It’s the story of Aladar, an orphaned Iguanadon, who’s discovered by a family of lemurs when he’s a baby and they raise him as part of their clan. After a meteor destroys their home, Aladar and his lemur family join a herd of other dinosaurs as they journey to the nesting grounds. (If that sounds a lot like The Land Before Time to you, you’re not alone.) Despite the similarities to that other beloved animated dinosaur flick, this film has nice moral lessons about acceptance and perseverance through struggle that’s bound to resonate nicely with kids.
Visually, though, it was an enormous achievement (although the computer-generated imagery hasn’t stood the test of time all that well). It’s a technological achievement as well. At first, the film was to be made using stop-motion animation, which would have been impressive enough on its own. But once word of Jurassic Park’s production circulated, complete with computer-generated dinos, Disney quickly switched gears and went the CG route, too. The characters were all computer-generated and then dropped on top of real-life shots of locations in Hawaii and Australia. The New York Times praised the technological effort behind the film: “The reason to see this movie is not to listen to the dinosaurs but to watch them move, to marvel at their graceful necks and clumsy limbs and notice how convincingly they emerge into sunlight or get wet.”