This letter showed up for me in my inbox last week.
To the Editor:
So a lot of the plot of Land Before Time revolves around a magical talking leaf, right? As I recall from my hazy days of being obsessed with dinosaurs in a non-hostile way, our protagonist is a brontosaurus, and surprisingly visionary for his walnut sized brain. Brontosaurus type things were from the Jurassic period, while flowering plants did not appear until the cretaceous. The magical talking leaf had travelled in time!
I could be wrong about all of this.
There are not and have never been magical talking leaves. Not even in the Cretaceous. If a leaf ever talks to you, seek medical attention.
From what I understand from the highly confusing plot of The Land Before Time, Little Foot the brontosaurus (shudder) is being guided by the ghost of his mother. There are so many things wrong with the statement that I just typed that I had to wash my hands just now. I think it is about time that the Conservative Dinosaur Readiness Movement addressed The Land Before Time.
These are the 6 most heinous lies fed to us by The Land Before Time, as well as a few things that it (unintentionally) got right.
6. Dinosaur Speciation and Migration are metaphors for the American Dust Bowl
The Land Before Time is the story of young dinosaurs attempting to migrate “west” to the “great valley”.
Since Disney released Fantasia, it has been a popular misconception that the reign of Dinosaurs ended with a huge, fruitless death march across a dry and barren Earth. This never happened. The image was so popular, however, that it became the ingrained in the imaginations of multiple generations.
The Land Before Time borrows this image, but adds the “hopeful” idea that if the dinosaurs can make it to this lush and temperate valley, they will be fine. There is plenty of food and everyone else is packing up the family to go there. However the dinosaurs are mistrustful of others who are different from them, and they all have American accents. Yeah, it’s the American Dustbowl migration to California.
This entire story concept is morally atrocious. Dinosaur species are not comparable to the minor racial and cultural differences of human beings. Dinosaurs were a highly diverse array of various lizard-bird monsters with enormously different evolutionary differences. People can have slightly varying coloration and cultural identities. People are not of different species. Dinosaurs evolved into vastly different orders and families. Some dinosaurs evolved to eat one another, whereas some people from Oklahoma have accents. Can you see why this is not a useful metaphor?
The problems of the Dustbowl migration stemmed from people being total assholes to one another based on prejudices that were founded on complete bullshit. Dinosaurs migrating in pods based on species is basic flocking behavior.
This metaphor sucks.
5. Dinosaurs have ghosts
A major component of the story in the film is Little Foot following his mother’s guidance to the valley. Often, he is simply remembering her advice. Then he is visited by her ghost in the clouds, like in The Lion King. (Except this predates Lion King. Also Lion King was a ripoff of Kimba the White Lion.)
Anyway, can you see what is wrong with that idea? It is an official stance of The Conservative Dinosaur Readiness Movement that if there were dinosaur ghosts, we would be pro-dinosaur ghost readiness. However, if dinosaurs had ghosts, we would all be getting murdered by phantasmal deinonychus like, every day.
So clearly dinosaurs do not have ghosts and this scene is founded on a blatant lie.
4. Physics do not apply to dinosaurs
Don Bluth, the director of this and many other animated films, had a very strange way of changing from scene to scene. Instead of the characters doing something normal, like walking, Don Bluth would just throw them. Seriously.
We meet Little Foot as an egg. The egg is stolen and then dropped, and it then rolls around at about 20 mph, crashing into things for what seems like several miles. Then Little Foot is immediately born and has not only suffered zero injuries, he is directly at his mother’s feet. No one present seems to notice.
In another scene, Cera is elaborating on her encounter with the Tyrannosaur and accidentally launches Ducky 90 feet into the air. She crash lands a quarter mile away. No injuries.
I understand that this is a children’s cartoon, but if you launch Wile E. Coyote a quarter mile he generally requires medical attention. HE WOULD AT LEAST NOTICE.
Why is this such a problem? Why do we need to show our kids good examples of physics applying to dinosaurs?
When your children are attacked by dinosaurs, do you want them to be like, “Oh my god, a dinosaur! Let’s not use ballistic weaponry or anything else physics based on them because it won’t work. I know this because I saw The Land Before Time. We have to wish the dinosaurs away! Wish as hard as you can!”
No, because if your kids do that, then they will be eaten.
Physics definitely apply to dinosaurs, don’t believe Don Bluth.
3. Dinosaurs experience love and remorse
This one really bothers me. See, I can experience emotions because I am a human being. Dinosaurs do not experience emotions. They are cold killing machines.
In the movie, the dinosaur children are plagued with guilt and shame and all these layers of human childhood emotional complexity. In real life, the dinosaurs would bite off each other’s arms and then take a nap, totally unperturbed. In fact, dinosaurs probably sleep better after biting something’s arm off, because they get sleepy after meals.
The dinosaurs all seem to love and cherish one another, except for the Tyrannosaur who is accurately portrayed as an unfeeling and violent monster. At least they got the Tyrannosaur right. The other dinosaurs, however, just can’t stop feeling things.
Seriously, Little Foot is so wracked with grief at the loss of his mother, he becomes depressive and unresponsive at points in the film. I mean, people do this. Dogs even do it. Dinosaurs, however, and particularly the big herbivores, just didn’t have the brain capacity.
Dinosaurs do not experience human emotions, this film is lying. Do not attribute feelings to dinosaurs or you will be less ready for them. The Diana Ross theme for the movie, however, is excellent. That is because Diana Ross is a human who experiences emotion, and she has a great voice.
2. Brontosaurus existed
Little Foot and the other “Long Necks” are supposed to be Brontosaurs. There was no such thing as a Brontosaurus. Brontosaurus was the name given to an Apatosaurus skeleton with a Camerasaurus skull modified to fill in for its own skull, missing in the original fossil. The animal never existed.
And on that note, most of the animals in this film were not contemporaries. Tyrannosaurs and Dimetrodon were nearly 160 million years removed, yet they appear in the film on the same day. And Petrie is a flying reptile, not a dinosaur. This film has many taxonomic inaccuracies.
So basically, Little Foot is the equivalent of a Jackalope.
Robert Bakker has argued that two of the known species of Apatosaurus are different enough to warrant a new genus, and then that genus would be called Brontosaurus after the original mock up. However, Little Foot’s skull still resembles the incorrect Camerasaurus skull and such an animal did not exist. Also, sauropods could not speak English.
1. Tyrannosaurs could not swim
Near the climax of the film, the dinosaur children concoct a plan to murder the Tyrannosaurus in a preemptive ambush. Normally I would comment on how morbid that is, but given that this is a Tyrannosaur we are talking about, I should hope our children do the same.
It is the official stance of the Conservative Dinosaur Readiness Movement that it is a good thing for children to hatch murder plots against Tyrannosaurs.
Anyway, the plan is to knock the Tyrannosaur into deep water because he will then drown. The logic behind this idea is that Tyrannosaurs have short arms, and thus are not useful in aqueous locomotion.
It looks like a goddamn crocodile. Huge, muscular tail. Streamlined body. Powerful legs. Tyrannosaurus, just by looks alone, could definitely swim. If you don’t buy that, there is also fossil evidence of swimming Tyrannosaurs.
The dinosaur children’s plan is flawed for many reasons (risky bait, reliance on the cunning of animals with brains the size of walnuts, unreliable signaling methods). But trying to kill a Tyrannosaur by assuming it will drown instantly in deep water is incredibly foolish. Never trust a Tyrannosaur to drown. Never trust a Tyrannosaur.
A much more reliable means of killing a Tyrannosaur preemptively would be to hit it with a nuclear warhead. It is the official stance of the Conservative Dinosaur Readiness Movement that it is morally acceptable for children to nuke large theropods.
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