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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dino Dana: The Movie is a feature-length extension of the children's TV series about a smart, brave girl named Dana (Michela Luci) who sees and interacts with dinosaurs in the real world. Just like in the series, the film brings the prehistoric creatures to life via computer animation, and they can sometimes be a little bit scary. The kids are frequently in mild peril: facing a Triceratops stampede or getting kidnapped by a pterosaur with dinner plans. They cry out in distress, but there's no feeling of real terror. The story focuses on diverse blended families and specifically addresses the ambivalence or resentment that stepsiblings may feel about each other. Dana is an exemplary role model who defies gender stereotypes and has many positive character strengths, including a curious mind and an infectious imagination. Fans of the long-running series get a payoff: cameos from the original Dino Dan (Jason Spevak) and his brother Trek (Trek Buccino), who are now young men.
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What's the story?
In DINO DANA: THE MOVIE, young amateur paleontologist Dana (Michela Luci) embarks upon a new experiment to figure out why there are no records of kid dinosaurs and recruits her new neighbors to help investigate. Meanwhile, Dana's stepsister Saara (Saara Chaudry) has to make a difficult decision: move with her mom to California or stay in Ontario with her father and stepfamily.
Is it any good?
Dino Dana asserts that "science is magic," and the same could be said for this film adaptation of her popular TV series. Small children are often so attracted to dinosaurs that many can tell you the tooth count of an Allosaurus before they know their colors. In 2010, Canadian production company Sinking Ship Entertainment figured out a more age-appropriate viewing experience than the R-rated Jurassic Park to quench kids' thirst for dino action when they launched the show Dino Dan, which was followed in 2017 by Dino Dana. And now, in Dino Dana: The Movie, they've created epic battles between enormous Cretaceous beasts and put several kids in the middle of the action. All of it works to make science appealing by proving that scientists are question-askers with active imaginations -- which will probably make some members of the young audience feel seen.
The Dino Dan/Dana franchise has evolved over the years as the entertainment industry has recognized the imperative for authentic representations. The result is a world in which the characters are ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, as well as gender equal. As this film is the length of three TV episodes, the story is fittingly a bit meatier: Dana has her experiment (of course), but she also pulls in the new neighbors (who can also see dinosaurs, thanks to Dana's magical Dino Field Guide), all while Saara grapples with her difficult decision to stay with her dad, stepmom, stepsister Dana, and baby brother or go with her mom, who got an awesome new job. This subject matter may feel very familiar to kids in divorced/blended families, even if they haven't had to make that specific decision themselves. Ultimately, writer/director/producer J.J. Johnson ties all three of his storylines together into one message, really solidifying that he knows how to communicate with children. The end product is a heartfelt, relatable, educational, and exciting STEM adventure that's remarkably entertaining, even for adults.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the kids in Dino Dana: The Movie demonstrate teamwork. Why is that an important character strength?
Dana and Jadiel debate whether or not "science is magic." What were the reasons they gave? What do you think? Why is curiosity an essential quality for scientists?
What dinosaur facts did you learn from watching the movie? Do you think the information was easier to understand and remember because you could see the dinosaurs interacting with people? Why is effective communication so important?
Are you part of a blended family? If so, how did it feel when you got a new sibling? What was easy? What was difficult?
- On DVD or streaming: August 19, 2020
- Cast: Michela Luci, Saara Chaudry, Richie Lawrence
- Director: J.J. Johnson
- Studio: Sinking Ship Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: STEM, Dinosaurs, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Communication, Curiosity, Teamwork
- Run time: 77 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some creature action and thematic elements
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 4, 2020
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