Dinosaur Train: Dinosaur Big City

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Dinosaur Train: Dinosaur Big City Movie Poster Image
Engaging, educational movie promotes curiosity and respect.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The movie introduces kids to scientific terms like "therapod" and "migration" and incorporates their definitions into the content in a way that's age-appropriate for its young viewers. Many dinosaur species have roles in the story, and kids learn about the characteristics that both unite and differentiate them. Viewers learn to make observations and think critically about how species are classified based on their features and lifestyles.

Positive Messages

The movie encourages kids' curiosity about paleontology by introducing them to a range of dinosaur species and exploring their habitats and lifestyles. The story is also rich in themes like respect, friendship, and kindness, and the characters take pride in the unique qualities that make them different from their friends while celebrating those that unify them all.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Pteranodon family is a tight-knit group, and their adopted son, Buddy, never feels like an outsider because of his differences. The parents are patient and loving toward their kids, and they foster inquisitiveness and responsibility in them by encouraging them to learn about their environment and about the habits of those who are different from them.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

This special is part of the Dinosaur Train series, so if it's your child's first introduction to the colorful characters, they'll likely ask for more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie tied to the popular TV series Dinosaur Train does a great job of incorporating paleontological vocabulary, scientific observation, and critical thinking into its content in a way that's both enjoyable and appropriate for a preschool audience. The movie's colorful animation engages viewers and illustrates the different characteristics of its diverse cast, making its educational information very memorable. What's more, the story also teaches social responsibility, kindness, and friendship, especially in its simultaneous celebration of individuality and acknowledgement of a sense of community among the many dinosaur species.

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What's the story?

In DINOSAUR BIG CITY, the Pteranodon family sets off for Larimidia to join their friends at the Theropod Club Convention. Inspired by Buddy's (voiced by Phillip Corlett) curiosity about what the future holds for him when he's a full-size Tyrannosaurus rex, the Pteranodons hop aboard the Dinosaur Train and head for the metropolis, where they encounter more species of dinosaurs -- especially theropods -- than they've ever seen in one place. Joined by his friend Annie Tyrannosaurus (Erika-Shaye Gaire) and her parents, Buddy learns all about what distinguishes theropods from the rest of the prehistoric creatures -- and along the way, he manages to help his friend King Cryolophosaurus (Phil Hayes) overcome his fear of singing in front of a crowd.

Is it any good?

Dinosaur Big City builds on the success of the TV series by transferring all of the show's positive attributes to this story that challenges kids' retention skills with its multi-part format. As usual, Buddy's curiosity about his surroundings and the creatures he encounters treats kids to a virtual exploration of prehistoric times through the eyes of a youngster, and his discoveries become their own as he learns something new at every turn. Kids will be eager to point out similar features on theropods along with Buddy, and the exercise will encourage them to think critically about the species that inhabit their own world.

 

The movie's educational qualities aren't limited to science, though -- parents will be equally impressed with the story's attention to pro-social messages about being a good friend, helping others, and being respectful. Buddy's quest to understand what makes him part of a unique group of dinosaurs reminds kids to take pride in their own individuality, respect the things that make others different, and feel secure in their unique place within their family and their community.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about individuality. What characteristics make Buddy different from his family? Who does he share those features with? What are some of your unique qualities? Which ones make you most proud to be you?

  • Kids: What did this movie teach you about how dinosaurs lived? How do scientists learn about creatures that existed millions of years ago? What clues can their bones give us about how and where they lived?

  • Which characters are good examples of kindness in this story? When have you shown kindness to a friend or sibling? How does it make you feel to do something helpful for someone? How does it feel to be treated kindly yourself? 

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