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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Land Before Time is a funny, character-rich story with adorable heroes to root for as they make a long journey to find a land of plenty. The film offers lots of introductory information about dinosaurs -- species, the planet as it was when they lived, their fight for survival. Kids who watch this movie should be clear and comfortable with pretend violence versus real violence. The young dinos face scary, sharp-toothed, roaring predators who chase them with an intent to kill in multiple sequences. They are at risk from natural disasters as well: earthquakes, a volcanic eruption, rock slides, and fire. The sad death of a parent after a battle early in the film and the separation of several young dinosaurs from their families are important to the story. None of the young heroes is hurt, and the tale is happily resolved. Released in 1988, this film became a full-fledged toy franchise with DVDs, television, sequels, and a wide variety of associated products.
What's the story?
In THE LAND BEFORE TIME, while scores of dinosaurs are on the move to find food during a massive drought, a baby long-necked dinosaur is born. His mom and grandparents coo and ahh and name him Littlefoot (Gabriel Damon). When a rambunctious little three-horned dinosaur named Cera (Candace Hutson) tries to engage the newborn in play, Littlefoot's family discourages him from consorting with her kind of dinosaur. But the kid dinosaurs must unite when a ferocious T. rex kills Littlefoot's mother and an earthquake creates a massive schism separating them from loved ones. Littlefoot and Cera are joined by Petrie, Ducky, and Spike in their journey to the Great Valley, where food and families are sure to await them.
Is it any good?
This movie is a very simple, nicely animated story that gives kids some perky characters to follow and shows them the earth as it was when dinosaurs roamed. Viewers see how changes in the earth's climate forced dinosaurs to roam long distances to find food and how earthquakes, volcanoes, and even other dinosaurs made survival difficult. Solid, well-illustrated messages (the "circle of life" is affirmed, anticipating the central precept of The Lion King), as well as comedy and camaraderie, make The Land Before Time a delightful family-friendly film with a happy ending, so long as the kids are ready for the darker elements as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dinosaurs in The Land Before Time. When did they live? What happened to them? Why are we so fascinated with them?
Why is friendship so important to the characters? How do they each contribute to their group?
Follow up watching the movie with a trip to the natural history museum. What else can you find out about dinosaurs?
Which dinosaur is your favorite? Why?
- In theaters: November 18, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: December 30, 2003
- Cast: Candace Hutson, Judith Barsi, Will Ryan
- Director: Don Bluth
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Adventures, Friendship, Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 70 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: all audiences
Themes & Topics
For kids who love dinosaurs
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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.