The Land Before Time

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a time overlapping the Jurassic Period and Cretaceous Period, a drought is occurring and several herds of dinosaurs seek an oasis known as the “Great Valley”. Among these, a diminished “Longneck” herd gives birth to a single baby, named Littlefoot (Gabriel Damon). Years later, Littlefoot plays with Cera (Candace Hutson), a “Three-horn”, who was trying to smash a beetle until her father (Burke Byrnes) intervenes; whereupon Littlefoot’s mother (Helen Shaver) names the different kinds of dinosaurs: “Three-horns”, “Spiketails”, “Big Mouths”, and “Flyers” and states that each has historically remained apart. That night, as Littlefoot follows a “Hopper”, he encounters Cera again, and they play together briefly until a “Sharptooth” attacks. He almost has them, before Littlefoot’s mother comes to their rescue. During their escape, she suffers severe back and neck injuries from the Sharptooth’s teeth and claws. At that same time, an “earthshake” opens a deep ravine that swallows up the Sharptooth and divides Littlefoot and Cera from their herds. Littlefoot finds his dying mother, and receives her advice in favor of his intuition. Depressed and confused, Littlefoot meets an old Scolosaurus named Rooter (Pat Hingle), who consoles him upon learning of his mother’s death. Littlefoot later hears his mother’s voice guiding him to follow the “bright circle” past the “great rock that looks like a longneck” and then past the “mountains that burn” to the Great Valley. On his journey (now all by himself), Littlefoot meets Cera once again and tries to get her to join him, but she refuses.

Later, Littlefoot is accompanied by a young “Bigmouth/Swimmer” named Ducky (Judith Barsi), whose company bears him out of his depression. Soon after, they meet an aerophobic “Flyer” named Petrie (Will Ryan). Cera, who is attempting to find her own kind, finds the unconscious Sharptooth inside the ravine. Thinking he is dead, Cera harasses him, during which she mistakenly wakes him up, and flees. She later bumps into Littlefoot, Ducky, and Petrie, and tells them that the Sharptooth is alive; although Littlefoot does not believe her. She then describes her encounter (exaggerating her bravery), during which she accidentally flings Ducky into the air and discovers a hatchling “Spiketail”, whom she names Spike and brings him into the group. Seeking the Great Valley, they discover a cluster of trees, which is abruptly depleted by a herd of Diplodocus. Searching for remaining growth, they discover one tree still with leaves, and obtain food by stacking up atop each other and pulling the leaves down. Cera remains aloof; but at nightfall, everyone including herself gravitates to Littlefoot’s side for warmth and companionship. The next morning, they are attacked by Sharptooth, but escape through a cave-tunnel too small to admit him. Beyond this, they discover the Longneck-shaped monolith mentioned by Littlefoot’s mother, and later a string of “mountains that burn”. Cera grows impatient of the seemingly resultless trip and decides to go another way, but Littlefoot refuses, telling her the way she is going is wrong and when Cera refuses to retract an insult about Littlefoot’s mother (whom he mentioned to back his claim), a fight between the two ensues causing a schism in the travelling party whereby Littlefoot continues in the direction he was told, while the others follow Cera. When Ducky and Spike become endangered by lava and Petrie gets stuck in a tar pit, Littlefoot rescues them; later to find Cera harassed by a small territorial herd of “Boneheads”, and, having been coated in tar, scare them away. Ashamed of her fear and reluctant to admit her mistake, Cera leaves them in tears. Later, while crossing a pond, Petrie discovers the Sharptooth nearby. Tired of the Sharptooth stalking them and determined to avenge his mother, Littlefoot plots to lure him into the water beneath a nearby boulder, intending to drown him. As Ducky (being used as bait) lures Sharptooth to the water, Littlefoot and Spike are having trouble moving the boulder. During the proceeding struggle, a draft from Sharptooth’s nostrils enables Petrie to flight. Sharptooth leaps onto the boulder and the plan nearly fails until Cera reunites with the group, allowing Littlefoot and his friends to push both Sharptooth, Petrie and the boulder into the water below, momentarily taking Petrie down with him; but he later emerges unharmed.

Littlefoot, alone, follows a cloud resembling his mother to the Great Valley, there to be joined by the others. Upon arrival, Petrie impresses his family with his newfound flight, while Ducky introduces Spike to her family, who adopt him. Cera reunites with her father and Littlefoot rejoins his grandparents. Cera then calls for Littlefoot to play. They join their friends at the top of a hill and embrace each other in a group hug.


I was just talking to my friend, Kasey, about how I had never seen The Land Before Time. Being an 80s kid, you would think that I’d have seen it, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember why I passed it over. I would say it was because it was a non-Disney animated film, but this was before I became a Disney freak and around the same time All Dogs Go to Heaven, An American Tail, and The Adventures of the American Rabbit were all released, among a few others. Oh well, I guess better late than never, right?

What is this about?

When an earth-shattering quake kills both of his parents, a young brontosaurus named Littlefoot teams with other orphaned dinosaurs to survive. Learning to work together, the youngsters embark on a quest for the legendary Great Valley — a place where their species can thrive among plentiful resources. Along the way, the orphans evade sharp-toothed T-Rexes, tar pits and other dangers — but they continue to hold onto hope.

What did I like?

Innocence lost. Back in the day when this was released, there was an obvious line drawn in the sand, if you will, between animated films (which were considered kiddie flicks) and everything else. Today, our animated films aren’t afforded that luxury because studios want jokes in there that parents and/or older sibling will enjoy. Why else were the Shrek films so, for lack of a better word, vulgar? Watching this flick, though, I was taken back to a time when, to borrow a popular tagline from Chuck. E. Cheese, “a kid can be a kid.” This is hands down one of the purest films I’ve ever seen and it truly is a shame that we probably will never see one like it again.

Differences. A theme that is touched on very early in the film is that of differences, which could very easily be translated into racism. The characters of Cera and Littlefoot are innocently playing and then are told that they shouldn’t be doing so because “they should only play with their kind [sic].” There is a scene in Fox and the Hound that is very similar, and just as impactful. Thank goodness both films allow their characters to come to their senses and show the world the way it should act…if only they would pay attention.

Animation. In this day and age where everything is either computer animated or some weird form of anime, I found it refreshing to watch a film that was hand-drawn, an art form that truly needs to start its comeback ASAP! Is this the best in terms of animation and art direction? No, but for a non-Disney film, it is pretty damn good!

What didn’t I like?

Mama. What do cartoonists have against parents? Specifically mothers? A couple of prime examples are Mufasa and Bambi’s mother. Both were killed for no other purpose than to add “emotional depth” to the stories. As sad as those were, I’m sure if I were to take a poll, a overwhelmig amount of people (more than likely females) would say Dumbo’s mother being put in solitary was even worse. Well, not so much her incarceration, but rather the song, “Baby Mine”. This film has its own “down with the parents” moment, as Littlefoot’s mom gets killed protecting him from the “sharptooth”. An act of bravery that is up with Obi-Wan sacrificing himself so that Luke and the others could get away in Star Wars, but I can’t help but feel it wasn’t really necessary, in terms of story.

Rooter. After the death of his mother, Littlefoot is obviously distraught. Wouldn’t you be? In his mourning, he is stumbled upon by an old, and apparently wise, dinosaur, Rooter. In the short time he was on the screen, he had my attention. I wonder why we didn’t get more of him? I guess they wanted to develop the younger characters and set up their friendship. Still, he would have made a great asset.

Sequels. This was released in 1988. I think they churned out a couple of sequels and a TV series after it. That was fine and dandy, but after a bit of a break, they just kept coming and getting more and more diluted. Here it is 2012 and I think we’re on #20 or so. I believe it is still the same corps of characters, but the film itself doesn’t resemble this anymore than an offensive lineman resembles a ballerina!

A good time can be had by the whole family when watching The Land Before Time. For those of us without families, then it just a way to go back to being a kid for about an hour. This is just one of those films that you watch and then want to see immediately over again. True to form for kids movies it makes you laugh and then tugs at your heart-strings the next minute. I highly recommend it you everyone as one of the films you should watch before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars


2 Responses to “The Land Before Time”

  1. […] thing we know there are about 50 sequels that no one cares about. Seriously, all those sequels to The Land Before Time did was tarnish the legacy of the original…and I believe they are still making those […]

  2. […] areas. If you go by the movies, that is all they seem to do. Think about the plots of Ice Age and The Land Before Time, as well as their sequels. These magnificent creatures deserve something better when they are put […]

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