Saturday, July 26, 2014

17. The Land Before Time (1988)

Code-name: TBLT(yeah, at this point, I just got lazy)
...and that's the last surviving sketch I did when I was younger of these iconic characters (plus two notable "guest" characters from last in the series)

Director: Don Bluth

Composer: James Horner


Littlefoot- Gabriel Damon
Cera- Candace Huston
Ducky- Judith Barsi (RIP 1978-1988)
Petrie- Will Ryan
Spike- Frank Welker
Littlefoot's mother- Helen Shaver
Narrator/Cera's dad/Rooter- Pat Hingle (RIP 2009)

...oops, my mistake, he played Cera's dad in the sequels...

Burke Byrnes played him in this movie and had only one line "Come Cera, Three-Horns never play with long necks"


Earliest Memories and Nostalgia

This movie and I go so far back that I don't remember the impact so much as what I've been told about the impact it had on me.

For starters, I was under the impression that this movie came out in 1989 because I remember that I was 3 when it was my favorite movie. To date myself even further, I'm told that I rented this from Blockbuster so many times that one of my grandmas bought the VHS for me. To this day, I still have it, and the last time I played it (2 years ago to prep for this entry)... well, it's still in perfect working condition.

Bits and pieces of images have stayed with me throughout the years. Some good, some bad. Two scenes in particular, I remember my reactions  to them so clearly.

Spoiler Alert

1) the T-rex sequence
[interestingly, Steven Spielberg approached Don Bluth, insisting he remove 10 minutes of finished film footage because it was deemed too intense for kids... despite his reservations, he followed his advice]

2) the aftermath of 1)- :sob: the death of Littlefoot's mother

Funny how when you're a kid, the things that stick with you the most are the things that either scared the beejezuz out of you or they make you cry your bloody eyes out...

Anyone who read my "Neverending Story" entry (I'll post the link for those curious or hadn't yet) knows how much Artax's death almost ruined the movie for me

The last time I watched this movie, this particularly sad sequence was nowhere near as hard on me as Artax's death scene.

Heck, Littlefoot's grieving period lasted maybe 10 minutes and I was over it within the next 30 seconds.

But that was a rough scene to watch when I was a kid. I distinctly remember asking my mom  “why did she have to die?”and she kinda explained to me that parents can't always be together with their kids, it's just the way it works sometimes...

Somehow, I get the feeling that was enough reassurance for me that I was able to move past that.

Looking back on this movie after all these years, it's still a treasure. Despite the scary and sad moments sprinkled in between, it has a certain charm you simply don't see in movies anymore. It touched on some parts of me I hadn't gotten in touch with in years. The characters are lovable and memorable. The score is compelling... but for nostalgia's sake, I was balling my eyes out when the end credits came on that last time. :P

"If we hold on together" has a special place in my heart where I worked hard to learn how to play it on keyboard (all from memory), it was the first place I hear the name Diana Ross...

don't worry, I was okay after the first 30, er, maybe 60 seconds...

I actually I think I was more sad because the credits meant the movie was over and I was having SUCH a good time that I hated to see it end.

But gotta love the score in this movie (the fact James Horner stuck around for the first couple sequels was something  I never took for granted). After the song ends, more of the score plays to close things out.

One more funny moment before I go into more detail:

On the VHS, there was one commercial before the movie starts.
Pizza Hut being awesome lets you know that you're in the 80's. Seeing it again after all these years was such fun, like it was just yesterday I last watched it.

Basically, it's about a kid going to a friend's birthday party, his mom telling him via voiceover how to behave. OMG, thank God for YouTube :P

The Story
btw, I'm willing to forgive those who didn't grow up with this movie, but for those who haven't seen it at all... shame on you

[Some impressive trivia]

Spielberg & Lucas were originally going for their own version of the "Rite of Spring" sequence from Disney's "Fantasia" but to make it more appealing for their young target audience, they changed gears and decided to make the characters talk

That was one of my favorite parts of "Fantasia"... up until the tar pit scene... that's hard to watch :(

anyway, moving on...

As a once-budding paleontologist (my career choice when I was in 2nd grade.. don't know why I didn't follow through with that aside from the fact all the dinosaurs had been dug up), I'd have to guess this takes place somewhere between 65-70 million years ago.

Plant life on prehistoric Earth was dying, so the dinosaurs are working their way towards the fabled "Great Valley."

In the opening act, we see a couple of our main characters hatch from their eggs. With Littlefoot's arrival, things get pretty dramatic in a hurry. Firstly, he's the only surviving egg in his family and secondly, because he almost gets taken by an oviraptor (a species that steals and eats eggs). But this is quickly alleviated by the cuteness factor :P not as cute as Ducky hatching, mind you, but still too cute.

Early on, we spend a lot of time with Littlefoot's herd where his mother finds a tree-star for him and tells him how they're going to get to the Great Valley. Along the way, he meets Cera and they have a good time playing until they're both alerted to the fact dinosaurs keep to their own kind.

That night, they wind up together again after chasing the same frog, but this gives way to the epic T-rex fight scene. Not only does Littlefoot lose his mother (:sob:), but "a "clash of continents" earthquake separates him from his grandparents and Cera from her family.

As I mentioned above, Littlefoot's grieving period lasts for a good 10 minutes. I never recalled it being so long and for a kid's movie (yeah, despite all the other dramatic things taking place), that's kinda depressing. We do get one moment of cuteness to break up the tension a bit, a bunch of pterodon babies fighting over a berry :P

Finding his tree-star again helps him remember his mother's directions to the Great Valley, convincing him to press forward, but we don't get taken out of this stupor until we meet Ducky. Shortly again, we meet Pterie, another pterodon who apparently can't fly... yeah, go figure...

Cera joins up with them later on as well, but not before she confronts the T-Rex, believed to be dead until her ramming shenanigans wake the beast up. Naturally, she uses this insistence (with her own edits obviously) to her advantage, easily impressing Littlefoot's new friends. In the reenactment, she accidentally launches Ducky several yards away from them, but she comes back with another dinosaur she met after he hatches.

So with Spike the stegosaurus, our quintet is complete.

Through the course of the rest of the movie, Littlefoot and Cera have their power struggles, vying for leader of the "herd" and deciding what their next route should be.

To this end, Littlefoot finds out he was wrong about the T-Rex being dead and Cera winds up taking everyone else the wrong direction. Luckily for Spike, Ducky and Petrie, Littlefoot helped them get out of the :gasp: tar pit they were in, which leads to some good laughs and ultimately putting Cera in her place.

The final obstacle: taking out the bad guy, which they do through a pretty elaborate plan that plenty of "edge of your seat" moments.

Petrie learns how to fly (yeah!! one of the best moments in animation history) and the sequence ends with the T-Rex dragging him into the water after the others knock him into the deep end with a boulder.

Now that I think about it, that's another moment I remember from my younger days... maybe even from the first time seeing it. There was this heavy moment of sadness, quickly followed by absolute JOY when it's revealed he survived.


Littlefoot finds himself discouraged again, gets advice from his mother's spirit (this time in the form of a brontosaurus shaped cloud), which winds up leading him TO the Great Valley.

That reveal scene, how the sun undoes the shadows little by little and in one fell swoop, the entire valley is revealed, the music swelling with TRIUMPH.
Thinking about it now, I'm getting all kinds of feels... it really is spectacular, particularly for 80's animation... not that I'm mocking my favorite decade, but considering this was done on paper... yeah, it's amazing.

Then we get final words from our narrator and... it's all over :sob:

The Characters

Doing this movie with talking dinosaurs was a good start... but without colorful characters, a movie like this just wouldn't work. Especially not in the world of animation.

Heck, these characters became so iconic and beloved that they launched a franchise of direct-to-VHS releases... granted, they went downhill within four years and none have the same *glow* as the original... just couldn't get enough of them.

I'll go in classic order :P

We have our starring apatosaurus/brontosaurus
[the story goes that brontosaurus was the original name, but palentologists had already discovered a similar longnecked dinosaur that they had dubbed Apatosaurus... I'm sorry, I'm gonna use brontosaurus because I just prefer the way that name sounds]


my favorite character of the quintet :D

I can't quite explain why (or why I loved brontosaurus), it's just always been that way. But I'm guessing most of it is because he's the leader, one of the smartest members of the group, and brave... so many good qualities.

So naturally with all the arguments he and Cera have had over the years, I'm going to take his side. Because 9 times out of 10, he's usually right and she just wants to be right however wrong she is about a situation.

Interestingly, while watching this movie back, things were a little different. Things used to be black and white, but as stubborn as Cera can be, he had this share of stubbornness here too. Which is understandable with all the stuff going on, but it surprised on one or two occasions where he came almost bossy, although not as bad as...

the triceratops...

where do I begin?

She certainly gets her stubbornness and attitude from her father, but that's not enough to sway my opinion. Littlefoot's the voice of reason in the group whereas Cera tends to make snap judgements and stuck with them until proven otherwise. Throughout this movie, she is a bit of a pain, being antagonizing and all that.

I think the only time I was really in her corner was in third movie, particularly when she chooses to stay Littlefoot's friend despite her father's reservations.
One fun fact: she was the only character who maintained the same voice from this movie across a couple sequels... namely all the good ones (per my opinion II-IV).

the sauralopus...

everyone thought parasauralopus, but one of my dinosaur posters had a species that looked much more similar to her.
Speaking of voice actors, for a quick moment, Judith Barsi's last role was in another Don Bluth animated film, a little movie called "All Dogs Go to Heaven." I didn't discover the tragedy that befell her until a couple years ago, just before I saw this movie again, and I delighted in every moment ("All Dogs Go to Heaven" on the other hand, the last 10 minutes including the credits got the waterworks going a bit).

She and Petrie have the youngest mindset among the characters.

No matter what's going on, she's always the optimist. She's ridiculously adorable (I literally shrunked up, unable to withstand her cuteness this previous watch), and her heart's always in the right place. Kudos for bringing her in to lift up the mood of this movie at its halfway point because that was certainly called for.

the pterodon...

His voice was done by Will Ryan in their film (as much as Don Bluth staple as Dom Deluise) and Jeff Bennett had done it ever since. That's of some comfort to me, as someone who flips out when voices change actors. A little consistency is very nice.

I always found him hilarious, giving me the most laughs throughout this movie. Kudos to Will Ryan for this voice that always has me in stitches. I'm still not sure if it's what comes out of his mouth or how it comes out of his mouth :P he's just so quirky and lovable.

He and Ducky balance quite well with him being the pessimist to Ducky's optimist in this movie. 
Of course it's hilarious when jokes are made about him not being able to fly, but when he finally does... again, what a great moment.

the stegosaurus...

my 2nd least favorite character.

Out of no fault of his own, mind you, I just find kinda hard to connect when he's the only one who doesn't speak and his running gag is his insatiable appetite for food. There's less personality to work with, but throughout the sequels he does have his moments, when the words (maybe two EVER, lol) come out and when his loyalty for his friends and family shines through.

The Sequels and Other Legacies

I stuck it out with this series for a very long time and I'm surprised how many volumes it got up to. Finally got some closure on that because I hadn't checked in since I heard of a title that mentioned "Tinysauruses".

The last one I saw was The Great Longneck Migration, which was X... I'd missed 3 other sequels... even though Channel Awesome vlog personality & Don Bluth fanatic Marzgurl hated on most of the sequels, it sounds like I really didn't miss anything.

As I mentioned, my favorites were the first three sequels. I remember seeing II at Blockbuster, thrilled, and I enjoyed it so much I picked up every sequel since... sometimes without even renting them.

I was so fond of the series, great times watching them 8-)

My favorite was always part IV, 100% because of the designated "guest character" they introduced. I loved that Littlefoot met another longneck to play with and I loved Ali. Such a great character. The gist was that her migrating herd was passing through around a time Littlefoot's grandpa got sick and only a flower from their native land could cure him. But it was dubbed too dangerous to return to.
LIttlefoot's determined to go and asks Ali to tell him how to go there. Because she's shy around his friends (having been with only longnecks her whole life), she feels more comfortable if just the two of them go. But of course, it can't just be that way. Everyone winds up going to the Land of Mists one way or another.
So yeah, one of my fondest childhood memories was watching this movie countless times.
The song "It Takes All Sorts" is very nostalgic for me (since seeing the first trailer on III's VHS), but even that doesn't equate to the power of "If we hold on together."

Yeah, for whatever reason, they decided throughout the series to have three songs per movie. Great at first, but even I got tired of it after a while... especially after the first three sequels.

I forgot what age I was, but I wrote Universal Studios saying how I was a fan of the series and they actually replied to me. Even include a plastic figurine of Spike, which is in my tub full of dinosaurs in the basement, and dozens of sketches of the characters (I might have included one of my many drawings in the letter). The letter itself, I lost track of some time ago..

It also gave me a quick description of the next two movies, one where Chomper makes a second appearance and the other where Cera's nieces appear.

So among my questions, I asked if we'd see the characters as teenagers. Being with the series as long as I was, they gave me a BS answer... "if you continue to watch the movies, you will see them grow up with you"... they never got any older.

They did, however, go through new management starting from V onward.

Yep, the voice acting talents of Scott McAfee, Candace Huston, and Heather Hogan were gone... replaced with Thomas Dekker (one of several voice actors to play Littlefoot over the years), Anndi McAfee and Aria Noelle Curzon...

Regardless, I did stuck it out for a long time... I own V, VI, VII and VIII that I got on DVD... I rented IX and X, and more or less gave up. I found other interests an such, it happens.

I just didn't connect with them with the new cast the same way.

I also had one of the computer games growing up. It went through the chronology of the movie, scene by scene, and had all kinds of mini-games.

Coming Soon

Gonna stay animated for another week.

This time to my favorite Disney movie.

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