A Life in the Woods

Bambi is the first Disney animated movie to focus entirely on animals. If it’s not a fairy tale, then chances are it’s an animal picture. Although Dumbo did feature an animal protagonist, there were still humans in it. Bambi very much focuses on the animal world, with no visible humans at all. Unlike everything else made at the time, Bambi was based on a recently published novel titled Bambi, a Life in the Woods. It was an Austrian book brought to Walt Disney’s attention before World War II.

Although intended to be live-action, animation was really the way to go. So Disney bought the rights with the intention of making it his second animated feature after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It may not show too much in the final product, but the book was actually much more somber. Cuddly sidekicks were added, while the most memorable plot points stayed the same. The only thing that stalled production for so long was the complicated task of animating deer realistically. So other movies took its place until Bambi became the fifth animated Disney film (and the last from the Golden Age)…

9. Bambi

Bambi and his friends

Bambi is known for its reputation as one of the saddest Disney movies ever made. Which made many children who saw it cry their eyes out (myself included). I saw it when I was very young, although I never owned it on VHS. Just like the book’s title indicates, Bambi is about Bambi’s life in the woods. From his birth as a fawn, to childhood, to adolescence, and finally as a grown up buck. Instead of a roe deer, Bambi is a mule deer born to his caring mother doe. She teaches him all about the forest and his destiny as the Great Prince of the Forest. It’s Bambi’s childhood appearance that’s the most iconic. Since that’s when the most memorable moments take place.

He meets an energetic bunny named Thumper who helps him to walk and talk. And a sweet skunk ironically named Flower. Both became beloved Disney sidekicks. Bambi is eventually introduced to his father the current Great Prince of the Forest. As well as the dangers of “Man.” It’s not till the first winter that Bambi fully understands what those dangers are. In the most infamous scene in the entire movie, Bambi and his mother desperately run away from hunters. Bambi escapes and his mother doesn’t. Nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing Bambi tearfully call out to his deceased mother. The Great Prince steps in and decides to raise him.

Bambi grows into a strapping young buck, antlers and all. With mating season on the horizon, Friend Owl teaches Bambi, Thumper, and Flower all about being twitterpated. Thumper and Flower pair up in no time. While Bambi runs into his childhood doe friend Faline. Of course this wouldn’t be nature if Bambi didn’t have to fight for her affection. A jealous deer named Ronno fights Bambi in an intense confrontation. However “Man” is still the bigger antagonist when they accidentally set off a raging forest fire. In the end there’s still hope when Bambi has children of his own.

While not to the same degree as the book, the movie still has a strong environmental message. A message so strong that “Man” was named the 20th greatest villain in movie history according to AFI. Without ever having to appear on screen. All it took was the single sound of gun fire. The animation is highly expressive with movements that do manage to capture realistic animal movements. Made even more powerful with dramatic silhouettes and believable seasonal changes. This was one of the earliest Disney movies that animators carefully studied real life animals for. A practise that continues to this day.

The only thing that Bambi doesn’t have is memorable songs. The only one that comes to mind is a song about “Little April Showers.” It’s really the stronger focus on music without lyrics that works well for the story. In fact, there are only 900 words spoken in the entire movie. So the visuals are truly the highlight of the movie. Bambi is a precious coming-of-age story that isn’t afraid to teach children difficult life lessons.

10. Bambi

Bambi and his friends

When I See an Elephant Fly

Dumbo is the adorable tale of a little elephants triumph over adversity. The fourth animated Disney movie was made for several reasons. The biggest reason was money. After the financial disaster of Fantasia, Walt Disney needed something as simple as possible to recoup those losses. Dumbo is based on a children’s book appropriately named Dumbo, the Flying Elephant. Apart from a few character changes, hardly anything was changed from the book.

Dumbo was intended to be a short film, but it was stretched into a feature film instead. Albeit an extremely short feature film. At a meager 1 hour & 4 minutes, Dumbo is one of the shortest movies Disney has ever made. All for the sake of saving money. It’s also the reason why the animation is so simplistic. Not that it kept Dumbo from being a big success for Disney. Even winning an Oscar for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. Needless to say, Dumbo took off in a big way…

7. Dumbo

Dumbo soars

Dumbo was probably one of Disney’s easier viewing experiences as a kid. I never owned it on VHS, but I did watch it whenever I could. I say easy, but Dumbo does have some of the most outdated material out of any animated Disney film. It may even be second only to Song of the South, but I wouldn’t go that far. Dumbo is far too beloved to be locked away forever. The rest of the story is colorful, cute, and inspiring. It all begins with a stork. Right away you can see just how cartoony the movie is gonna be. With anthropomorphic talking trains, stork delivery, and cartoon physics. Disney was very strict on limiting any and all costly animation effects used in previous movies.

One stork delivers to a circus an adorable baby elephant to a caring mother-to-be named Mrs. Jumbo. She names her son Jumbo Jr. at first, but his unusually big ears earns him the nickname Dumbo. Dumbo is the only silent character ever to headline a Disney movie. Much like Pinocchio, there are several very unlikable antagonists that cruelly mock, bully, and ridicule poor Dumbo. There’s the nasty elephant ladies that give him the mean nickname, the rotten punk kid who mocks Dumbo’s ears (I always hated him the most), and the clueless circus clowns that put Dumbo in the show only to make fun of him. The Ringmaster is technically the main antagonist, but he’s just a greedy businessman.

In a clever bit of irony, Dumbo’s only true friend is Timothy Q. Mouse. He encourages and keeps Dumbo company when his mother is sadly locked away. Like I said before, Dumbo has a lot of outdated material that was common during the early 40’s. Early on we see a faceless crew of black men singing about how they never learned to read or write. Then there’s the far more memorable scene of Dumbo and Timothy accidentally getting drunk. They hallucinate a herd of terrifying pink elephants that come out of nowhere, but leave an impression. Like the next controversial scene, it would be impossible to edit out without confusing people.

Dumbo somehow ends up in a tree where a murder of crows greets him and Timothy. They’re obviously racist caricatures (one is even named Jim Crow), but they’re just too important to the story. They sing the catchiest song and put the idea of flying into the elephant’s head. After an entire hour Dumbo finally flies in the last 4 minutes of the movie. The songs really help to flesh out the simple story even more. “Baby Mine” is a tearjerker for anyone who loves their mother. “Pink Elephants on Parade” is just weird enough to work. While “When I See an Elephant Fly” is still fun to sing-along to despite its reputation. If you look past that, you’ll find Dumbo to be one of Disney’s most inspiring animated outings.

8. Dumbo

Pink elephants on parade

Mickey Mouse is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Fantasia is one of the most unique animated movies ever made. Apart from eventual imitators, there was simply nothing like it made at the time. Fantasia is best described as a 2 hour long collection of music videos. What began as a simple Mickey Mouse short, grew into Walt Disney’s third motion picture. It was Disney’s idea to create an experimental film that blends classical music with animation through visual storytelling.

Like Pinocchio, World War II hurt it’s box-office performance. But the idea is still so different that I can’t imagine it would have made a huge difference. Regardless, Fantasia was still a marvel to behold for those who gave it a chance. Fantasia is made up of 8 animated shorts that all begin with a live-action orchestra introducing a program that I can only talk about separately.

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor – The first piece was originally written by Johann Sebastian Bach. It’s a theme mostly associated with horror, but the visuals are actually warm and inviting. Just a series of bright colors, shapes, and abstract patterns. Guaranteed to sum up the trippy experience we’re about to witness.

The Nutcracker Suite – The second piece was originally written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The theme’s association is obvious since it’s in the name. However, only the sugar plum fairy is depicted from the Nutcracker. The rest is an even trippier arrangement of anthropomorphic dancing mushrooms, flowers, and fish. The gentle spirited music actually blends together nicely.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – The third piece was originally written by Paul Dukas. Which in turn was based on a poem. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is easily the most iconic short in Fantasia. It’s arguably the biggest reason people remember the movie. The short was originally conceived to make Mickey Mouse popular again. Disney saw its potential and so he decided to expand on it. The only reason I know the theme is because of the movie.

The short itself tells the story of a powerful sorcerer named Yen Sid (Disney spelled backwards). Mickey is his apprentice who borrows his magical hat. With it he brings life to brooms and teaches them to do his chores. Things get out of hand nearly flooding everything, but the Sorcerer steps in to set things right. The image of Mickey with that blue starry wizard’s hat and red robe will forever be icon. You don’t get more classic Disney than this…

5. Fantasia

Mickey works his magic

The Rite of Spring – The fourth piece was originally written by Igor Stravinsky. I’m not overly familiar with the theme, but I can tell it’s supposed to convey something ominous and/or powerful. The story of creation and a depiction of dinosaur life actually makes perfect sense. After the Earth is formed, many species of dinosaur live together in harmony. Until an evil T-Rex goes searching for food. This is definitely one of the more mature segments. As it depicts a T-Rex killing a Stegosaurus and then every dinosaur going extinct. A brutal lesson that’s very well executed.

The Pastoral Symphony – The fifth piece was originally written by Ludwig van Beethoven. The theme is peaceful and makes you think of green pastures. So a story about Greek mythology also made perfect sense. There are centaurs, cupids, Dionysus the lesser known God of Wine, and Zeus himself. This segment is actually quite risque. As it depicts very naked female centaurs bathing in a stream. No nipples, but still plenty of cupid butts. Dionysus is turned into a fat drunken party animal. While Zeus decides to hurl some lightning bolts just for the fun of it. It’s a memorable part of the movie, but not always for good reasons. An offensive black centaur servant girl had to be edited out. Aside from that, Greek mythology has never been this fun.

Dance of the Hours – The sixth piece was originally written by Amilcare Ponchielli. With a more lively theme, it only made sense to make a lighthearted segment to accompany it. There are four different anthropomorphic animal dance troupes. The ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators. All of whom come together in the end. I guarantee you’ve seen these characters somewhere before and probably didn’t know they were from Fantasia. This segment adds some much needed levity to the film.

Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria – The seventh and eighth piece was originally written by Modest Mussorgsky and Franz Schubert respectfully. The first theme is as creepy as the segment depected. You don’t get much darker than the literal devil summoning demons and evil spirits. This would be the second most memorable short after “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” As the giant bat-winged horned devil Chernobog became very iconic as well. With demons dancing in Hell and harpies with uncensored bare breasts, it’s truly hard to believe Disney made this. The second theme begins right after Chernabog’s reign ends with the rising sun. We hear an angelic chorus that depicts monks heading towards a church. It’s an appropriate follow up that beautifully symbolizes good vs. evil.

In conclusion, Fantasia isn’t something I frequently watched when I was younger. I’m positive I saw it at a young age, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I rewatched it as a teenager. Only then did I fully understand what was going on. I was surprised that I knew every piece of music that was used. Then again, these are classical themes that everyone should know. The animation just gets better and better. Walt Disney really got a chance to improve his craft. No narrative structure or voice actors meant free range to do whatever he wanted.

The idea isn’t for everyone and that’s probably why it didn’t become the once every few years event Disney intended. Instead Fantasia stands alone as Disney’s most grown up movie to date. It’s still accessible for children, but they don’t shy away from deeper themes. Fantasia is an animated masterpiece that takes you on a musical journey you have to see to believe.

6. Fantasia

Chernabog summons evil spirits

Followed by: Fantasia 2000

When You Wish Upon a Star

Pinocchio proved feature-length animation was here to stay. By at the same time proving Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs wasn’t just beginners luck. Pinocchio was a lot more complex and made far greater use of its animation. Including a trailblazing use of realistically drawn machinery, rain, water, and so much more that still holds up today. Instead of a straightforward fairy tale, Pinocchio is based on Italian children’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio. Walt Disney loved the story when it was brought to his attention.

However, drastic Disneyfication had to be taken. Pinocchio will always be a puppet that wants to be real and whose nose grows when he lies, but the original character is far different. He’s rude, unsympathetic, and actually squishes the helpful cricket. The story itself didn’t need much expanding. Despite its many technical achievements, Pinocchio wasn’t a box-office success. Since it was released in 1940 during World War II. But that didn’t stop Disney’s second feature film from winning 2 Oscars for Best Original Score and Original Song for “When You Wish Upon a Star.” A song so memorable it became the theme for Walt Disney Studios itself…

4. Pinocchio

Pinocchio meets Jiminy Cricket

Pinocchio is another Disney classic I watched multiple times on VHS when I myself was a real boy. Although it wasn’t always a pleasant viewing experience. Since Pinocchio is actually one of the darker Disney animated movies. Even after the extensive changes that were made. It all begins with kindly old woodcarver Geppetto. His shop is filled with many intricate carvings. Geppetto lives with his cat Figaro and fish Cleo, but he longs to be a father. So he builds a wooden marionette boy named Pinocchio. The first male protagonist in a Disney movie. In stark contrast to the book, Pinocchio is sweet, innocent, and a little naive.

To counter that, the nameless talking cricket is expanded and given the era appropriate name Jiminy Cricket. The comical sidekick became one of Disney’s most iconic characters. After the lovely Blue Fairy gives Pinocchio life, she appoints Jiminy as his conscious. To help guide him towards making the right choices in life. Only when displaying the virtues of bravery, loyalty, and honesty will he become a real boy. If he lies, Pinocchio’s nose famously grows bigger and bigger. What makes Pinocchio so dark is just how much the poor lad has to go through to reach his goal.  There are multiple villains all out to tempt and/or deceive the little wooden puppet.

Despite the human filled world they live in, the first antagonists are an anthropomorphic fox and cat named “Honest” John and assistant Giddy. They’re manipulative shysters that lead Pinocchio to his next and most despicable antagonist. Stromboli is a cruel tyrannical puppet master who uses him in his show. The most traumatizing stuff is everything that happens on Pleasure Island. A place where naughty boys are free to smoke, drink, gamble, and be as rambunctious as possible (hey, it was the 40’s). Nothing is more scarring than a boy named Lampwick being turned into a donkey. As it turns out, an evil Coachman is selling the transformed children into labor. It’s an unsettling detail that never gets resolved. In their search to find Geppetto, Pinocchio and Jiminy find him in the belly of the final antagonist. A monsterous giant whale named Monstro. The final conflict costs Pinocchio his life, but it’s enough to finally make him a real boy.

The animation is a bit more stylized with the lone exception of the Blue Fairy. The underwater sequences and other technical details make it so hard to believe this was 80 years ago. This was also the first animated movie to use famous celebrities as voice actors. Something that would later become the norm. The songs are some of the best of the Golden Age. “When You Wish Upon a Star” is an inspiring dreamers song that represents all of Disney’s best qualities. There’s also the catchy “Give a Little Whistle” and joyful puppet anthem “I’ve Got No Strings.” With a maintained score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Pinocchio is truly a well-crafted work of art that represents the peak of Disney animation.

3. Pinocchio

The Blue Fairy gives life to Pinocchio

Some Day My Prince Will Come

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the first feature-length animated motion picture ever released. As well as the first movie made by Walt Disney. Making it the most important animated Disney movie of all time. Without its success, the powerhouse studio wouldn’t be what it is today. I’ve been a huge fan of Disney my entire life. While before I only touched on my love for Disney, it’s finally time for me to go back to the beginning and talk about the true classics. What better place for Walt Disney to start then a timeless fairy tale.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is based on the quite dark Brothers Grimm tale Snow White. In the original story, the Queen is Snow White’s birth mother, she wants to consume her lungs & liver, the Seven Dwarfs are nameless, the apple is simply dislodged, and the Queen dies a more graphic death. This was the first instants of Disneyfication in a movie. Before Disney was known only for short films. People were so certain the movie would fail. They thought nobody could handle seeing an hour long cartoon. Yet against all the naysayers, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became one of the greatest animated movies ever made…

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The dwarfs meet Snow White

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is something I’ve seen many times on VHS when I was a child. Despite being as old as 1937 and a princess movie, everyone no matter their age or gender should see Snow White. The story is simple and easy for viewers young and old to follow. We begin with the ever important opening of the book. Once upon a time there lived a beautiful maiden with lips red as the rose, hair black as ebony, and skin white as snow. Snow White is the very first Disney Princess. Her most iconic outfit consists of a yellow dress, blue top, and red ribbon. Her hair is done in a classic 1930’s updo. She’s a kind gentle soul, but very naive.

Snow White is forced to work as a scullery maid for her wicked stepmother the Evil Queen. One of the most evil animated Disney villains ever created. While conversing with her Magic Mirror (not mirror mirror), she learns that Snow White is the fairest one of all. So of course the Queen attempts to have her killed. By having the Huntsman bring her Snow’s heart. She flees only to discover a quaint little cottage surrounded by dozens of friendly animals. The cottage belongs to the Seven Dwarfs. In order to help them stand out, Disney gave them each descriptive names and personalities.

There’s the leader Doc, Bashful, Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy, and Dopey. They’re miners that serve as comic relief, but end up stealing the show. The two big standouts are Grumpy who doesn’t want anything to do with Snow and Dopey who doesn’t speak or have a beard. Snow lives happily with the Dwarfs until the Queen hatches a new plan. She brews a magic potion that disguises her as a hideous hag. She famously brings Snow an apple and a single bite puts her under a sleep-like death. Only to be awakened by true love’s kiss. The Dwarfs chase the Witch to a cliff where a bolt of lightning sends her tumbling down. Ironic that despite her vanity, she ended up dying as ugly as she was on the inside. Although only appearing in one other scene and having no name, the Prince kisses Snow White and they lived happily ever after.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is actually very light on plot. Most of the screen time is devoted to cleaning, dancing, and Dwarf hijinks. It’s understandable considering the animation was groundbreaking at the time. In full cell animated technicolor, Walt Disney invented a new way to film using multi-layered images. Apart from the Dwarfs and hag, the art style is made to look as realistic as possible.

Of course Disney wouldn’t be where they are today without music. The most memorable tunes include the era appropriate love song “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” joyful cleaning song “Whistle While You Work,” and always catchy signature song “Heigh-Ho.” While only nominated for Best Scoring, Snow White did receive a special Honorary Oscar and seven little Oscars. Rightfully so, since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs brought the magic of Disney to extraordinary life.

2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White is given an apple

Hey Jude

Yesterday brings the Beatles into the 21st Century. With an idea so interesting, I knew I needed to go by myself to see it. It helps that like most people I’m a big fan of the Beatles. “What if no one on Earth but you remembered the Beatles?” No band or artist has ever released as many hits as Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. So the concept made perfect sense. I know I’d probably take advantage of a power like that.

Rather than just make a biopic, Danny Boyle instead focuses on British Indian singer Jack Malik. He’s just a struggling singer working with his best friend (and obvious true love) Ellie. Yesterday, all Jack’s troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay, because a blackout and freak accident causes him to wake up in a world where the Beatles don’t exist. He’s a nice guy, so he does think about the moral implications of getting famous off all their work. With Ed Sheeran’s help, Jack does become the greatest artist who ever lived.

What I didn’t consider was the fact that you have to remember every song off the top of your head. There’s also a funny running gag about other pop culture things being gone. For me Yesterday was just an excuse to sing along to Beatles songs in the theater, but I really do think there was a lot of untapped potential. The film mostly focuses on Jack and Ellie’s romance. They’re a cute couple, but you can find that anywhere. At least that’s what I thought at first. Now I let it be and can’t help but embrace Yesterday.

Yesterday

Jack performs “Yesterday”

They’re Alive, Like Me

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is basically The Lost World: Jurassic Park. So shouldn’t it be Fallen Kingdom: Jurassic World? The most obvious similarity is a focus on animal rights issues with dinosaurs. As well as a lot more dumb decisions than the previous movie. Even if Fallen Kingdom did make about as much at the box-office. It turns out Jurassic Park/World was for some reason built atop an island with an active volcano. So Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return as Owen Grady and Claire Dearing respectfully. In order to save the dinosaurs from a new extinction. Only their character motivations are confusingly swapped.

The guy who loved and trained raptors doesn’t care if they die. While the cold business lady is a dinosaur rights advocate. There’s character development and then there’s doing a complete 180. Everything on Isla Nublar is exciting from outrunning the volcano to plunging over a cliff in that sphere thing. However illogical it may be. Then things get really weird when the remaining dinosaurs are taken to a mansion. A confined space near civilization that copies the San Diego scene. They’re brought there to be sold off as weapons to the highest bidder. Including another Frankenstein-esque dinosaur called the Indoraptor. It’s fight against Blue is the second best fight in a girl’s bedroom.

Fallen Kingdom mostly suffers from recycled ideas, annoying supporting characters, and false advertisement. Jeff Goldblum is only in one scene at the beginning and end. The T-Rex is just there to eat things, pose, and roar. Justice Smith is only there to scream and complain. While the cloning process is taken to bizarre new territory. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens the door to interesting possibilities, but its way to get there is ridiculous.

7. Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

A T-Rex roars

Preceded by: Jurassic World

Evacuate the Island

Jurassic World brought the Jurassic Park franchise out of extinction. 14 years after the release of Jurassic Park III. What better year to release it than 2015. Which was pretty much the year of franchise revivals. So a sequel to a big money maker like Jurassic Park made perfect sense. Jurassic Park IV was in development hell for many years. Steven Spielberg remained a producer, but Joe Johnston didn’t return to direct. Instead mostly unknown director Colin Trevorrow eventually took over.

The main problem was story. Since there’s only so many times you can bring people back to an island full of dinosaurs. Most of the ideas are too ridiculous to imagine. One idea included a nightmarish raptor/human hybrid. What did make sense though, was the return of actors Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum. That didn’t work out. So instead they went with the “what if” idea of a dinosaur theme park actually being open to the public. The idea payed off, making Jurassic World the third highest grossing movie at the time…

5. Jurassic World

A T-Rex fights the Indominus Rex

Welcome to Jurassic World. Considering the sequels strayed a bit too far from the original, events and locations like Isla Sorna are mostly ignored. They’d have to be if people are seriously crazy enough to open the park to the public. I was certainly curious to see how that would work out. We return to Isla Nublar where Jurassic Park is renamed Jurassic World. Without Jon Hammond, Simon Masrani now oversees things. There are several advancements that bring the theme park into the modern age. Like more high tech security and an impractical glass sphere ride. There’s also baby dinosaur petting zoos and a shamu-like Mosasaurus attraction.

But like everything else in life, people are now bored with dinosaurs. So they foolishly cook up a Frankenstein-esque dinosaur called the Indominus Rex. A deadly albino creature that can do a variety of unnatural things. Apart from BD Wong’s briefly seen scientist Dr. Henry Wu, none of the original cast returns. Instead rising star Chris Pratt adds another lead role to his name. Owen Grady is a Navy veteran turned ethologist who’s taken to training velociraptors just like any other animal. An idea that’s actually pretty cool. Since it gives us a shot of him riding a motorcycle next to raptors. The raptors are named Charlie, Delta, Echo, and personal favorite Blue. InGen does return with Vincent D’onofrio trying to weaponize the raptors. Bryce Dallas Howard plays operations manager Claire Dearing. She’s the foolish one who ok’d the creation of the new dinosaur.

As expected, the Indominus Rex figures out a way to get out. This time putting innocent park goers in danger. Of course it wouldn’t be a Jurassic Park movie without young people in danger. Claire’s nephew’s Zach and Gray fill that role. Even taking a nostalgia trip through the old park. The most stand out scenes include the raptor training, Indominus Rex rampages, and Pteranodon’s attacking park goers. Although the death of Claire’s assistant is seriously over-the-top for some reason. Just like some of the comic relief moments. Jurassic World mostly benefits from an awesome climax. Which pits the Indominus Rex against a raptor and a T-Rex! Giving the iconic dinosaur its moment of glory as Bryce Dallas Howard somehow runs in heels. Jurassic World is just a fun ride that gives us all the dinosaur action we want.

6. Jurassic World

Owen Grady controls his raptors

Preceded by: Jurassic Park III & Followed by: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

This is T-Rex Pee

Jurassic Park III exists and that’s about all people remember it for. One reason being how short it is. Only an hour & a half runtime with a very fast pace. Yet it still holds a special place in my heart, because I saw it in theaters when I was 6. That’s why I can’t say that I hate it or any sequel. The main strike against Jurassic Park III is Steven Spielberg being replaced by Joe Johnston. Even though Johnston is good with imaginative stories. Since Michael Crichton didn’t write any more books, Jurassic Park III is more or less original.

One positive at least, is the return of Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant. As well as a cameo from Laura Dern. Although Alan and Ellie are frustratingly not a couple. Dr. Grant is reluctantly brought to second island Isla Sorna. William H. Macy and Téa Leoni play a couple searching for their son who’s lost on the island. Another strike against the movie is how they introduce the new antagonist. The T-Rex is the face of the franchise, yet it’s killed within minutes by a Spinosaurus. The Spinosaurus is bigger, longer, and deadlier, but it’s just not the same.

The most stand out moments include the airplane crash and anything involving the raptors. Moments like the Pteranodon aviary enclosure or boat climax were recycled from the first or second book. The Pteranodon scene is especially unique as the flying dinosaurs are a far different threat than what we’re used to. Then there are some not so great moments like a raptor saying “Alan” or T-Rex pee and Spinosaurus poop. While the visuals are there, Jurassic Park III often feels like an afterthought.

4. Jurassic Park III

A T-Rex fights a Spinosaurus

Preceded by: The Lost World: Jurassic Park & Followed by: Jurassic World

Mommy’s Very Angry

The Lost World: Jurassic Park was sort of a no-win situation. Since it’s impossible to fully recapture the impact of Jurassic Park. Even for Steven Spielberg himself. I certainly watched The Lost World when I was younger, but it never stood out to me the same way. By no means a bad sequel, the main problem is an overly complicated plot, weak supporting characters, and a few questionable decisions. Michael Crichton wrote The Lost World due to high demand for a sequel. The title was inspired by an Arthur Conan Doyle novel that also features a hidden island populated by prehistoric creatures.

After a girl is attacked by vicious little Compies (a scene deemed too horrific for the first movie), Dr. Ian Malcolm meets with Jon Hammond. Making scene stealer Jeff Goldblum the new star of the movie. He’s told that the company that developed the dinosaurs, InGen, created them on a second island called Isla Sorna. The Lost World is more about the preservation of the dinosaurs. So Malcolm goes to rescue his girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding who’s already on the island documenting them. Julianne Moore and a weirdly out of place Vince Vaughn are the biggest names outside of the few returning stars. We also see some new dinosaurs that were omitted like Stegosauruses. One of Malcolm’s kids tags along as well. Kelly, his biological black daughter?

Plot problems aside, The Lost World does have some terrific Spielberg moments and consistently impressive effects. There’s the mommy and daddy T-Rex searching for their child, the heart pounding overturned RV escape, Raptors running through tall grass, and a T-Rex rampaging San Diego. Even if it is very Godzilla. Although the cheesiest moment is easily Kelly killing a raptor with deadly gymnastics. The Lost World: Jurassic Park has cool set pieces, but a lack of fresh excitement.

3. The Lost World Jurassic Park

A T-Rex in San Diego

Preceded by: Jurassic Park & Followed by: Jurassic Park III