Parents have decided that The Good Dinosaur is 'too scary' for children, thanks to all the death, danger and 'drug taking'. But the animated dinosaur films of yesteryear were just as frightening
If the response of most reviewers and audience members is anything to go by, Pixar’s latest offering The Good Dinosaur is the perfect kid’s movie: tender, moving, and packed with adventure and danger.
Unsurprisingly, however, it’s already attracted the wrath of a small but vocal band of over-zealous parents, who have taken to social media to complain that the film, which is set in an alternate world in which the fatal meteorite never hits and dinosaurs co-exist with humans, is “too scary” for their children.
Their specific complaints? The deaths (the titular dinosaur Arlo and his human companion, Spot, must cope with the loss of close family members); the peril (Pixar’s prehistoric world is beautiful but deadly and filled with predators); and, er, the drug-taking.
“I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS MOVIE. There is a lot of death and violence. Overkill on the traumatic experiences that this dinosaur that is supposed to be a CHILD goes through,” raged one Facebook mum, in a post on the official Good Dinosaur page, run by Disney (who bought Pixar in 2006).
“The absolute kicker for me, where I was almost ENRAGED, was a scene where the dinosaur and the human child eat rotten, fermented fruit and act drunk at first, then start all out hallucinating,” she added.
“Drug references. Very BLATANT ones. In a CHILDREN'S MOVIE.”
Elsewhere, on Twitter, and on the somewhat optimistically named website Common Sense Media, where parents can exchange information about the content of films and offer advice to other families, similar views have been aired, alongside harrowing reports of young children “crying” in cinemas, and having to leave the film half way through. It’s only a matter of time before Paranormal Activity-style “audience reaction videos” start appearing on YouTube.
Obviously, I’m sympathetic to any traumatised under-fives, and agree that parents should assess the suitability of a film before letting their child watch it (my dad tried to show me A Clockwork Orange when I was 12, on the grounds that it was a “great piece of cinema” – I still haven’t fully recovered).
But I’m also a little shocked at just how sensitive some of these parents seem to be.
At the end of the day, while dinosaur movies are supposed to be good fun, they also need to have a frisson of danger. Most kids don’t like dinosaurs because they’re "cute”: they like them because they’re big, savage and bite-y, and because they live in a swampy, volcano-infested world, with death lurking around every corner.
As a dinosaur-obsessed five year old, my favourite dinosaur was the predatory Deinonychus: I used to draw pictures of it hacking into prey with its giant bloodstained “claw-toes”. A safe, predator-free dinosaur movie simply wouldn’t make sense.
In fact, 27 years ago, the very same parents now criticising The Good Dinosaur may well have been watching one of the best animated dinosaur movies of all time: 1988’s The Land Before Time.
Like The Good Dinosaur, The Land Before Time features a loveable sauropod hero (Littlefoot), who is separated from his family (in “an earth shake”), and must undertake an arduous journey to safety, following the “bright circle” past "the great rock that looks like a long neck” and "mountains that burn".
Crucially, however, like The Good Dinosaur, the film is absolutely packed with death, danger and destruction.
The initial earthquake is sudden and scary. But later on, things get seriously, soul-destroyingly dark, after Littlefoot’s mother is killed, defending her son from a predatory “sharp tooth”. Years later, watching the scene in which Littlefoot begs his dead mother to “wake up” is still a heartrending, sob-inducing experience.
There’s also a super-tense “is he dead?” moment that could have been taken straight out of a slasher movie (aside from the fact that it’s animated, and features a hungry T-Rex rather than a knife-wielding serial killer).
Despite these on-screen horrors, it’s pretty clear that the generation who watched The Land Before Time when they were young haven’t been traumatised for life.
In fact, in the wake of the recent Good Dinosaur furore, many older fans have been drawing comparions between the two movies, and sharing fond memories of the earlier film.
Perhaps, if the over-anxious parents of today remembered the dinosaur-movies of their own childhoods, they’d be a little more relaxed about the “scariness” of The Good Dinosaur.