Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Land Before Time ★★★1/2

    Hand drawn animated film's golden years have most certainly passed. Their days of arousing excitement from audiences young and old are just a glimpse in the eye of today's film industry. Computer generated imaging has essentially placed hand drawn animation into a stranglehold that kindles the term "obsolete."

    Nevertheless, there was a time when technology did not influence the entire production of a picture. A time when passion and ingenious storytelling overwhelmed the ideals of advertisement and quick development. "The Land Before Time" is a gem of a picture, that released at a stagnate period in the world of Disney. Thus, lending the opportunity to charm audiences worldwide, before the inevitable Renaissance era would effortlessly evoke amnesia of such films in the minds of us all.   

    The plot that encompasses this picture is filled with despair, confusion, and hope. Littlefoot is born into a dying breed of dinosaur. His frightfully thin family consists of a loving mother and her parents. Cataclysmic events have tarnished the beauty and fruitfulness of the Earth, resulting in a migration to the "Great Valley," an imagined oasis that rests far from natural devastation. 

    If there is one aspect that fuels this film, it would be the rich characterizations that accompany Littlefoot on his journey to tranquility. Ducky, a small but courageous young dinosaur, is a beloved example of leitmotif, as she continuously repeats the phrase, "Yep, yep, yep" to express her pleasure in a given circumstance. Cera, an adolescent Triceratops, serves her role as the dramatic foil to Littlefoot. She is opposed to collaboration and utilizes her head as a ramming device, rather than a vehicle of contemplation. 

    Additionally, there is the personality of Petrie. A prime example of irony within the confines of character. Petrie is a flying dinosaur, who is frightened by the thought of actually executing this action. (Visualize a shark, an animal born to kill and eat their prey, who is terrified at the idea of devouring meat.) Petrie is also a pleasant illustration of name typing, as his name mimics the word of "petrify," which summarizes his persona unequivocally. Lastly, there is the character of Spike. A newborn dinosaur who exercises the technique of caricature, by placing an emphasis on his insatiable appetite. 

    "The Land Before Time," the original film that spawned a highly successful franchise, excels in providing a dialogue that meets the necessities of young children. Instead of issuing terminology that would be lost even on the minds of mature adults, the film describes the breed of dinosaurs that compose our characters in an innocent fashion. The expressions of Longnecks, Three-horns, Spiketails, Swimmers, and Flyers are utilized to supersede the often complex, and considerably unpronounceable, names of our prehistoric counterparts. Even the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex, the external conflict in this particular treatment, is reduced to the name of "Sharptooth." 
    Don Bluth, along with the producing efforts of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, has instilled this picture with a subtle display of symbolism and theme. The tree star that Littlefoot's mother gives to him symbolizes hope, and the reminder that harmony is only a small journey away. The theme of loss of innocence is touched upon, but can never fully prevail over the plot driven atmosphere. Littlefoot's consciousness cannot withdraw from naivety or childish actions. 

    There are heartwarming scenes, the best of which, feature Littlefoot communicating with his mother in the afterlife. Humor is plentiful and tasteful--a facet of modern day children's films that have become rather tawdry in an attempt to please the masses. 

    With the dying art of hand drawn animation lingering, (there is currently only one man who still executes this art in a professional manner) these films from the past take on greater importance. Although Don Bluth became an afterthought of the Disney company, his independent projects remained as the only competition to the mega corporation's efforts. This is due to the fact that his writing ability, along with his splendid imagination, provided a remarkable mood that fascinated the young at heart. They simply don't make them like this anymore. 

1 comment:

  1. Loved this film.
    Well written review, Doug. Thank you for reminding us all of the joys of doing all things by hand.