MarzGurl Discusses The Land Before Time
February 5, 2011
MarzGurl's December of DisneyToon Studios- Part Five
MarzGurl: I am a fan of Don Bluth; specifically, I love Don Bluth animation.
(The poster for A Troll in Central Park is shown.)
MarzGurl (vo): I'm even a sucker that enjoys his movies when they're legitimately not really that good and everybody knows it.
(Footage from The Land Before Time is shown.)
MarzGurl (vo): I'm usually not the kind of person who thinks visuals should tell a story, but if you give me something animated by Don Bluth, you might at least have me fooled for a little while. I dare say some of Bluth's best work happened when I was my youngest and barely able to tell who the movies were actually animated by.
MarzGurl (vo): I'd seen movies like (The) Secret of NIMH and All Dogs Go to Heaven and An American Tail...
MarzGurl: But the first movie I can recall seeing and knowing and admiring the fact that it was done by Don Bluth was The Land Before Time.
(Stills from the aforementioned animated films are shown.)
MarzGurl (vo): And I mean, let's think about those other Bluth movies for a second here. They may have all been starring mice and dogs and all kinds of fuzzy animals and stuff, but much of the story being told was awfully dark and in many ways, kinda frightening, especially if the movies are being aimed at children. There's death and prejudice and all kinds of other things involved, but the point of these stories wasn't necessarily to scare anybody; Everybody just had to go through some kind of adversity, you know, many of the same adversities real people have to go through and then triumph over to attain your goal.
MarzGurl: And this movie, The Land Before Time, really is no exception. In fact, I think I may just hold it the dearest to my heart.
(Photos of Don Bluth, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.)
MarzGurl (vo): Not only was it animated by Bluth and his studios, but it was also executive produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
(Cuts to the poster for Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)
MarzGurl (vo): This, of course was during a time when all three of those developers still haven't gone completely insane.
(Photo of Tony Geiss is shown.)
MarzGurl (vo): One of the writers of this great story and a couple of other Don Bluth movies was Tony Geiss, who actually sadly passed away this past January.
MarzGurl (vo): Really, the movie is quite amazing; Who'd have thought that a cartoon about a bunch of dinosaurs could possibly not only be emotional, but also give some underlying lessons about life and friendship? I mean, cartoons often like to give us messages, but it's often so obvious, it's sickening. The Land Before Time didn't do that to me at all. At the beginning of the movie, we learn of a plight of the dinosaurs; something happens on the planet that caused an intense drought. Was it the Ice Age? Was it a giant meteor? I don't know, the movie doesn't try to explain it, but it does tell us that the plants are dying and so, too were the dinosaurs; and slowly, we're introduced to a colorful cast of characters, and I don't know about you, but each one of them kinda felt like a member of my own circle of friends when I was a kid. We have Cera, the threehorn, who's convinced that she's completely amazing in every way and doesn't require any help from anybody, especially not from outside her own kind. Then there's Ducky, who calls herself a big mouth, which she kinda is, I guess. She's really simple and a little bit annoying, and yet for some reason now that I'm older, I don't find her nearly as annoying as I did when I was a kid. She's just somewhat ditsy and aloof. Petrie is actually probably more annoying than Ducky, although I found him to be pretty funny when I was a kid. He's a flyer who can't fly and also has a difficult time speaking proper English. They stumble across Spike, a spiketail, obviously, straight out of his egg, so he doesn't yet speak, but he does have a huge appetite and good loyalty to his friends. But our main character truly is Littlefoot, the only longneck born to a herd of three, his mother and two grandparents. Littlefoot's mom tells him they're on a journey to go to the Great Valley, a place that is legendary for being completely lush and green with everything any leaf eater could ever need. She then hands him one of the only treestars for miles, a leaf formed in the shape of a star, and instructs him on how to get to the Great Valley. Basically, they have to follow the sun to the West everyday, look for a rock that looks like a longneck, and pass through a bunch of fiery volcanoes. Unfortunately, before they can get to any of these things, one night while Littlefoot and Cera are out playing, a T-Rex lovingly nicknamed Sharptooth comes and disrupts everything. This scene is easily one of the most frightening in the whole movie. Sharptooth frequently nearly makes everyone his meal; in fact, Littlefoot's mom even comes in to save the day, and we literally see Sharptooth remove a chunk of flesh from her back. As if that's not bad enough, the continent chooses this exact moment to go through a Pangaea-breaking earthquake which not only separates most of the characters from their families, but kills a number of creatures in the process. Look at that, this whole herd ends up going down in the collapse of this landmass! You think they got back up and continued their journey to the Great Valley? Fat chance! Even Sharptooth is among those lost in the earthquake, but Littlefoot's mother managed to rescue both Littlefoot and Cera just before they could get eaten or fall into the chasm...or both. This sadly is the last thing Littlefoot's mother gets to do, and we witness Littlefoot getting one last pep talk from his mom as she dies, which is just about the saddest thing in animation history. Littlefoot is then forever saddened by this and barely even finds the strength to continue on. There's huge lengths of time where he's crying over her death, sitting all alone, sighing, not really feeling any motivation to go to the Great Valley. Of course, who can really blame him? He's told not to make friends with other kinds of dinosaurs, so the only other dinosaurs he ever got to hang out with were his mom and his grandparents, and his grandparents certainly weren't very talkative. In fact, I think the only thing Littlefoot ever hears out of them is laughing at him.
(Littlefoot's grandparents giggle.)
MarzGurl (vo): What's weird is that Littlefoot stumbles across this weird old guy named Rooter for a total of maybe 2 minutes tops. Funny how you sure do sound an awful lot like our narrator.
Rooter: What's your problem? You're not hurt.
Narrator (Pat Hingle): In the time of the dinosaurs.
MarzGurl (vo): So Littlefoot essentially tells Rooter his mom died and Rooter gives Littlefoot some nice life lesson advice.
Rooter: Oh, it's not your fault. It's not your mother's fault.
MarzGurl (vo): And then he just sorta takes off; He doesn't make sure Littlefoot is okay or anything, he just spouts old timer advice and goes about his business. That was...kinda weird. Littlefoot runs into all kinds of new friends, but Cera is still in this mind frame of sticking with her own kind and refuses to get help from anybody, so she takes off down into the underground to try and figure out how to get over to the other continent where her family is. In doing so, she stumbles across the corpse of Sharptooth, and like an idiot, she starts headbutting it, you know, just being an annoying jerk. What she doesn't know is that SHARPTOOTH ISN'T REALLY DEAD AT ALL!!! Well, she figures it out pretty quick when he wakes up and she takes off running into the rest of the main characters. She explains she just found Sharptooth, but Littlefoot doesn't believe her. Of course, again, I don't blame him; Her story about him is really snooty and hard to believe, anyway.
Cera: And that's...where he met me!
MarzGurl (vo): Well, now the whole group is together. They start learning to get along, though Cera and Littlefoot still have the occasional trouble. They have a hard time finding food and work together to eat and sleep comfortably and all the while trying to outrun the dreaded Sharptooth. Oh yeah, he really isn't dead, guess Littlefoot believes Cera now. They pass that rock that looks like a longneck just as Littlefoot had been told and then climb over a mountain, but they still aren't there. This basically is the straw that breaks Cera's back and she makes it known loud and clear. What results is probably one of the best "your mom" insults in children's animation history.
Littlefoot: But it's the wrong way!
Cera: Who says?
Littlefoot: My mother!
Cera: Then she was a stupid longneck, too!
MarzGurl (vo): And the fight is on! Man, this fight between Littlefoot and Cera is kind of violent! I mean, it's mostly off-screen, but we can sometimes see silhouettes, and the stuff that does make it on camera is pretty rough! Littlefoot gets his trash handed to him by Cera, of course, I mean, I doubt an Apatosaurus can fight nearly as well as a Triceratops can, so that makes sense. Littlefoot keeps following the path he knows is correct, but everybody else wants to take the easy way...which ends up being a really bad idea. Ducky and Spike end up getting separated-granted, it's because Spike is a gluttonous sloth-and what's probably most horrendous is the fact that Petrie ends up falling into tar. Now don't get me wrong, I'm glad he makes it out okay and all, but have many of you heard about...
(A photo displaying woolly mammoths near La Brea tar pits is shown.)
MarzGurl (vo): ...La Brea tar pits? I'm going to assume a lot of animals frequently didn't get out of something like that alive, and considering the fact...
(Cuts back to movie footage.)
MarzGurl (vo): ...that they're so close to volcanoes, I bet that tar is really, really hot. Wow, this is actually really awful. Well, Littlefoot comes in and saves the day; he rescues Spike and Ducky from molten lava and then organizes a rescue for Petrie out of the tar, except it pretty much fails as they all end up stuck in it. All the while, Cera is getting chased down by a pack of Pachycepholosaurs. Man, this scene is really, really scary! Luckily, the tar team comes stumbling in looking like a bizarre monster and completely saves the day. It's pretty much the most cartoony undinosaur-y thing that happens in the whole movie, but it's forgivable. They even manage to make Cera look like a complete doofus, so it's all good. Before everyone can make the final trip to the Great Valley, though, it's time to have a final showdown with Sharptooth. They decide they're totally capable of completely taking him out. God knows why they thought this was a good idea, but somehow it works, and they send him drowning to the bottom of a pool of water under the crushing blow of a boulder. But in yet another sad turn of events, it looks like Sharptooth has taken Petrie down with him. Man, this movie really has a pretty good combination of scary and sad! If it's not one thing, it's another; Look at our heroes, they're sad all over again! They're even crying! Oh, never mind, Petrie's just fine, of course. It is a kids movie after all, oh, well I can forgive them. So we're nearing the end of the movie and Littlefoot is convinced he's tried as hard as he could, but never could possibly find the Great Valley. But a Mufasa-like cloud forms of Littlefoot's mother and finally leads him to what appears to have been just barely around that very same corner and BAM, Great Valley! Where Littlefoot makes what is quite possibly the best face in animation history.
Littlefoot: The Great Valley!
MarzGurl (vo): So everyone comes barging in and everybody gets reunited with their families and Spike even gets immediately accepted and adopted into Ducky's family, and the ending really wraps itself up nicely, explaining how they settled down, grew up, and passed their story on. And it follows up with a fantastic song performed by Diana Ross, If We Hold On Together, a song that has happily followed me throughout my life.
Diana Ross: (singing) If we hold on together
MarzGurl (vo): Really, I couldn't have asked for a better ending. This isn't a story that requires any sort of continuation, it's absolutely the picture of perfection in its ending.
MarzGurl: Unfortunately, this is completely ruined by the fact that there's a sequel...and not only one sequel, but twelve of them.
(Photos for The Land Before Time Collection GBA game and The Land Before Time TV series are shown.)
MarzGurl (vo): Not to mention a small series of video games and a lesser known short-lived TV series. What's worse is that none of them had any creative input from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, or even Don Bluth for that matter. Without so much as one of that trio, what could the rest of these pieces even possibly have to offer?
MarzGurl: Well, it doesn't matter, there's no way on Earth I'm going to ruin my pitch perfect image of The Land Before Time. I made it this far without having done so and I'll just continue to keep on going this way, and I'll never watch the rest of them, and I'll leave this picture perfect right here the way it is. (sighs happily) I really love The Land Before Time.
Juno the Sorceress: The Land Before Time? Picture perfect? Ha, we'll see how long she believes that! (laughs evilly while holding up her scepter.)