When I was a kid I loved dinosaurs and fittingly so, my favorite movie was ‘The Land Before Time.’
There’s about 12 cheesy sequels to this film, but I’m talking about the first one, with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg at the helm.
Growing up, our family had a small pile of VHS tapes to choose from and, (from what I remember) we’d watch this movie every damn weekend. I knew every line from all the characters, especially my favorite little Saurolophus-aka-Ducky, “Yep Yep Yep!”
Then in my early teens I got too cool for cartoons and never watched it again…until this past weekend on a cold and snowy night at age 35.
I thought I’d watch a few minutes for the sake of nostalgia, I wanted to be reconnected to the happy feelings the movie gave me as a boy. Well, those five cute dinos sucked me in and 35 year old Ryan was just as riveted as 10 year old Ryan once was.
This time however, I picked up on a few broader themes that I had never thought about before.
Overcoming loss: Little-foot’s sweet long neck mother gets roughed up by Sharp-tooth only 18 minutes into the movie and as she’s slowly dying in the rain, she gives her boy one last piece of advice, “Let your heart guide you, It whispers, so listen closely.” Little-foot immediately falls into a depression, blaming his mother’s death on himself. Luckily though he bumbles into a big ol’ friendly Dinosaur who sets him straight. “She’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you, in a way, you’ll never be apart.”
From here on out, Little-foot has a fire in his step as he navigates a drought ridden wasteland en route to the luscious Great Valley.
Interracial Dino love: A three-horn, a long neck, a flier, a big mouth and a spike tail form the greatest Dino gang in the history of the world! The always positive and open minded Little-foot sees the value in working together, even if different Dino species aren’t supposed to mix. He first he comes across is Cera and she kinda sucks. She’s bossy, stubborn and a total pain in the ass. She’s been brainwashed by her close minded father who earlier in the film tells her that three-horns (Triceratops) don’t play with long necks (Brontosaurus).
Well Little-foot doesn’t care about this notion of segregation and after lots of convincing, Cera learns the value in sticking together…but she still sucks.
Not taking the easy way: As the gang makes their way toward the Great Valley, they get sidetracked by negativity (caused by stupid Cera leading them astray and consequently having to save her ass over and over). Little-foot, always the positive trooper that he his, keeps the team together, proclaiming that the easy way (Cera’s idea), is the wrong way. To find the Great Valley and never ending supply of tree stars, (yummy leaves) they must stick to his plan and go right through the heart of some gnarly terrain—but most importantly, they must utilize all their unique talents and stick together.
Overcoming Fear: You can’t have a dinosaur movie without a big bad T-Rex and in this movie, Sharp-tooth is the villain. He’s the underlying threat throughout their journey–as well as earthquakes, volcanoes, tar pits and severe lack of food. This unrelenting bunch battle through it all and devise a plan to get rid of Sharptooth once and for all.
They are motivated by their undying will to be reunited with their parents in the Great Valley. *A sub plot of overcoming fear is Petrie learning how to fly (he’s a flyer but a total wuss). His buddies give him endless positive reinforcement but he’s too scared to flap those wings.
However, as with any happily ending Hollywood movie, he musters up all his courage during the battle royal with Sharp-tooth and kicks some serious butt.
They fight though all sorts of battles to reach the Great Valley. Self doubt, difficult team dynamics, an ever changing Eco-system causing a lack of food, bad guys, broken hearts, exhaustion—hey, this sounds like real life!
Now where can I get a Land Before Time Lunchbox? Yep Yep Yep!
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Editor: Bryonie Wise