An American Tail was a hit, and it allowed Bluth a period of time where he didn't have to worry about one of his companies going bankrupt. The next film being planned with Steven Spielberg (George Lucas jumped on board too) was described as a story like Bambi, but with dinosaurs. The early title was The Land Before Time Began, and it was originally planned to have no dialogue, similar to the Rites of Spring segment of Fantasia. Spielberg and Lucas decided that this would alienate children, so they made it a talking dinosaur movie. A lot of research went into the movie, with many of the film's animators and production teams visiting natural history museums and especially the Smithsonian. The film featured many different types of dinosaurs, but the research team didn't do a perfect job: in the setting of the movie, five species of dinosaurs depicted would have already been extinct. Oh well, kids aren't going to nit-pick that sort of thing. Plus, people are trying to tell me that there's no such thing as a triceratops, so now Cera isn't real! Scientists, stop messing with my childhood! You took Pluto away, don't tell me certain dinosaurs didn't exist!
A lot was changed in the movie as time went on. Littlefoot was originally going to be named Thunderfoot, though they had to change it when they found out a triceratops in a book was named that. I think Littlefoot has a better ring to it. Thunderfoot doesn't fit the character of Littlefoot, really. Maybe if Littlefoot wore cool sunglasses the whole movie. I'd pay to see that movie! Cera's character was originally going to be a male named Bambo (why so close to Bambi?), until Lucas decided that Bambo should instead be a girl and have a clever name instead of a stupid one. Also, I had no idea until a few years ago that Cera's name was spelled that way. I just assumed it was Sara, or some variation of how we spell it. My mind was blown. I mean, come on, triCERAtops?! Who does that? Spielberg and Lucas took one look at the finished project and realized that they had made one scary dinosaur movie. They had to tone it down a little or they would be stuck with a PG rating. This may be a common thing today, but back in the eighties it was pretty risky to let your animated film get a PG rating. The only two I can think of that did it around that time were Watership Down and Disney's The Black Cauldron. With Bluth complaining the whole way, Lucas and Spielberg cut about nine minutes of the film, mostly consisting of Sharptooth scenes, making the film only sixty nine minutes long. That's barely longer than Dumbo! Littlefoot's mother dying was deemed too emotionally scarring and the character of Rooter (the old clubtail dinosaur) was introduced to soften the blow. Doesn't matter, it's still probably the most tear jerking scenes in all of animation. Even the theatrical version seen in 1988 is different from the version you see on DVD. In the original, Littlefoot's mother is shown being bitten by Sharptooth on the neck and back, but apparently it was later deemed to intense. While the movie isn't the darkest of the Bluth films, it's easily the most depressing.
The cast of dinosaurs centers around an Apatosaurus (Littlefoot), a Triceratops (Cera), a Saurolophus (Ducky), a Pteranodon (Petrie), and a Stegosaurus (Spike). In the story, a tyrannosaurus named Sharptooth (I always thought it was Sharktooth as a child, I can't be the only one!) attacks a group of dinosaurs while a random earthquake happens. Littlefoot's mother fends off Sharptooth, who falls into a deep crevice, though it costs her her life. Due to the earthquake, both Littlefoot and Cera are seperated from what's left of their families and have to set out to find them. Their ulitmate destination is the Great Valley, a place that hasn't been ravaged by volcanoes and earthquakes; a place where food is plentiful and there are no sharpteeth. Along the way they are joined by Petrie, Ducky, and Spike. They run into trouble along the way involving other, more dangerous dinosaurs, though in the end they defeat Sharptooth and make it to the Great Valley. I know that was a short run-down, but there isn't much to this story in terms of plot. What I will go into however is the relationships between the dinosaurs.