The Land Before Time Movie Poster Image

The Land Before Time

Original baby-dinosaur buddy tale has scares, sadness.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 70 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Introduces various species of dinosaurs, providing simple-to-understand information about species, habitat, family, and survival.

Positive messages

Promotes teamwork, unselfishness, interspecies tolerance, resourcefulness, and perseverance. Clear references are made to "the circle of life." Although he's told that dinosaurs stick with their own kind, Littlefoot is a friend to everyone. Individual strengths are important to the group's success and survival. Illustrates power of family relationships throughout animal kingdom. Additional themes include compassion and courage.

Positive role models

Littlefoot is friendly to everyone, sticks to his task, and makes wise choices. Parents are shown as responsible, caring, and wise. Baby pterodactyl Petrie finds flying too difficult but with courage finally achieves it. Stubborn Cera thinks she doesn't need any help from anyone else but sees that she does need her friends and they need her, too.

Violence & scariness

Frequent cartoon action and violence: Carnivorous Sharpteeth (Tyrannosaurus rex) are predators who continually chase, menace, and attempt to kill the young heroes. Little Foot and company are faced with separation from family, earthquakes, rock slides, falls, volcano eruptions, fire, and constant fear of the predators. In one, early fierce battle, Little Foot's mother is killed. The little dinosaur grieves for her. His sadness and belief in her spirit play an important part in his journey.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable

Original movie generated an active franchise, which includes television, DVDs, toys, related merchandise.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Families can talk 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?

  • How do the characters in The Land Before Time demonstrate perseverance and teamwork? What about compassion and courage? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 18, 1988
DVD/Streaming release date: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

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Parent of a 3 year old Written byAmberwrista December 10, 2009

Why do all kids' movies involve a parent dying?

Started watching this with my almost 4-year-old sister. She loved the first few minutes with the cute baby dinosaurs, but soon it turned scary as the T-Rex chased the babies. I asked if she was alright, and she said she was fine, but as the mother dinosaur lay dying, her lip started to tremble. I immediately shut the movie off and she burst into tears. If your kids are old enough to deal with a very sad death (which is not simply glossed over, we see Littlefoot continue crying for the next few scenes), this would probably be a good movie for them, but be careful with preschoolers.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 3 year old Written byACabral7805 March 16, 2010

Classic movie for kids

I loved this movie when I was a kid and my 3 year old loves it now. Some parts are a little scary- when littlefoot's mother is killed by sharptooth. I don't think kids really understand what is happening during that scene and my daughter asked what happened to his mommy and I just explained and she seemed fine. As far as the dinosaurs fighting-I explained to her that there are meat eaters and leaf eaters, etc, and that is the way Dinosaurs are. Truth be told!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 3 year old Written bybrundda March 14, 2011

childhood anxiety

When I watched this as a child I remember having some serious anxiety from it. Fear of my own mother dying. It was heart wrenching and for some reason I kept wanting to watch it because it affected me in such a powerful way. I am 29 years old and after receiving it as a gift for my 3 year old daughter I decided i would watch it with her since she was begging to watch it. And to my amazement, it made me feel that same extreme sadness, gushing with tears and pain in my heart when the mother dies and Little Foot is trying to understand and deal with his emotions. After even just hearing the music I was reminded of this powerful anxiety that I had and may still have. from it. My husband had to fast forward the scene where the mother dies. I am not going to let my daughter watch it again for fear that she may develop this anxiety. It hurts me so much to think that she would feel this way! So watching those parts again would be like torture for me.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages