The One-Line Summary: As a terrible drought dries up the land, herds of dinosaurs make a pilgrimage to the Great Valley, and young Littefoot (Gabriel Damon), a “longneck,” makes friends with a young “three-horn” girl named Cera (Candace Hutson), together facing great peril, tragedy, and adventures along the way.
The Two-Line Blurb: Before there was Jurassic Park, there was The Land Before Time, a charming but dark animated story from Don Bluth, which met with critical praise for its familial themes and approach to such typically adult concepts as disaster and death. Maybe a little too heavy-handed for the younger audiences it seems to be targeting, it remains a good family viewing experience that spawned an incredible thirteen sequels and an animated TV series.
The Three-Line Set-up: The dinosaurs are met with many challenges, including natural disasters and other predators. At one point early on, while Littlefoot and Cera are playing, they are attacked by a “Sharptooth” (Tyrannosaurus), who fights with Littlefoot’s mother (Helen Shaver) who is mortally wounded in the deadly battle. Meanwhile, as the two are fighting, a massive earthquake shakes the land, splitting the ground into a run of high cliffs and deep ravines, separating much of the herd.
The Four-Line Moment: When it’s all over, Cera can’t reach Her family on the other side of a canyon and Littlefoot is searching for his mother. As rain pound from above, he finds her draped over broken rock, clearly on her last breath. She tells him he must go to the Great Vally without her, though she will always be with him, even if he can’t see her. Her advice is to let his heart guide him, but listen closely as it whispers, something he does as he leads the herd on in this touching moment that still has impact so many years later.
The Five-Word Review: It’s Bambi except with dinosaurs.