Thursday, September 3, 2009

Something I posted after watching "The Land Before Time" for the first time in a while...

Originally posted at LaGremlin Land on 1/19/07.

You watch one movie enough times and it becomes a part of you. The millionth time was the charm for me and "Land Before Time" and here are some thoughts I had watching it recently:

* - Where are the "L.B.T." fan-websites?
I went out looking for some and came up empty-handed, so I guess I'm filling the niche with this page. I did find some information but it really raised more questions than answers. This has a lot to do with my second thought.

* - Where's the Production Information?
You know, sometimes you wish you *didn't* know so much about a movie's production. "L.B.T." in particular has had a lot of trivia popping up in recent years (particularly on IMDB and animation history books).
Most tantalizing is the rumor of deleted scenes, ten full minutes of them. Watch the movie very carefully and you'll see three scenes where this footage was most likely cut from:
(1) Note that there's no break between Sharptooth's first attack and the Earthquake sequence. Very awkward. I've seen a lot of evidence to suggest that most of the footage was cut out here.
(2) Between the scene where Littlefoot and Duckie meet Petrie and the scene where Cera encounters Sharptooth underground, there appears to be another awkward cut.
(3) I'm convinced that there was some major editing done in the finale. Note that Littlefoot makes it to the cliff overlooking the Great Valley *alone* and that none of the other characters are seen or heard at all. Then we see all the missing characters racing through the rock tunnel towards the Valley and then everyone *including Littlefoot with Petrie riding on his head* stops short on the cliff overlooking the Valley. Very strange.
(4) Miscellaneous weird edits: Listen carefully to the narrator in the scene where Cera gets put in her place at the end of the volcano sequence. Pronoun trouble! Also, there's obvious awkward overdubbing when Cera charges in to save the day at the end of the Sharptooth must die sequence ("Cera! You're back!").
What really frustrates me, and I know I'm not alone here, is that there's almost no chance we'll ever know the whole story here. There are only tantalizing little clues like the commercials (see the Links, below.) And that ties into my third thought.

* - Why do DVDs of Don Bluth movies suck?
My VHS has pretty much had it after eighteen years. However, I'm reluctant to buy the DVD because a little research reveals that they evidently used the same print from the VHS release without cleaning up the print at all or preserving the original aspect ratio. Worse, the few special features lend no insight into the original "Land Before Time" at all, and instead focus on the sequels. Speaking of…

There aren't! I can't hear you!
Seriously, with craptacular sequels ruining the reputation of the original, I maintain that "Land Before Time" is the animated world's "Halloween".

November 2008 is the twentieth anniversary of "Land Before Time". Who knows, maybe Universal will get a clue by then.
Though I doubt it…

Many, Many Related Links and Sources:
The Wikipedia Entry, Entry, and Rotten Tomatoes Entry are as good enough places as any to start. I suppose the Official Universal Studios Website is worth a look too (though, again, they are far more interested in promoting the sequels).
Here are two most curious finds. The video trailer and Pizza Hut commercial both feature a few quick scenes of animation that aren't in the film (for example, Duckie makes a face and Littlefoot says, "We'll always be together!") Were they made exclusively for the commercials? That seems like a terribly expensive thing to do for just a commercial. So, are they the last vestiges of the deleted scenes?
The book, The Animated Films of Don Bluth is long out of print. But this online version contains all of the original text (sadly, no illustrations). It has quite a lot of information about the production of "Land Before Time".
Lastly, here are links to the websites of artists who either worked on "The Land Before Time" or clearly had an influence on the look of the film:
Michel Gagne was a lead animator on "The Land Before Time" (not to mention several other great -and not so great- animated films). I recognized his style immediately when I saw his work in the wonderful Flight anthologies. His website is awesome with tons of sketches, and you'll even get to watch his jaw-dropping short film, "Prelude to Eden".
When I found a book of William Stout paintings, I knew he had to have been an "L.B.T." production artist too - but his name is nowhere to be seen in the credits. Still, many of the animals in "Land Before Time" look a LOT like his designs, and there even appear to be "shots" in the movie inspired by specific Stout paintings.
Finally, here's Don Bluth's Website! And… it's very strange. He has almost no information whatsoever about his movies! What gives? On the other hand, you get to watch two of the best scenes from "L.B.T." And you can even communicate with Mr. Bluth through a message board!
And although it's an entirely different movie, anyone reading this article will probably be most interested to know that the long-rumored Special Edition DVD of "The Secret of N.I.M.H." has been released. (With no promotion and a cover design that shows open hatred of the fandom; but it's still excellent.) This gives me some hope that maybe we'll see similar treatments for other Bluth films.
And finally, there's the Don Bluth TV Trope page and this item that popped up, by a happy coincidence, on Once Upon A Win.


Hey, did you hear about that one giant company that bought that other giant company? (Some naughty words in that link.)

1 comment:

Zachary said...

Yeah, I'll believe the DVD cut is the VHS cut. Both are kind of washed-on, grainy. I'm well aware of the awkward breaks you speak of, having seen the movie more than I care to admit (at least it's short!). Bluth films have a specific quality to them that's lacking most Disney animated movies, mostly due to the character design. Everybody has warts or something. Nicodemus, the owl, the cat, Scarface, Charlie, Sharptooth, the grandparents "brontosaurs," the Russian cats, I could go on. It's a strangely unifying theme.

But they're all generally good. From what I've heard, most were made on shoestring budgets, though not as thin as Bakshi movies usually were...