this opening can be accused of not being useful to the film, but even if it is the 69 minute running time does not need to be shortened. It also shows a little swimming creature in constant danger foreshadowing how dark this film will get, thus it helps the mood.
After the great opening it continues with our narrator, Pat Hingle. He gives us our narration to some more beautiful and ironically dead scenery. The plants are dying off (It is implied to be near the dinosaurs’ extinction, but that is revealed to be false at the end). The dinosaurs appear to rule the Earth, but in truth they are ruled by the leaf. They are following the setting sun (I am in the group that thinks the movie is filled with religious symbolism). I do consider this to be a one true, hard path to life, while a broad road leads to death. The Great Valley does not represent Heaven, but salvation. Even the original does not consider it to be Heaven. As a kid I knew it was made first but I did love that the original was about accomplishing a goal, and the sequels never did anything to reduce the happiness of the ending except make it more happy while still having plenty of plot.
The leaf eaters only stopped to hatch. Ducky I the first one shown being born. I noticed at a young age along with many fans that Cera claimed to be the oldest in 5, but I always assumed they were just guessing their exact ages and Cera would arrogantly claim to be the oldest. Ducky has a birth that highlights her being overly trusting by putting her head in a snapping turtle like thing’s mouth. It highlights her innocence. Cera’s birth (referenced in 12) highlights her recklessness and fear that she seemingly has fear until a thunderbolt horrifies her (referenced in 2). Throughout the series Cera is actually very scared, and it is part of her character as a not so fearless character. As an egg Littlefoot is nearly taken by an egg stealer and he rolls everywhere.
This is such an adorable scene. It also has a few references to Bambi. I do like how it shows Littlefoot being scared of his mother and her looking creepy to capture that babies are born scared and unaware of mother. It then stays such an adorable scene as he falls asleep on his mother. I am crying already.
Time to talk about the deleted scenes. Bluth wanted a darker film, while Spielberg and Lucas wanted it to be lighter. One debated area was keeping his mother’s death and the character in the film. Bluth won this case, which was the most important. He had to use a psychologist and test cases t win it. He also won with the help that it would require too much exposition without her death. I know an early plan was for them to journey to a wise older dinosaur instead of
The Great Valley, so I think that wise older dinosaur would have replaced Littlefoot’s mom. Spielberg did succeed in cutting ten minutes of footage, which helped break up the duo of Don Bluth and Steven Spielberg.
In the next scene Littlefoot is talking. The lack of food is evident especially as Littlefoot tries to eat a stick and the lack of leaves despite the surplus of trees. Littlefoot’s mother teaches him the path to The Great Valley. Littlefoot questions its existence since no one they know has ever been there (a theme brought up in 7 as well). As a seventh grader an above I always loved this symbolism about questioning salvation. As a younger viewer I did not care about the question, but the answer that it is believed in a heart not in a head. Littlefoot decides he will understand later.
She then finds a treestar, and she gives it to Littlefoot. It becomes a symbol of her love at first, but it then changes to a symbol to material possessions and life. Littlefoot then hears a Threehorn playing, and he is excited about having a potential playmate. He sees Cera nearly eat an insect (if Hungary enough a Triceratops would eat meat). She gets sprayed by something and Littlefoot laughs. This draws Cera in who playfully wants to charge him, and Littlefoot seems to love the idea too. This is mostly comedic and some children having fun until Mr. Threehorn jumps between and demands Littlefoot leaves. He then tells is daughter “Come Cera. Threehorns never play with Longnecks.” Cera then repeats him. We already had a man vs. nature plot and now a man vs. society plot, racism/ speciesism. Cera has been taught it by her dad, and she copies him. Littlefoot’s mom explains it and she obviously accepts it as life. Littlefoot for a brief time does show some specieism (It does a wonderful job standing in for racisim in my opinion) later, by mixing a quote form his mom and Mr. Threehorn, but it is very brief and only shown once compared to the rest of the movie. Some say Littlefoot’s mother taught it to him, but she merely explained it, and I think it going wrong helps make her seem like a real parent.
Contrary to what the above picture says this is not Disney. Littlefoot follows a frog, and he runs into Cera. They play a bit until…
Sharptooth shows up. The original plan was for a more dramatic entrance that would be slower, while hear he only has a little build up. I actually really like that. I cannot compare it to the original plan, but instead of building him up like usual, he gets to be shown as menacing out of nowhere like real predators. He chases Littlefoot and Cera through a briar patch.
Littlefoot tells Cera to go one way, but she goes a different way, and Littlefoot goes after her trying to get her to go his way. Cera’s way is big enough for Sharptooth to follow. Littlefoot accidently gets a thorn stuck in his eye, and I can hear Sharptooth’s pain. He is now motivated by revenge. This foreshadows some of Littlefoot and Cera’s future problems. Sharptooth gets in front of them, but mother comes to face him.
Unlike most of the sequels’ fights this is very fast paced. Off note include Sharptooth getting warmed up by destroying a large rock nearly his size, and Littlefoot’s mother using her head as bait to hit him with her tail like Grandpa Longneck often did. I guess he taught her that.
He then jumps four times his height to get on her back and rip off flesh. I am already getting really sad, while really enjoying the action. She successfully knocks him away.
You can see the bloodless carnage that he presumably drank out of her. It looks good then until a huge earthquake comes and Sharptooth gets Littlefoot and Cera on his foot, and they all start falling into a huge cliff. Littlefoot’s mother saves them, while Sharptooth presumably falls to his death. It then shows many dinosaurs and herds perishing in the earthquake. Cera and Littlefoot are separated form their healthy parents and grandparents.
This next scene is sad no matter how many times I watch it. With the exception of Splinter’s death in the episode “Same as it Never was” I am never sad at off screen deaths, and to my tears’ misery she dies on screen. We do not even know she is dead until she is no longer talking. James Horner has done it. His soundtrack is the greatest ever. It can be so happy, so sad, and so exciting. She dies trying to keep her son alive by reminding him about how to find The Great Valley. I do hold on to the belief that this is Christian symbolism. I will not call it an allegory since I do not think the minor characters have important symbolic roles, but mother is Jesus. She is the sacrifice to keep everyone else alive when they wondered off the path.
Littlefoot is then shown going through grief, denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance. I do not know about bargaining so presumably off screen. He runs into our narrator, Rooter. I neglected this in my review of 10, but a fan theory is Rooter told Bron about his wife’s death. Littlefoot is doing a common Bluth trope, falling to symbolize a loss of sanity. He is blaming himself for wandering too far from home, Sharptooth for killing her, and his mother for not taking care of herself better. In a scene referenced in 2 and 4 Rooter explains the circle of life. Everyone eventually dies, but it does not actually end. As long as someone remembers what they taught and supported. It takes a few scenes, but it does start to sink in with Littlefoot. We then get very much needed very cute comic relief with some pterodactyls. It also shows that life goes on amidst tragedy. In another part he starts to hear his mother’s voice through the tree star. Littlefoot certainly considers it to represent his mother.
I consider the following shadow sequence to be the movie’s saddest part. He thinks he saw his shadow as mother. It is so obviously not, and I am crying just thinking about it. Not even Babe or Gettysburg has a scene like that. After Littlefoot finally accepts that his mother is dead, and he has to live by finding The Great Valley so she will not be completely gone. This is still how I cope with loss.
Littlefoot is someone who stays devoted to Christianity in the bad times. Some have called Cera temptation, but I consider her to be a person who makes problems, but needs to be saved. She is not an obstacle by design but due to her flaws she must overcome. Instead of joining Littlefoot she remembers he dad’s words about being speciesist and tries to get over the great chasm. Littlefoot then is obviously hurt, and he does not want to join a swimmer, until her innocent happiness wins him over. Ducky is the overly innocent member trying to find out if Littlefoot or Cera knows the right way. They then meet Petrie (he was most likely left behind due to not knowing how to fly). Petrie’s actor, Will Ryan, is the only main actor to be an adult. If the other actors could not pull it off, then his role would have been greatly increased, but Judith Barsi exceeded expectations and got many of his lines. Petrie is a coward, but right away his sense of bravery is shown by him volunteering to be a guard and that he successfully climbed a tree, thus he at least is not consumed by fear.
Cera accidently wakes up Sharptooth and flees in huge fear into the others. She makes up a story about fighting him off, which Cera an Petrie believe. My one problem with this movie is Littlefoot clearly believes Sharptooth is the only one even though the narrator earlier used the plural term. In the meantime Ducky finds Spike, a big eater who is too young to think much.
In a deleted scene Cera wants them to leave Spike for slowing them down, but Ducky uses berries to keep him going. Unlike the herds in the opening they have multiple species. The next scene has simple parts like Littlefoot using water to find food, and Ducky and Petrie becoming friends. Confusingly Cera claims finding the food. Littlefoot is mad, and then some longnecks come in and eat it all. I eventually realized that Cera’s bragging got the attention of them, and they rushed in to eat everything. I am pretty sure that it was before the deleted scene with other herds. In another part of the deleted scene they met two types of dinosaurs. One had water, and one had food. They refused to share due to their differences, and it is presumed they will both die. Back in the trees the group minus Cera make a dinosaur ladder, and they get Petrie high enough to get a lo of food down and fall with style down. He hoped he flew down, but no one can honestly say yes. Cera refuses to join until Littlefoot tricks her into thinking she got some down herself, but it mostly increases her ego (brag bone).
Cera and Littlefoot sleep in different areas, and the others pick who o join. Eventually even Cera goes to Littlefoot.