Why was I thinking about The Land Before Time (henceforth, TLBT) today?
I don’t know. But I thought I would rank them and provide an argument for each placement. Now, if my rankings don’t perfectly align with yours
you’re wrong please don’t yell at me and tell me that I’ve shit on your childhood or anything like that.
This ranking only lists installments I-VII (The Stone of Cold Fire) because, though I watched one or two
or three after that, I generally stopped caring and stopped liking them. Though The Big Freeze did teach me the word ‘ninny’, which is important. But I only saw that movie twice, and the second time only because it was the only thing on when I was in the ER waiting room late at night. So you get the idea.
First Place: I The Land Before Time
So this here is cheating. The original movie is completely different than the sequels (it’s significantly darker, there’s a narrator with a lovely voice, and it’s, um, NOT A MUSICAL). So it can’t be judged against the others. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Or allosaurs to dimetrodons (which, hey, isn’t a dinosaur).
Spoiler Warning: This post will contain spoilers. This one came out in 1988, so I would suppose no one would care anymore. Not like that time someone told me WAY TOO EARLY that Kylo Ren was Han Solo’s son and would kill him (Damn you). It’s okay, I forgot before I finally got to the theater (finals are good for something, no?)
Littlefoot’s Mom dies. It’s heartbreaking. You can watch the clip here if you need a good cry. There’s a part I think where Littlefoot tears drop into a leaf (please, a tree star) and it’s very sad. And the Tyrannosaurus (Sharptooth) is dead scary. The fight with Cera (she’s a Triceratops (Three Horn), get it!?) is upsetting. Or maybe I
am was a sensitive person. And when they finally find the Great Valley it’s like when Dorothy steps into Oz. Cool stuff.
Second Place: VI The Secret of Saurus Rock
Good god, in between typing that last one and this one I actually bothered to rank II-VII and it was kind of extremely difficult. It’s hard to think of something that lacks almost any merit except nostalgia in terms of ‘best and worst’, because nostalgia isn’t something that has much of a hand in rational judgment. Anyway, The Secret of Saurus Rock wins for the music, ‘The Legend of the Lone Dinosaur‘ being the clear standout (but ‘Bad Luck‘ and ‘On Your Own‘ aren’t bad at all. From a plot perspective, the last time I saw this film was too long ago for me to really remember much more than the basics. I liked the gruff (I guess it was supposed to be Western-inspired?) demeanor of the new, strange, facially-scarred diplodocus. HIS TAIL WAS SWIFT AS LIGHTNING!
Third Place: II The Great Valley Adventure
This is the one where they adopt Chomper, the baby Sharptooth and then return him to his carnivorous parents. But who cares? The overwhelming highlight of this film and the reason it gets such a high ranking is the duo of villains, a pair of Struthiomimuses named Ozzy and Strut who sing the ballad-like ‘Eggs‘. It’s quite excellent. And apparently they’re voiced by the same actors who voice Petrie (Pteranodon/Flyer) and Chomper (Thanks Wikipedia!)
Fourth Place: V The Mysterious Island
It breaks my heart to see the movie with ‘Big Water‘ in it at fourth place. That song was gangbusters. I just called a LBT song gangbusters. Yes, I did. ‘Friends for Dinner‘ is also pretty catchy and ‘Always There‘ is a bit sob-worthy. There are lots of pretty visuals in this one, from the titular mysterious island to the famed big water of song.
Fifth Place: IV Journey through the Mists
And here before doing this list I thought JttM was my favorite. Sigh. Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it (Sound familiar? It’s an Ursula quote from The Little Mermaid, although she says something more like ‘innit?’). So as a child I liked Ally quite a bit and was unoffended by that creepy rodent-looking thing they picked up on their misty travels. I like that Spike finally talks (Spoiler?) out of fear for Duckie, I was deeply shaken by Grandfather’s illness, and I thought the night flowers were gorgeous. What else? The new Longnecks were funny, the Old One and all that. The villains are pretty good, Dil and Ichy. Although part of that might be my fondness for prehistoric crocodile type things, and Dil is a Deinosuchus (over 10 m long O.O ). ‘Who Needs You?’ and ‘It Takes All Sorts’ are fine songs I suppose (look them up yourself). Although maybe this film browbeats you a bit, message-wise. OH, AND THE CURMUDGEONLY BUT HELPFUL TORTOISE! (Does the plot seem more coherent? Can you tell I watched it slightly more recently?)
Sixth Place: VII The Stone of Cold Fire
And they were dinosaurs. Because the Rainbow Faces/Gallimimuses are clearly supposed to vanish into outer space at the end of this movie. Which annoyed me. That kind of ending (as in Grease, as in Blades of Glory) always strikes me as being a bit of a shameless cop out. And the rest of TLBT’s plots are so strong. No dei ex machina here. Never.
But ‘Beyond the Mysterious Beyond‘ was another gangbusters song. ‘Good Inside’ was passable. ‘Very Important Creature‘ I appreciate more thinking back on than when I originally heard it. It’ actually kind of good. I have a deep appreciation for Petrie’s half-baked uncle (who, incidentally, has a dark past). In movies six and seven they clearly start pushing the suspension of disbelief line (if one of those can even exist in TLBT), but I certainly didn’t mind that when I was in preschool and kindergarten. Funny to look back on now.
Seventh and Last: III The Great Giving
The bullies are cute and they sing cute songs (‘When You’re Big‘) and Cera’s dad sings this atrocious though hysterical song ‘Standing Tough‘, I can’t even express how awful it is. It’s so bad. Is it more bad than the rest of the series? You know, probably not, but for some reason it stands out as particularly irredeemable. I like the velociraptors and the tar pit.
Reading this, you might think it lost because of Standing Tough. Not so. I find that song to be an asset, frankly. No, I just found this movie kind of forgettable. I felt like they stole the subject matter from Berenstain Bears (of whom I’m also very fond). I don’t know. It just didn’t live up to the high standards set by the others in the franchise.