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Actor Raymond Ochoa voices protagonist Arlo (left), an apatosaurus who befriends a young boy in The Good Dinosaur (Category: I), directed by Peter Sohn. Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright, and Frances McDormand voice other leading characters.

Review | Film review: The Good Dinosaur shows importance of living with fear

Pixar’s latest is a touching what-if tale about overcoming fear, set to the tone of a classic Hollywood western

Film reviews
What would have happened if the asteroid that struck earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs had missed? The big idea of this sophisticated 3D animation from Pixar is that dinosaurs evolved into a civilised, hut-dwelling race of farmers and herders, while humans remained primitive scavengers who scampered around on their arms and legs. It’s a premise that is at once clever and entertaining.
The young boy is voiced by Jack Bright.

The Good Dinosaur is an dramatic film, and a very different kind of family animation. Although it stars friendly dinosaurs, the theme of overcoming fear – or, in fact, learning to live with fear – is handled in a more mature way than many live-action features. Refreshingly, Disney-style cuteness is kept to a bare minimum.

READ MORE: How Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur got a natural boost from new director Peter Sohn

The story is slim but effective. Arlo is a weak young dinosaur who’s scared of everything. When he’s swept away from the family farm by a flood, he’s faced with a dangerous journey home. He befriends a primitive human boy, who he names Spot, and they pool their resources to keep each other safe as they travel though the wilds.

Although it sounds like a fantasy film, The Good Dinosaur actually resemebles a Western, which makes use of all the tropes from that once-dominant genre. The filmmakers have noticeably done their homework and studied classics like The Searchers and River of No Return. This influence is laid bare in a visually splendid scene which features dinosaurs herding bison on the plains. The animation is fantastic throughout.

The Good Dinosaur opens on February 4