10 Things You Didn't Know About Disney's Dinosaur
An unusual experiment for the company, the live-action/CGI hybrid film Dinosaur was a financial success for Disney, though making it wasn't easy.
Disney's Dinosaur is a movie that borrows elements from films like The Land Before Time and Jurassic Park as well as other entries in the dinosaur movie genre. Its unique look was what drew audiences to it at the time of its release, but being almost entirely computer-generated is what makes it look so outdated nowadays (and even painful to watch at times).
That being said, the story behind the creation of Dinosaur is arguably as interesting as the plot within the movie (if not more so). With development and production which lasted more than a decade, the movie had to go through many trials and tribulations before it was finally completed.
10 - The Co-Director Previously Worked On Two Other Dinosaur Movies
Co-director Ralph Zondag had previously worked on a different dinosaur-themed movie— The Land Before Time— where he was the animation director. Even Zondag's directorial debut (We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story) was an animated dinosaur movie.
Co-screenwriters John Harrison and Robert Nelson Jacobs wrote and directed the 2000 miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune (and is the executive producer for Denis Villeneuve's Dune) and wrote the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for Chocolat, respectively.
9 - Its Cast Features Actors From The Little Mermaid & Brother Bear
Actor D.B. Sweeney also voiced a character on Brother Bear while actress Alfre Woodard starred in Primal Fear and 12 Years a Slave. Actor Ossie Davis starred in such movies as Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and Dr. Dolittle.
Other actors who worked on the movie include Max Casella (The Sopranos), Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian in The Little Mermaid), Hayden Panettiere, Julianna Margulies, and others.
8 - It Was The Most Expensive Computer-Animated Movie At The Time
Dinosaur is unique in the way it uses CGI. Though nowadays its computer-generated elements look somewhat outdated, not everyone will notice that the backgrounds in the movie are actually real and were filmed on different locations in Asia and the Americas.
While the backgrounds were live action, the characters were computer generated. This, of course, made the movie cost quite a lot. According to various reports, Dinosaur's budget was $127.5 million which would make it the most expensive computer animated movie ever made up to that point.
7 - It Went Through Development Hell
The idea for Dinosaur first appeared in 1986 when Paul Verhoeven was directing Robocop and Phil Tippett proposed that they collaborate on a movie about dinosaurs.
The idea would be developed in different ways for many years, and various filmmakers were attached to the project at the time. In 1994, the movie finally entered the development stage at Disney, but it still took the studio several years to actually begin production.
6 - It Was Originally Going To Be Stop-Motion Animated
Speaking of the development stage at Disney, the project actually went through multiple such stages within different departments of Disney. Originally, it was intended to be stop-motion animated, way back in 1988 when Verhoeven and Tippett were developing it.
But because Jurassic Park was being created digitally, the studio decided to wait until they could make Dinosaur digitally as well. In 1994, the project was being developed by the animation department rather than the live action one and that's when the first tests for computer generated characters started.
5 - It Was Originally Meant To Be A Dark & Violent Movie
Dinosaur already has quite a few terrifying scenes: The meteor destroying the island where Aladar and the lemurs lived, the attack of the Velociraptors, and pretty much all of the encounters with the two Carnotaurus.
However, the movie was supposed to be even darker than it ended up being. Allegedly, Verhoeven and Tippett wanted to make the movie similar in style and tone to a nature documentary and add violent elements to it. The main dinosaur characters were even meant to die at the end as a part of the extinction event that killed all dinosaurs on Earth.
4 - It Was Going To Have A Much More Cutesy Tone At One Point
By reading about all the things the movie was meant to be, it is easy to understand just how troubled its development was and how many versions it went through.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Verhoeven and Tippett left the project and Thomas G. Smith was attached as director. Smith would go on to say that the script the studio had at the moment depicted dinosaurs in a cute way rather than a violent one. Smith didn't want to do that, but even he was replaced later on.
3 - Real Lemurs Were Going To Be Used At First
When Smith was attached as director, he decided to go his own way and make the movie grittier than the current script made it out to be. One of the things Smith was particularly interested in was using real lemurs for the movie.
The filmmakers found a person training lemurs, but Smith left the project. David W. Allen, who became the new director, would spend months "auditioning" lemurs to play the role of Suri, but he too soon left the project. The final directors were George Scribner and Ralph Zondag, and their version features lemurs that are CGI just like the dinosaurs.
2 - Its Soundtrack Has An Unusual Story Behind It
Dinosaur's score was composed by James Newton Howard for whom this was his first project with Disney and who would go on to write scores for such Disney movies as Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, and most recently, Raya and the Last Dragon.
Vocals for the soundtrack were provided by Lebo M who had previously done vocals for The Lion King. A particular track from the score ("The Egg Travels") was later used in trailers for other movies, including Lilo and Stitch and The Wild Thornberrys Movie.
1 - The Movie Was Actually A Financial Success
Despite being quite an expensive movie, Dinosaur was a commercial success grossing a total of $349.8 million. It was even among the top five best-selling home video releases of 2001, selling over 10 million copies.
Critics weren't particularly fond of the movie, however, criticizing the story which wasn't very original according to them. Yet, the realism of animation was praised which was at the time considered to be quite high-quality. The movie's opening sequence was also considered notable.