- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pixar’s cinematic reimagining of the time when prehistoric beasts roamed the earth travels to home theaters in the animated epic The Good Dinosaur (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG, $39.99, 94 minutes).

Its welcomed arrival on the Blu-ray format allows families, and especially tweens, to bathe in some spectacular visuals starring anthropomorphic creatures.

Fans weaned on the “The Land Before Time” and the more recent “The Croods” will feel right at home with the adventure starring a young Apatosaurus named Arlo and dog-like boy referred to as Spot.

The story explores what happens when an asteroid that should have spelled doom for the dinosaurs missed hitting the planet and resulted in the majestic creatures not only becoming quite talkative and entrepreneurial but also coexisting with early man.

Specifically, this bizarre ecosystem features carnivores such as Butch the Tyrannosaurus Rex (bellowed by actor Sam Elliott) and his son and daughter cattle ranching, packs of raptors acting as razor-toothed rustlers and the plant eaters such as Arlo and his family farming crops.

The action takes viewers on the life’s struggle of the perpetually frightened Arlo who must grow up quickly after being literally washed away from his family during a storm.

Although the slightly derivative tale, with a tip of a 10-gallon hat to the Western movie genre, never attains the complex emotional heights of “Inside Out” or “Up,” it offers themes about family, friendship, teamwork and conquering fear.

Unfortunately, the story becomes almost secondary to the visuals clearly displayed within the digital transfer that really immerse viewers into the finely detailed, near three-dimensional landscapes and gorgeous color schemes.

It’s simply stunning to watch a field illuminated by an army of fireflies, a storm literally ripping dirt from the ground, water glistening over rock formations that distort their shapes, and clouds briskly moving across a sun-backed sky with beams of light accentuating the beauty of majestic mountaintops.

Furthermore, it looks like the animators spent such an enormous amount of time crafting realistic backgrounds in the grandest of National Geographic homages that the character designs can’t compete. The creatures end up looking like beautifully painted, animated maquettes.

It’s worth noting to parental units that “The Good Dinosaur” has a more mature side.

A creature will rip the head off of a living bug or eat a furry friend. Arlo and Spot munch on fruit that gives them a scary psychedelic trip. Butch pulls no punches when discussing his brutal encounter with an army of crocodiles. And, a band of Pterodactyls might be considered terrifying to the younger viewer.

In addition to the high-definition movie, the Blu-ray offers a decent supply of extras to appeal to budding animators and fans of the effort.

Best of the bunch has first-time director Peter Sohn with his Pixar teammates Kelsey Mann (story supervisor), Mike Venturini (animation supervisor), Sharon Calahan (director of photography and lighting) and Sanjay Bakshi (supervising technical director) delivering an information-packed optional commentary track deconstructing the entire production.

Often, Mr. Sohn asks questions of his creators as they cover transforming story concepts into animation, breaking down the plot points, building realistic environments and exploring character movements and personalities.

Next, a collection of featurettes offers standard fare such as 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes production details and interviews with animators, but it even goes so far as briefly explaining how the dinosaurs in the movie differ from their real counterparts.

Also worth watching is a team-building exercise where Pixar staff compete with each other to build dinosaur models using junk accumulated at the studio, and a segment showing some of the staff visit a working cattle ranch to inspire their designs for the T-Rex family.

Finally, the disc includes the 7-minute, Academy Award-nominated short “Sanjay’s Super Team,” showcasing a mix of animated styles through a story about a young boy stuck in the midst of a battle with Hindu gods.

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