I thought John Lasseter had more sense of what American families who live outside the LA-NYC bubble think about Christian-bashing. I thought Disney gave Americans more credit for actually using their brains since the horrific “Atlantis” went straight into the Walmart $5 special bin.
“The Good Dinosaur” is clear proof neither of my thoughts bear out.
I saw the film with my kids yesterday, and it does have its charm. Pixar has done nothing short of a miracle in photorealistic scenery—or they’ve managed to seamlessly stitch actual nature footage into CGI movie. It’s so real, I can’t tell. The dinosaur (and most other) characters are almost crudely cartoonish, but that was done on purpose.
Somehow the combination works. My eyes were never once distracted by even a hint of “fake” in the scenery, so I was free to focus on the characters and the plot, which is also charming.
Without giving too much away, it’s a coming-of-age/buddy/lost-and-found mashup involving a young dinosaur. If you’ve seen the trailer, you already know the premise: The asteroid that ended the dinosaur’s reign on Earth missed, and “millions of years later” the dinos are still running the planet, albeit with big brains, language, and 18th century farming techniques.
The characters is where I had a problem. Every story has a hero, sidekick and an antagonist, and since dinosaurs don’t have George W. Bush archetypes or oil-rich billionaires (it would be kind of perverse for dinosaurs to dig up their liquified ancestors to power their machines, but I digress), Pixar went for a more transcendent enemy they could easily demonize: Christians. And they weren’t even subtle about it.
(CAUTION: Light spoilers ahead).
At first, these pterodactyl-type dines appear to be helpful to Arlo, the young protagonist and his pet human, “Spot.” They use words like “howdy, friend,” and seem to be interested in doing some disaster recovery work as they fly over a storm-ravaged mountainside. But something was off. And when they started eating the survivors, it became obvious what the “friendly” flyers were about.
It was also obvious who they were in our real world. Lines like “the storm provides,” and “thank the storm for our food” left no doubt these were Christians. They were veritable wolves in friendly-pterodactyl-clothing. They even called themselves “storm-followers.”
No other characters in the movie, including a Woody Allen-ish nutcase and a family of friendly rancher tyrannosauruses, were nearly as demonic as the “Christian” evil-doers. And none of the other characters were hypocrites, pretending to do good work while devouring their victims. The other mild antagonists were hilariously hillbilly—but balanced by the redneck ranchers. Poking fun at Southern culture was more lighthearted parody than a serious attack.
I have to conclude that “The Good Dinosaur”’s producers intentionally selected Christians to be the evil in their film, and made no bones about it (pun intended). I won’t go into the larger themes of Godlessness in the movie, but for one thing, if the asteroid missed and humans were not the dominant species on Earth (and unlikely to be, ever), then the specialness of humans over animals, and the entire Bible, become irrelevant. The source of “good” and “evil” is left unexplored in a movie made for kids—but without God, apparently it comes from “Mother Nature”—an indirect reference to Gaia worship.
Most kids, and probably many adults, may miss the anti-Christian bias in the film although I think Evangelicals, who tend to think more about the world in terms of faith, will see the knock pretty clearly. And the movie meant us to see it.
One last grumble, not against the movie itself, but the short feature that played before it. If you were a Hindu from India, the short would make perfect sense, because the prayer cabinet, incense, bell, and idols would be familiar things. But for everyone else, it’s a strange experience, with no context given. We simply see a little boy letting his imagination run while his father prays. Some of the images are pretty dark and violent, as Hindu gods battle demons on screen.
I had to explain to my six- and five-year-old sons that Hindus believe in hundreds of millions of gods, and have idols for each of them. That in India (and other places where Hindus worship), they have temples with hundreds of idols behind elaborate gates that represent these unapproachable gods. I suppose that was the point of the short, to force parents to introduce their children to Hinduism and spark conversation.
My kinds were simply scared and disoriented by it, and I didn’t find it in the least bit interesting. It wasn’t offensive to me, but I bet “The Good Dinosaur” producers’ concept of a Christian would expect me to be offended.
Because based on the movie they made, that’s how Christians roll.
(crossposted from sgberman.com)