Two days ago I took my sister to see The Good Dinosaur. Just a nice Disney movie, I thought. No big deal.
If you’ve seen the movie or read about it in articles like this one, you’ll already know how gut-wrenchingly sad it is. Can I just say, I was not ready for that kind of emotional trauma on a Tuesday afternoon. For those who haven’t seen it, let’s just say it’s the saddest thing from Disney since The Lion King.
But amid all the concerned mothers warning their friends about taking their kids to see it; surrounded by the misery and the outrage at such an unexpectedly tragic kids film; I realised that no one is giving this movie the credit it deserves.
Yes, the film is sad. Yes, I teared up and my sister had to hold my hand for support. We already know all of this. But despite that, the movie had a few great themes that I thought would be valuable to anyone.
*Warning: spoilers ahead.*
Protagonist Arlo is a worrier from birth. Prone to fly into a panic at a moments notice, it’s easy for his family to laugh at him. But as a member of the audience, I was encouraged to laugh with him – to empathise – and this is such an important lesson to teach kids. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be nervous and worried and uncertain about things. Fear is not unnatural or something to be ashamed of. This movie teaches kids how to be okay with their fear – and that courage is not an absence of fear but a mastery of it. Courage is doing the right thing, despite being afraid.
When he loses his dad chasing after Spot, Arlo is devastated – any kid would be. So when he sees Spot again, he’s ready for someone to blame. Vengeance is the first thing on his mind, until Spot helps him through some elemental struggles, trying to win his friendship. Arlo doesn’t want to forgive Spot, maybe because he doesn’t want to forget his dad, but he comes to the realisation that what happened was an accident, and that Spot isn’t to blame. Kids should learn that anger and grief are perfectly okay feelings to have, but that at the end of the day, to have a friend is better than to have an enemy, and forgiving someone is anything but weak.
As Spot and Arlo begin their journey, there is some tension – Arlo is unsure of whether to place his trust in Spot. But together, they brave a disturbing collection of oddly-named forest creatures; a pack of hungry carnivorous birds with an unhealthy interest in the weather; three T-Rex’s with Southern accents; and some hippie velociraptors. They share the heartbreaking truths about their families and dance together through a field of fireflies. Arlo does the unimaginable – braves his fear of storms and the river to save Spot. “He’s my friend,” he says. “I love him.” Kids need to know that bonds as close as this one should be treasured – and expressing love and affection for your friends is awesome.
If you don’t want to deal with your child (and yourself) bawling in the cinema, wait until this film comes out on DVD; but don’t fool yourself into avoiding this movie altogether. Sandwiched between incredible animation and a stellar musical score is a beautiful film that everyone can learn from. The Good Dinosaur is a masterstroke from Disney Pixar – don’t miss it.