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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Good Dinosaur -- Pixar's lush animated prehistoric saga that successfully melds Finding Nemo and E.T. -- has stunning visuals, moments of clever humor, strong messages about loyalty and bravery, and many scenes of danger, trauma, and peril that are likely to frighten younger/more sensitive viewers. (Spoiler alert!) Apatosaurus Arlo is separated from his family after a severe storm/flash flood claims his father's life (a series of events that could definitely upset kids); plus, carnivorous, sharp-toothed beasts attack Arlo and his human friend, Spot; more storms bring destruction and deadly threats; and the heroes barely survive a dangerous ride down a waterfall -- which is all the more intense because the film's settings look extremely real. Arlo's many fears and desperation to get home will certainly make some kids anxious; be ready to reassure them. There's also a scene in which Arlo and Spot scarf down fermented fruit, seem to get a little drunk (they hallucinate), and then wake up with headaches. Editor's Note: Sanjay's Super Team, the animated short that runs before the film in theaters, has moments that are very intense and scary, with a fiery, frightening bad guy.
What's the story?
THE GOOD DINOSAUR is a tale of friendship, longing for family, and overcoming fears that takes place in an alternate-history timeline before man began to have a serious impact on Earth. Timid young dinosaur Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is separated from his family and must travel a long, treacherous path home, learning to feed himself and deflect predators. He does so with the help of a resourceful, independent wild child he calls Spot (Jack Bright); the filmmakers get around scientific evidence that dinosaurs and man never co-existed by showing the meteor that supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs taking a wrong turn and missing Earth. The underlying narrative tells the story of a lost ecological balance, when ruthless nature was in charge, with devastating turbulence and unpredictability. Predators and destructive storms lurk around every corner, waiting to flatten even the bravest. Ultimately Arlo learns that although fear is normal and healthy, it shouldn't get in the way of living your life.
Is it any good?
This visually beautiful, emotionally authentic tale about a young dinosaur who experiences loss and struggles to find his way home will entrance kids and parents alike. Pixar's gorgeous animation places The Good Dinosaur's talking animals (and human) in photo-realistic natural settings that are nearly indistinguishable from actual forests, rivers, and mountains. (In fact, the images' reality could add to the scariness for young children during storms and other scenes of threat.)
Great visual moments come out of Spot’s lack of spoken language skills. The best example? Arlo, who can talk, explains the concept of family by setting representative stick figures in the sand and drawing a circle of closeness around them. Spot takes it further by doing the same and then throwing burial sand over the sticks to communicate that he's now alone in the world. But ultimately, he's not -- he has Arlo, and Arlo has him, and their friendship is a solid core for another excellent, if intense, Pixar adventure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how we can overcome our fears. Is it OK to be afraid of things? How do you know if you're too afraid of something? Does it help to face scary things with a friend or family? What does it take to "get through" something you're scared of? Do you think The Good Dinosaur is scary?
Why do we sometimes enjoy watching scary movies or shows? How much "scary stuff" can young kids handle?
What's the movie's message about friendship and family? What matters most in life? What do Arlo and Spot learn from each other?
How does The Good Dinosaur tweak history? Did dinosaurs and early man really exist on Earth at the same time? Do you think it's OK to change facts for movies? How could you find out more about what really happened to the dinosaurs?
- In theaters: November 25, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: February 23, 2016
- Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Raymond Ochoa, Frances McDormand
- Director: Peter Sohn
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Friendship
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: peril, action and thematic elements
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.