A young brachiosaurus and his medley of friends have to brave their way alone through the perils of the dying world to find The Great Valley, where the trees are green and the water plentiful.
The story starts with the birth of Littlefoot, a Long-Neck (brachiosaurus). He’s the last newborn of his herd, which consists of merely his mother, his grandfather and his grandmother. (I see one amazing backstory right there.) Anyway, the lands in which the dinosaurs live are dying, and their only hope is to find The Great Valley, a place full of green and life, which is where everyone is heading to.
Then tragedy strikes in the form of Sharptooth (a Tyrannosaurus Rex) who attacks the herds coincidentally at the same time a continent-splitting earthquake hits. Not only is Littlefoot separated from his grandparents, but he also loses his mother after she battles the Sharptooth to save her child. T_T
So Littlefoot soon finds himself alone on his journey... Until he meets up with a number of other young dinosaurs: Cera the Three-Horn, Ducky the Big-Mouth, Petrie the Flyer and Spike the Spike-Tail. They band together in their journey, and as with children thrown together in such adverse times, face the great challenge of keeping their spirits and hopes alive. Especially since there are doubts whether The Great Valley really exists...
Oh man, this movie is one of my childhood favourites, and proof that the storyteling is more important than the story itself. I first watched it when I was a child, and through child’s eyes was able to appreciate the simplicity of it. My old tape gave up and died a long time ago, and I just recently got a new VCD copy, and re-watching it totally awakened old fuzzy memories as well as gave me a new perspective, this time as an almost-adult. It’s one of Don Bluth’s trademarks to make tales of characters that worm their way into your heart, giving them the power to yank your feelings whichever way they please, and it doesn’t matter whether the viewer is young or old. (Disney works in a different away, which I won’t delve into right now...)
It’s the emotional core that makes this movie special. You really feel Littlefoot’s loss when his mother dies, and the helplessness when he doesn’t know what to do or where to go. The first time I watched the movie I found myself screeching at the telly, “You’re supposed to go The Great Valley! Woi! Great Valley! Remember Great Valley? Aieeee...”
The finer details don’t really matter in this movie, because that’s not what it’s about. We’re not here to watch dinosaurs. We’re here to watch a batch of young children overcome the odds. And I have to keep reminding myself that the main characters are still just children. And keeping that in mind, I cannot help but feel awe for Littlefoot. He’s just such a complex and realistic character because he has his ups and downs just like a normal (person), and reacts to various situations just the way a child would. And that goes well with every single other character seen in the movie. It’s strange, isn’t it, that all the characters in The Land Before Time are filled with such rich human personalities when they’re not human. ;)
Every character we meet along the journey is special in their own way. Cera is spunky, arrogant and has to have her way all the time -- which makes her sometimes annoying but honestly, don’t tell me you’ve never known a child (or children) like that. The rag-tag medley of young dinosaurs represent various types of childhood attitudes: Littlefoot and Cera are both leaders, Ducky is perpetually happy and cheerful, Petrie is (somewhat) shy and lacks confidence, Spike is the quiet follower. We do not want to lose any of them.
And my favourite character is Littlefoot’s mom. She cool! ‘Nuff said.
And I just want to say that there are numerous parallels between this movie and that CGI Disney movie Dinosaur, but between the two, The Land Before Time rocks on while Dinosaur falls splat on its face. That's just the way it is. The Land Before Time is a movie about heart, friendship, hope... Things that Dinosaur rather forgot to add to its resume because they were distracted by the technological advances they made. Erk, I’m being rather mean, aren’t I? Apologies to anyone I’ve offended, feel free to flame me if you wish.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the soundtrack. Magnificent, but not overblown. It has a soft almost-wistful kind of feeling throughout, and it really kicks in during the pivotal moments. I have the feeling that spontaneous musical numbers during the movie wouldn’t have harmed it too much (since James Horner was behind the instrumentals), but it’s still great the way it is. And the ending song by Diana Ross is one of my fav ballads. Ever.