But enough with the comparisons and onto looking at The Good Dinosaur on its own merit. The Good Dinosaur explores the possibility of a world where the meteor bypassed the planet 65 million years ago. Humans and dinosaurs co-exist, and dinosaurs like the small family of Apatosauruses Arlo is growing up in have managed their own survival through simple yet effective means.
The story that unfolds isn't particular ingenious other than its premise. There were times I felt deja vu from Land Before Time and Lion King, which is unfortunate. The genre of the movie is what gets me -- which I won't reveal for the sake of the movie. The characters are mostly rote and I'm not certain the movie would hold up with a second viewing.
But for all that, Pixar as always gets the heart of the movie right. This is easily the most visually stunning CG movie. I actually exclaimed aloud "Wow" in the opening scenes. The sprawling landscapes and the achingly beautiful scenery are integral to the story in that they're almost a character themselves, and The Good Dinosaur nails this in every aspect every time. The movie is almost worth it just for the visuals alone.
First time director Peter Sohn actually opens the movie with a brief talk thanking the audience and also explaining how he got his start in animation, since it was a medium that communicates to people of all languages. This also, is the crowning achievement of Dinosaur. The character designs are remarkable, and this movie more than any other of the year conveys how much emotion and story we can share as a culture without words. Whilst Inside Out is a movie all about words and jokes that strive toward the intellectual, Good Dinosaur is about the raw nature of landscape and the soul. As Arlo the young dinosaur grows and learns about fear, the film depicts how the debilitating emotion can be what we irrevocably cling automatically.
Ultimately, The Good Dinosaur is flawed -- it lacks the sort of polish and sparkle that Pixar movies generally have -- but it's a mistake to dismiss it as many have already. There's an irrepressible joy to it that bespeaks a Pixar truism of rewarding courage when tackling life, and as viewers we can all use a reminder of that.