We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story
"Overall, can I recommend this film? No, not really. It's not offensively bad, there's just not much to get out of it. Even if you're a big fan of dinosaurs like me, there are much better alternatives out there. As here, the dinosaurs just don't feel like dinosaurs. Maybe that's why I still haven't been able to bring myself to watch films like The Good Dinosaur. They just look too goofy and behave too humanlike. It's almost like the 1998 Godzilla film, where they weren't interested in the monster, just it's marketability. And it feels the same here. They weren't interested in the dinosaurs, just trying to capitalize off them. Perhaps some younger audiences will enjoy it enough, but as for general, I'd say skip. Maybe for this one they shouldn't have come back, and rather, stayed in the past."— Steve Reviews
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story is a 1993 American animated science fiction adventure film. Produced by Amblimation, Steven Spielberg's animation studio, directed by Simon Wells, distributed by Universal Pictures, and originally released to theaters on November 24, 1993 for the United States. It was based on the 1987 Hudson Talbott children's book of the same name, which was narrated from the perspective of the main character, a Tyrannosaurus rex named Rex. At the time, the movie was fairly received, but nowadays, critics have taken a disliking to this movie. Although, that doesn't stop some people from liking this movie.
The film opens with a trio of young bluebirds harassing their youngest sibling, Buster (Blaze Berdahl). As Buster leaves his family, he meets an intelligent orange T. Rex named Rex (John Goodman) playing golf. He explains to Buster that he was once a ravaging dinosaur, and proceeds to tell the story of how he came to become what he is today. 65 million years in the past in Cretaceous Montana, Rex was a savage and frightening creature who terrorized smaller dinosaurs. As he is seen chasing a Thescelosaurus, his rampage is interrupted when a futuristic aircraft arrives, and he is then greeted by a small green alien-like creature named Vorb (Jay Leno) who lures him into the craft and force-feeds him "Brain Grain", a cereal that increases a creature's intelligence. Rex is given his name and introduced to other dinosaurs that have been fed Brain Grain: Dweeb the green Parasaurolophus (Charles Fleischer), Woog the blue Triceratops (Rene LeVant), and Elsa the purple Pteranodon (Felicity Kendal), who develops an immediate crush on Rex. Later, they meet Captain Neweyes (Walter Cronkite), the inventor of the cereal and pilot of the aircraft, who then reveals his goal of allowing the children of the present time to see real dinosaurs, fulfilling their biggest wishes. He informs them that there are two people to watch for: Dr. Julia Bleeb (Julia Child), a scientist from the Museum of Natural History who will aid the dinosaurs, and Professor Screweyes, Neweyes' insane brother. He instructs them to find Bleeb and avoid Screweyes.
Neweyes drops the dinosaurs off at the East River in 1993, where they meet a young boy named Louie (Joey Shea), who plans on running away to join the circus. Upon reaching New York City, Louie realizes that the citizens would panic if they saw live dinosaurs and, with the help of Elsa, flies over the city in search of a good hiding place. During the flight, Louie comes across a girl named Cecilia (Yeardley Smith), who was crying; she explains that her parents are hardly around (saying that her father is into business, and her mother is more of a socialite). Louie convinces Cecilia to abandon her home and introduces her to the dinosaurs (Louie and Cecilia then quickly develop an infatuation for each other).
When the dinosaurs explain their goal of getting to the Museum of Natural History, Louie decides to disguise them as floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. During the parade, Rex hears all the children wishing to see real dinosaurs, so he starts to sing "Roll Back the Rock (To the Dawn of Time)" (the movie's theme song). When he sees the Apatosaurus balloon coming out in the parade, however, Rex mistakes it for being real and handshakes it too tight with his claws, causing its air sealer to pop open. The balloon runs out of air and falls on the dinosaurs, who are otherwise unharmed. When the audience realizes that live dinosaurs are among them, they fly into a panic. The local authorities are called in to stop the dinosaurs, resulting in a slapstick-filled chase scene.
As the dinosaurs lose the police, Louie and Cecilia venture to Central Park, where Professor Screweyes (Kenneth Mars) is running his "Eccentric Circus". They meet Professor Screweyes and cite their desire to join his circus. As they sign a contract, the dinosaurs arrive and try to save them. Screweyes, upon meeting the dinosaurs, explains that he delights in scaring people and believes that the dinosaurs would make a great addition to his circus. He then reveals his very own "Brain Drain", pills that are the polar opposite of his brother's Brain Grain. He demonstrates the Brain Drain on the two children, devolving them into chimpanzees; however, he makes the dinosaurs a deal: if the dinosaurs consume the pills and join his circus, he'd destroy the contract and release Louie and Cecilia; reluctantly and sadly, the dinosaurs accept the offer.
Believing that his friendship with Louie and Cecilia would be lost, Rex, reverting them to their human selves (and thus wearing off the effects of the Brain Drain), tells the two to remember him.
As the kids awake the next morning, they are greeted by a circus clown named Stubbs (Martin Short). Upon seeing the dinosaurs returned to their natural vicious states, Louie and Cecilia, with the help of Stubbs, plan to sneak into the night's show and save the dinosaurs. Professor Screweyes claims he can control the now-wild Rex, which he succeeds in doing by hypnotizing him. Everyone watching the show gets frightened during the performance, and many run away. However, a crow accidentally activates flare lights, breaking Rex out of the trance and causing the hypnotic effect to end. The savage Rex realizes he has been tricked, becomes enraged, and tries to attack Screweyes. However, Louie steps in and desperately tells Rex that killing Screweyes will not be worth it; these impassioned pleas serve to return the dinosaurs to their friendly natures. Just then, Captain Neweyes arrives in his aircraft and congratulates Louie and Cecilia, who proceeds to kiss in front of a whole crowd of people; simultaneously, Elsa tells Rex her true feelings towards him, possibly sparking a relationship between the two. After Stubbs arrives to resign from Professor Screweyes's employ (which includes him giving him back most of his belongings with comedic results), Neweyes, Louie, Cecilia, and the dinosaurs board the aircraft, leaving Screweyes to be swarmed upon by the crows. When the crows take off, all that is left of Screweyes is his fake eye.
The dinosaurs spend the rest of their days in the Museum of Natural History, allowing children to see live dinosaurs, fulfilling their wishes. Meanwhile, Louie and Cecilia reconcile with their respective parents, and the two become a couple.
Rex returns Buster to his family before returning to the Museum of National History, humming the movie's theme song to himself.
- The main problem with the film is that the characters are often unlikeable and even annoying. And even the ones that aren't still more often than not have the issue of being incredibly underdeveloped.
- Louie is not just an uninteresting character, but he's also rather unpleasant as well. At first, he seems to have a few distinctive quirks like his quick-thinking and inventing abilities, but neither of them is utilized at any point in the film and he just becomes a generic "tough guy wannabe". His reason for running away from his family is also incredibly unsympathetic, as he feels that they're too cuddly and affectionate towards him. And he and Cecilia end up signing a contract to join an obviously evil circus with the leader who clearly planning something sinister towards them, but they never pick any of that up.
- Cecilia does admittedly have an interesting backstory of how she deals with a neglectful family who never has enough time for her, but it's also never explored and simply solved offscreen (as revealed at the very end of the movie). And it seems like she and Louie would have some sort of rivalry or conflict due to the two of them running away from their families for completely different reasons, but they don't. On the contrary, the entire character seems to just be following Louie around, to the point where she goes along with him in signing the contract to the quite clearly evil circus (which ends with the two of them being turned into monkeys).
- The dinosaurs have little to no actual personality apart from being overwhelmingly friendly. Not to mention how they're almost the same in terms of personality with almost no traits they have to distinguish themselves from one another in terms of it. It would've been cool if they had different personalities to match their species' (i.e., Dweeb, who's a herbivore, being anxious and reclusive, Elsa being arrogant and looking down on land creatures due to her abilities to fly, Rex being more aggressive or at least abrasive or brash due to his status as a carnivore, Rex and Woog being rivals due to being a carnivore and herbivore respectively), but they've never given a single real personality trait other than "being nice". And them giving themselves up to Dr. Screweyes to save Louie and Cecilia in the climax was meant to be treated as a heroic sacrifice, but it's incredibly hard to take seriously given the fact that they had barely known each other and were just acting like best friends immediately.
- Professor Screweyes, the main antagonist, may just have the most wasted potential in the movie (and that's really saying a lot). As there are many hints during the movie that he has some sort of tragic backstory that led to him becoming a villain, as well as losing his eye. And that he now uses fear to distract himself from his own issues by using it to manipulate others. And it also seems like he would be getting a redemption arc, particularly during the scene where the crowd is cheering and celebrating friendship over fear and make him realize that fear shouldn't be able to control him as a person. But NOPE! Instead, not only does he get absolutely zero backstory or explanation on how he lost his eye, but he simply goes back to his evil ways even after witnessing the crowd cheering only to then be seemingly eaten alive by crows.
- Poorly-written script.
- It overuses making the camera do close-ups on the characters' eyes.
- While Rex and the other dinosaurs are the center characters of the film, they aren't the main characters as they are more of the supportive characters. The real main characters are Louie and Cecilia, both of whom don't even appear until later on in the film.
- There are low-quality scenes such as Stubbs giving Professor Screweyes almost all of his belongings that drag on way too long and an unconvincing scene of Rex singing.
- A part of the film re-uses animation of Vorb telling the captain to go.
- The idea of a story about dinosaurs going forth in time to make children happy is utterly ridiculous. It makes no sense, given how the chances that out of all things that would be brought to kids to grant their wishes, dinosaurs would be the one is simply nonsensical. Sure, which-granting stories have been around for ages (e.g., Aladdin (1992)) and continue to be used in media (e.g., Wish Dragon), but having those stories being centered around wishes like these being granted is completely and utterly nonsensical.
- It implies that kids only like dinosaurs if they get turned into cute, cuddly Barney rip-offs, whereas a major reason as to why dinosaurs are popular with kids is because they can be big and scary.
- Not to mention how the dinosaur designs aren't just ridiculously cartoony, but also lack major detail or creativity, especially when compared to their designs before eating the brain grain which looks a lot cooler. Making them look less like actual dinosaurs and more like walking cartoons. And they also feel very out of place given the mostly realistic settings of the film.
- The crows swarming over Screweyes and leaving his screw behind is rather unsettling, and it is not really clear what they do to him, nor is his relationship to them really explained.
- There's quite a major plot hole that Buster (the little bird Rex tells his story to) would even question the fact that he is interacting with an animal intelligent enough to speak and play golf (albeit one believed to be a member of an extinct reptilian species), considering he and his family also somehow have the ability to speak. While Rex explains very early on how his own humanistic abilities came to be - by consuming a cereal that is designed and later shown to increase intelligence, personality, and overall development in animals - those of the little bird remain unexplained throughout the entire film. Where were some of that cereal added to the bird feeders in Central Park offscreen? There's no additional explanation as to how Rex can communicate with another animal that otherwise is not known to have the same abilities.
- A more minor example, but in the scene after the parade which has the dinosaurs freely singing and dancing during it, the entire city suddenly realizes that there are real dinosaurs in the middle of their streets and begin to panic. Given how they had all previously been singing and dancing along with them, the fact that they now all of the sudden notice them after the song is over is ridiculous. Was it because they were too busy taking part in the parade and distracted? Because even then, it's still impossible that none of them would notice the dinosaurs in the middle of their city.
- There are a few animation errors like in the scene when one of the punk teenagers taunts Louie, Cecilia cries out in fear but her mouth doesn't move.
- Shameful product placements. The advertisement for Jurassic Park (which was released the same year) in the Times Square scene also doesn't help.
- There's a major error with regards to Woog and Dweeb in this movie. Both of these dinosaurs were herbivores, yet when they first appear in the film, they're eating hot dogs, which are essentially meat.
- Someone mistakenly describes Dweeb as an Apatosaurus, even though he is in fact a Parasaurolophus.
- It uses the typical "the power of love can solve everything" cliché in the climax when Louie gives a speech to Rex about how you don't have to pretend to be a tough guy to hide your insecurities and it causes the effects of the Brain Drain pill to be undone on Rex (not to mention how the other dinosaurs are simply turned back with hugs). As it all makes absolutely no sense, as unlike most cases of events like this in media, Rex being reverted to his feral state wasn't caused by anything magic-related, but rather science-related. As most of the time when this trope occurs, the thing that the love of the other character would be able to overcome is something magical, and therefore doesn't have any definitive boundaries apart from what the laws of the story say they can do. The same cannot be said for when that thing is something to do with science instead. Not to mention how outright stupid it is.
- Not only that, but Rex had never once had an issue with masquerading as a tough guy to hide his fears, as almost every moment in the movie portrays him as being extremely friendly (not to mention that, as Louie pointed out, he had no way of understanding him during the speech due to the Brain Grain's effects being reverted) and if anything, it was Louie who had that problem. And while it can be negotiated that it was simply the final step in Louie's character arc as he reflects upon his own insecurities and learns to overcome them and stop masking them instead by acting abrasive and rough, not only does he never show any other signs of having an actual character arc at any other moment in the film, but when Cecilia kisses him afterward he reacts with disgust. Meaning he didn't learn anything after all!
- The animation is great, with fluid movements, the character designs being detailed, and there are lots of vivid colors since it was animated by Amblimation, the studio behind An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
- Great lighting and camerawork.
- James Horner's score is pretty beautiful.
- The soundtrack is very nice and has a large number of emotional tracks (even if they're played during scenes that simply aren't themselves), and the musical number during the parade in the middle of the film was catchy.
- The voice acting is decent, such as John Goodman as Rex.
- There are a couple of funny scenes that make this film somewhat likable (like when Stubs quitting).
- Stubs and Captain Neweyes are both likable characters.
- Prof. Screweyes is a rather frightening villain with a neat design despite his massive amount of wasted potential.
- There was a deleted scene that showed how Professor Screweyes lost his eye, saying that it was punctured by a crow as a child when a berry fell into it. And ever since, he grew to believe that the world made no sense due to him not doing anything to deserve what happened to him. And that these events are what led him to taking advantage of the fears of those around him, including his own, in order to distance himself from his own fear. The scene overall makes him a much more sympathetic and complex character. But sadly, the scene was cut from the finished project due to it apparently being "too dark for a kids movie".
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story received fairly positive reviews by critics upon it's release. But as time went on, both critics and audiences alike began to give the movie more mixed-to-negative reviews. The film grossed $3.7 million on its opening weekend; due to bad weather across the country, the weekend was generally uneventful for films and had an overall gross of $105 million, 20–25% less than the 1992 Thanksgiving weekend gross of $135 million. In its second weekend, We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story grossed $1.5 million, a 60% decline. Its run ended with a total gross of $9.3 million, making it a box office bomb.
- Captain Neweyes' last line "And that's the way it is" is a reference to his voice actor, Walter Cronkite, who used it as a sign-off phrase on television. Years later, Walter Cronkite would voice Benjamin Franklin on the animated TV series Liberty's Kids.
- As the dinosaurs dance around Times Square, it is possible to see a theatre marquee advertising Jurassic Park (1993), which was directed by executive producer Steven Spielberg.
- The film was originally planned to be a TV special.
- A scene in which Prof. Screweyes cages and chains the dinosaurs was fully animated, but ultimately cut from the movie because it was too intense. Shots of it can still be seen in the original trailer.
- At the very beginning of the parade scene, a marching band is seen holding a banner that says "Arcadia High School Marching Band". Steven Spielberg attended Arcadia High School in Scottsdale, Arizona.