Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dino-Might

The Land Before Time
Director: Don Bluth 
Voice Talent: Pat Hingle, Bill Erwin, Gabriel Damon, Judith Barsi, Will Ryan, Candace Hutson
Released: November 18, 1988


The last time I saw this movie was when I was a kid and I saw it in the theaters in 1988. The only thing I remembered about this movie was that it had dinosaurs in it. And I remembered the little dinosaurs were often being chased by the Big Bad (a literal "big bad!"), a T-Rex they aptly called Sharp Tooth.

I forgot how depressing this movie started off as and continued to be until the end. Remember in Finding Nemo when the mother and Nemo's other siblings are eaten by a predator? Well, at least Nemo still had his father! In this movie, both of Little Foot's (the young brontosaurus whose kind are called "long necks") parents are killed when the "earthshake" happens. (In case you couldn't figure it out, an earthshake would be what we would call and earth quake today).  Actually, I think his father was already out of the picture because they just showed his mother and his grandparents...so maybe his father died earlier? 

The entire land is going to hell. Everything is drab and dry and there are no places to eat vegetation or get water. Little Foot's mother has told him they are going to a place called The Great Valley which has an abundance of food and water and is a picturesque place to live. Little Foot quickly learns from his parents that each type of dinosaur keeps to themselves after he is shunned by a "three-horn" (a triceratops) for trying to play with her. Her name is Cera and of course she was my favorite, because, c'mon! 

They are both chased by Sharp Tooth and Little Foot's mother comes to the rescue knocking him over with her long tail, but he is still able to jump on her back and attack her. This is when the earth starts breaking apart and forming different continents....I mean, I'm sure this took a process of a million more years and didn't all happen in one day, but this was when it all started! There's a huge crack in the earth that divides Little Foot from his grandparents and Cera from her parents. Little Foot is able to reach his mother, but she is too weak to move and gives him some words of wisdom and encouragement before she dies. Just watch this and wait for the tears to fall!



Naturally, Little Foot becomes depressed and stops eating for a few days. He wants to team up with Cera to find the Great Valley, but she's very stubborn and arrogant and doesn't want help from anyone. She's a bit of an a-hole. I was thinking, remind me again why she was my favorite character? Oh, right, because we share the same name. Little Foot meets a "big mouth" (a saurolophus - they have platypus qualities) named Ducky who likes to say "Yep, yep, yep!" and a "Flyer" (a pteranodon) named Petrie who, despite having wings, cannot fly and is too afraid to try. They are all trying to find the Great Valley so they travel together. They're also joined by a stegosaurus named Spike after he is hatched (and becomes three times bigger than any of the others seconds after he is born!) who doesn't talk, but just grunts. He is mostly there to be used as strength. 

Cera is also going the same way and finds out that Sharp Tooth, who we last saw being thrown off a cliff with the swift thrust of Little Foot's mother's tail, is not dead, but very much alive. She meets up with the group of young dinosaurs and tells them that he's still alive and how she faced him and isn't afraid of him at all because she's such a liar and a little brat! She was totally petrified by him. Knowing she has a reputation for being a liar and a showoff, Little Foot doesn't believe her about Sharp Tooth being alive. Cera spends the night with them and all the dinosaurs except for Little Foot cuddle up to her to stay warm for sleeping  and poor Little Foot is shivering until the other dinosaurs move and join him and then poor Cera is left shivering until she decides to join the others and they're all an adorable pile of cute little baby dinosaurs. 

They come to a tree with plenty of leaves and make a ladder so Petrie can fly up to grab some branches. The always so stubborn Cera decides she's going to get her own food and doesn't need any help so she wants to get her own food. She does this by running and ramming her horns into the trunk of the tree. Nothing happens, so Little Foot drops some leaves onto her while she running into the tree and she is very smug about getting food "on her own".

Cera has now joined the others on their journey to the Great Valley but convinces them they need to go one way while Little Foot says they should go another way. By this time they've had an encounter with Sharp Tooth, so knowing that Cera was right about him being alive, the other dinos decide to join her while Little Foot continues his way on his own. (Cue "You Can Go Your Own Way!")

While Cera and the others cross a tar pit, Ducky becomes stuck in it and Petrie and Spike attempts to rescue her. Hearing their cries, Little Foot runs to their rescue. (Good thing he wasn't too far away!) It's a bit of a traumatic scene; there's a lot of scenes that seem really scary for little kids. I don't really remember what my reaction to this movie was, but I guess it's a good thing this movie didn't scar me for life! (And it's a good thing I was clueless about something for a very long time, but I'll get to that later...)

After Little Foot and the others have fallen in the tar, they disguise themselves as one big scary dinosaur and scare off some "dome heads" (pachycelhalosauruses...I probably spelled that wrong!) who are attacking Cera. She is also scared of the mystery dinosaurs and they make fun of her because she's going on how brave she is all the time. I felt a little bad for her, but she did totally deserve it. She runs off in a huff. The other dinosaurs decide it's time to get rid of Sharp Tooth once and for all and decide to use Ducky as bait ("Oh no, no, no, no!") Their plan is to have Little Foot and Spike push a boulder onto the unsuspecting T-rex and hit in the head or drown him or something. For some reason a brontosaurus and a stegosaurus cannot move a boulder (this must have been one heavy boulder!) but luckily Cera comes to the rescue and helps them push it over while Petrie rescues Ducky. There is a tense moment where we think Petrie have died and the other young dinosaurs are very sad but I knew they weren't going to make this already depressing movie even more depressing! And thank goodness they don't because Petrie is all right and is reunited with his friends.

The rest of the movie is a lot happier as they reach the Great Valley and Little Foot is reunited with his grandparents and the other young dinosaurs are reunited with their parents. Spike, who was born an orphan, has been adopted by Ducky's parents and is now the "big brother" to her and her siblings. 

This movie has some serious pedigree. It was directed by Don Bluth who is a legend in his own right in the animated world. He had directed An American Tail and The Secret of NIMH before this movie and All Dogs Go To Heaven a year later. It was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who I'm sure you've heard of! James Horner composed the music and Diana Ross sang the theme song which never seemed to catch on, but it's a very beautiful song. 

Okay, if you're a child of the '80s and don't want your childhood to be ruined, don't read anything further! And don't look up any of the young cast.  




Okay, so I was looking up the younger cast on the IMDb to see if they ever went on to anything bigger, but nobody became really famous. They mostly did other voice work or commercials or TV appearances. The youngest was Candace Huston who voiced Cera. She was born in 1980...and she was the youngest! Oh my goodness! Gabriel Damon, who voiced Little Foot was born in 1976 so he's almost 40! Don't you feel old? When I looked up the young girl who voiced Ducky, Judith Barsi, I saw she was born in 1978, but had died in 1988 at the age of ten! Of course I was shocked she had died so young and assumed she must have died of cancer, because a car accident seemed too awful. But not only did she NOT die of cancer OR a horrible accident like a car crash, but she was MURDERED by her OWN FATHER!!! WHAT?!?!?!? What a MONSTER! I read that he murdered his daughter and his wife in their sleep; shot Judith in her head, then burned the house down and killed himself. I guess he was a raging alcoholic and jealous of the money his daughter was making from her commercials and voice work (she also voiced the main character in All Dogs Go To Heaven) because he couldn't hold down his own job. I'm sure there's a True Hollywood Story somewhere out there about this. Her grave even says "Yep, yep, yep" on it because Ducky was her favorite character...which makes sense since she was mostly in commercials and just random TV guest spots. The Land Before Time came our four months after her murder. It's just really sad to think that when people were watching Ducky and hearing her (well, I think Ducky was suppose to be a boy even though he was being voiced by a girl, but you know what I mean) voice, they probably didn't know the child behind Ducky's voice had been murdered at the age of ten by her own father only four months prior! Or maybe they did know...I don't know if this made any headlines in the news because I was too young to care/read about the news back then. I was completely unaware of this until I saw the movie just a few weeks ago and decided to look up the cast. This movie was already pretty depressing as it was and this just made it all the more depressing! 

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