About five minutes into David Krentz & Erik Nelson's CG animated feature, Dinotasia, the thought occurred to me that this film didn't look any better than any number of Discovery Channel TV programs.
Suffice it to say, I was not surprised to learn Dinotasia does, in fact, find its origins in a Discovery Channel series titled Dinosaur Revolution. That being said, I'm a fan of those programs. My son and I watch shows like Clash of the Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts, and Monsters Resurrected all the time. However, this film was marketed as a stand alone feature, and I feel as though that is a bit of a sketchy description.
The ideas behind Dinotasia are certainly interesting. The filmmakers wanted to create short vignettes following one or two animals in the centuries leading up to the calamity that killed most of the beasts. We see dinosaurs in love, we see dinosaurs seeking revenge (more than once), we even see a dinosaur eat a magic mushroom and go on a crazy trip that is unlike anything I've ever seen on film, but what we don't get is a coherent storyline or the kind of animation quality that would distinguish this film from its TV predecessors.
There is the rub. Dinotasia looks like a TV show, and I don't know about you, but if I'm going to pay $31 (Amazon's current asking price), I want more than 82 minutes of mediocre CG animation. Dinotasia ends up feeling like a major gyp, and that's especially sad because of the incredible talent involved.
Directors Krentz and Nelson have pretty impressive CVs. Krentz has been working in high end CG animation for a while, and most recently was part of the art team for Disney's John Carter. Erik Nelson has produced dozens of documentaries, including Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Grizzly Man, both directed by a certain thickly accented, bulletproof German iconoclast. The major selling point of the film for most people has been the involvement of Werner Herzog (presumably doing Nelson a solid) as narrator for the film. However, even the mighty Herzog, who has narrated such gems as The Boondocks episode, "It's a Black President, Huey Freeman," can't save this film. I might have been able to overlook the middling tech specs if Herzog had been given free rein to make this thing more interesting, however, the trailer below features more Herzog narration in two minutes than Dinotasia manages in 82 minutes.
In short, I don't think that this film delivers anything different from the TV programs from which it sprung. Those programs, because of their episodic nature, are actually given more latitude and the ability to investigate a single story more in depth than Dinotasia's much less cohesive style allows. If this were cheap, it'd be a moderate recommendation, but at the ridiculous price they're asking, I can't imagine paying to own it.
The good news is that Flatiron Film Company's Blu-ray disc looks and sounds lovely. The animation may be a bit below expectation, but I'm confident that this disc conveys every single pixel that the filmmakers intended. What's more impressive is the sound design, which utilizes the sound field quite well and manages a more enveloping aural experience than a visual one. In terms of A/V, Dinotasia gets a thumbs up.
There aren't many extras to speak of, but the ones that are included will entertain those who enjoyed the film. We get about half a dozen deleted or alternate scenes from the film; some are good, some are not so good, but they all tell their own stories. Honestly, even though the film was as short as it was, it still felt too long, so I'm glad they left these out.
Dinotasia. Why did you have to drag Herzog into this? At least you could have properly exploited him. Instead, you were boring. Sad.