By James Porter
Don Bluth. The name alone brings to mind many an animated classic, especially in the 80s, when he made some of his most memorable works of art. Of course, when thinking of his work, both All Dogs Go to Heaven and An American Tale spring immediately to mind. Both are timeless classics of course and worthy of their positions in cinematic history. However, for me, it’s different. For me, there is only one Bluth movie that I will always love the most. One that will always have a special place in my heart, mainly as it was the first of his movies I owned as a child. That movie is his 1988 heart-warming thing of beauty and heart, The Land Before Time.
This movie, much like Don Bluth’s other tales, is one of heart, hardship, togetherness, and in this case, overcoming differences and cultural xenophobia to work together. Indeed, in this story, we follow Littlefoot The Longneck (apatosaurus, played by Gabriel Damon), a young dinosaur who gets separated from his herd whilst traveling to a place known as The Great Valley, a land replete with green food (leaves) for the dinosaurs to live on indefinitely. Along the way, he comes in contact with other young dinos of different species, Cera The Threehorn (triceratops, played by Candace Hutson), Ducky The Beakmouth (saurolophus, played by the late Judith Barsi), Petrie The Flyer (pteranodon, played by Will Ryan), and the recently-hatched Spike The Spiketail (stegosaurus), all of whom are also searching for the valley in question. As they journey together, they face many hardships in the form of lack of food, a struggle for power amongst the group, speciesism (the dinosaurs in this movie discourage interacting with other dinosaurs outside their species), and the dreaded Sharptooth (Tyrannosaurus, played by Frank Welker).
This is a true Don Bluth film. Everything you expect in a Don Bluth film, you will find here. It’s got characters both likeable and unlikeable, suspenseful action scenes, enjoyable happy scenes, tear-jerking sad scenes, heart-warming scenes of togetherness, and of course Don Bluth’s signature animation style, which I can rightfully assume you will recognize straight away. I just wish this was as recognizable as two certain other Bluth films.
But that aside, The Land Before Time remains a Don Bluth classic that’s not to be missed. An American Tale and All Dogs Go to Heaven may be the most recognizable Don Bluth films, but that doesn’t mean this one deserve its own props. There were many more Land Before Time films that followed, but I think we can all agree they do not and won’t ever compare to the original. The original is a classic, a work of art, a thing of beauty that anybody will enjoy. I certainly enjoyed this when I was young. Heck, I even own it on VHS, in its original packaging, which, in my opinion, is the ONLY way to see this movie. However, if you feel otherwise, it’s also on DVD. So if you haven’t seen it . . . what’re you waiting for? You’ve got a Don Bluth film to go and watch.
Watch The Land Before Time movie trailer: