Directed by: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale | 87 minutes | animation, action, family | Original Voice Cast: John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Tiya Sircar, Skyler Stone, Charlie Rowe, Angourie Rice, Michael Leone | Dutch voice cast: Johnny Kraaijkamp jr., Freek Vonk, Georgina Verbaan
Since paleontological science began to develop in earnest during the nineteenth century and more and more remains of prehistoric giants were unearthed by fossil hunters such as the legendary American ruffs Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh (who disliked each other’s eyes and had a violent fought in competition for the best and most beautiful finds), dinosaurs can already count on the warm interest of a wide audience. Children in particular are often immensely fascinated by the prehistoric giants, animals that defy the imagination and are barely comparable in size and appearance to most modern life forms.
Film and television makers have also known for a while that dinosaurs are potential gold mines, which has already resulted in quite a few films and series of often varying quality. One of the greatest dinosaur productions of all time is the BBC series “Walking with Dinosaurs”, a visually stunning documentary series that first aired in 1999. Although the film “Walking with Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie” carries the same title as the renowned series, the print is still largely based on a different target group. Walking with Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie is primarily a family film, complete with talking dinosaurs, a prehistoric bird as a narrator, a love story and a modest dose of tenderness and drama. The print is built around the protagonist Patchi, a young Pachyrhinosaurus who has to overcome a number of setbacks and challenges on his way to adulthood. He has a lot to do with his self-confident macho brother Scowler, who yearns for a future leadership role, but there are also constant dangers lurking in the form of predatory dinosaurs such as the great Gorgosaurus, flying predatory reptiles (pterosaurs) and the small but oh so intelligent Troodon.
Visually, “Walking with Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie” looks absolutely fantastic. Obviously, a great deal of time and attention has gone into the dinosaurs’ appearance. The prehistoric creatures brought to life with the help of computer models look so lifelike that you can see the muscles of the animals moving under the skin. Of course, the colors and shape of the scales and feathers that covered most of the dino skins is always a guess, but all the dinosaurs in Walking with Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie certainly look credible. Many of the appearances of the prehistoric protagonists are derived in part from contemporary examples from the animal world, such as the pheasant-like coloring of the bird-like Hesperonychus and the lizard-like appearance of the carnivorous Gorgosaurus. The most impressive scenes are the parts where we see the gigantic dinosaur herds traveling in a very realistic way through the impressive looking landscapes of prehistoric North America. In this case, the three-dimensional approach clearly enhances the overwhelming effect of the images.
While “Walking with Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie” will visually appeal to people of various age groups, the story is primarily aimed at children. Certainly the Dutch version, including Johnny Kraaijkamp jr. As the speaking Alexornis, Freek Vonk as the popular science voice-over and Georgina Verbaan as Patchi’s dinoliefje, is sometimes quite childish and marketing-wise mainly aimed at boys and their parents. That in itself does not have to be a problem, but the brand name “Walking with Dinosaurs” and the trailer may raise other expectations. Moreover, the film also contains a few moments – think for example of the scene in which Patchi’s parents are attacked by a couple of Gorgosaurs – that can be a bit scary for the smaller spectators in the room. Still, “Walking with Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie” is by and large a fun family movie and a beautiful cross-fertilization of technology and entertainment, enriched with a touch of science.