The hero of The Good Dinosaur, the latest offering from Pixar animations, isn't the adorable apatosaurus, Arlo, his unlikely human companion, Spot, or the red neck T-Rex cowboy voiced by Western film actor Sam Elliott. Rather. It's the extraordinary photo-realistic animation that steals the show.
The Good Dinosaur asks what would have happened if 65 million years ago the asteroid heading for Earth had missed, rather than hit. It imagines apatosauri who talk and farm corn, humans who walk on four legs, and a planet flourishing with unique creatures and majestic landscapes.
It's the scenery that capture your attention first. Perfect postcard shots of towering mountain ranges and incredibly detailed close-ups of leaves, grasses, water and rivers make it hard to tell if the images are real or animated.
The original release date of May 2014 was pushed back 18 months, which makes sense if the result is the animation seen here - it's on a new level compared to what we've seen before.
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The Good Dinosaur uses the familiar storyline of a character who must summon the courage to find his way home, and re-tells it as a Western. It's a clever little twist and leads to some fun scenes, including a shaman-like styracosaurus and a family of T-Rex cowboys.
Arlo is the runt of the litter; a jittery, fearful young dinosaur trying hard to make his mark by helping out on his family farm.
Taking longer than his siblings to master a task, his frustrated father (Wright) pushes Arlo (Ochoa) out of his comfort zone as a devastating storm approaches. Tragedy strikes - in a way that will have you reminiscing about The Lion King - and Arlo returns to the farm more determined than ever to make his mark. Soon afterwards, Arlo, along with a small cave boy (referred to as a "wilderness critter"), who has been stealing the family's corn, fall into a fast flowing river bordering the farm. Swept away, Arlo and the boy he names Spot (Jack Bright) must team up to find their way back home, defending themselves from some eccentric predators along the way.
It's a sweet relationship, and while they can't communicate through language - Spot is still at the grunting stage of evolution - their friendship gives the film it's moving, heartfelt feel.
It's important to note that while the themes of family and courage mean The Good Dinosaur is a natural choice for younger kids, there are some rather terrifying scenes that will have them scrambling on to your lap.
While reported as one of Pixar's least successful releases from a box-office perspective, The Good Dinosaur is easy to enjoy. While conventional rather than adventurous, it's a simple and sentimental story about a likeable hero who overcomes the odds to become the dinosaur his father always dreamed he'd be.
Voices: Jeffery Wright, Frances McDormand, Raymond Ochoa
Director: Peter Sohn
Running Time: 101 mins
Rating: PG (Some scenes may scare very young children)
Verdict: Incredible animation elevates this predictable Pixar tale