In the Disney film Dinosaur (2000), how true to knowledge is the representation of the dinosaurs' behaviours? Does the film try to be true to knowledge, or is it mostly guesswork or exaggeration?

  • 5
    What do we know about dinosaur behaviour?
    – Luciano
    Apr 7, 2021 at 14:20
  • 2
    They haven't yet finished arguing over whether they had scales or feathers, let alone what their daily behaviour was. Early examples from 250 million years ago had scales, but feathers were around 180 million years ago, so there's a reasonable chance things like velociraptors did actually have feathers… making all modern movie & museum representations completely wrong …and who knows? maybe they did talk ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 7, 2021 at 15:49
  • I know this is a Q about behaviors, but when I saw "dinosaur raised by a family of lemurs" in the synopsis I LOL'd
    – Yorik
    Apr 7, 2021 at 18:14

2 Answers 2


Disney spent an enormous amount of money on the CGI. Taken directly from the Wiki:

Having aspired to be a paleontologist, David Krentz supervised the character design and visual development teams.

Also taken from the Wiki, with regards to Disney's decision to make the dinosaurs talk:

Ebert wrote, "An enormous effort had been spent on making these dinosaurs seem real, and then an even greater effort was spent on undermining the illusion".

Both statements come from cited sources, so the information is legitimate.

Having an aspiring paleontologist supervising the characters, coupled with Ebert's statement of "making these dinosaurs seem real", I'd say they probably worked off of as much knowledge as they had available to them.

  • 2
    Which is to say not much at all. After all, I'm an aspiring F-1 driver...
    – CGCampbell
    Apr 9, 2021 at 13:50
  • Making dinosaurs 'seem real' is a lot different than making them 'be as representative of real dinosaurs as much as our current knowledge permits us', though. Of course, it's an animated family film by Disney, and representation was never their strong suit.
    – Joachim
    May 18, 2021 at 19:10
  • Ebert is a film critic and has, as far as I'm aware, no special knowledge about the film other than what he saw on the screen. I'm not sure why you've bothered to quote him or feel that he knows more than any other person that wasn't involved in the making of the film.
    – Valorum
    Sep 17 at 9:52
  • @Valorum - Did you really just assume that a film critic of Ebert's stature just sits in a theater and reviews films without the ability to interact with studio execs, directors or any other people involved in the making of films?? Sep 17 at 16:34
  • @JohnnyBones - Are you possessed of the opinion that Ebert would take the time contact the execs of a studio or the director of a children's film just to get background for a two-paragraph film review? A review which I might add contains no evidence of any special insight whatsoever.
    – Valorum
    Sep 17 at 16:48

An article on Cinema.com gives an extensive overview of the expertise that Disney brought to bear on this film. In short, they hired top scientists to brief their animators as well as giving them access to concept art, rough sketches and finished footage to ensure the accuracy of their work.

Although many liberties were taken in portraying some of the characters, the directors and animators did a considerable amount of research and met with some of the top experts in their field. Jack Horner, a noted paleontologist from the Museum of the Rockies, visited the Studio on several occasions and lectured to the "Dinosaur" team. Leighton also spent time at Horner's Museum in Bozeman, Montana where he laid out the actual bones of a 100-million-year old Tenontosaurus (an animal similar in form to an Iguanodon) to get a sense of how the bones and muscles were connected and how that structure would affect its movements.

Dinosaur expert Don Lessem, a respected author and museum consultant / designer, also provided valuable information to the creative team. Stuart Sumida, a top paleontologist / biologist from Cal State San Bernardino, lectured the artists and animators on dinosaur locomotion and anatomy. The directors and several of the supervising animators also visited a local animal reserve to ride elephants and study their massive structures as reference for how a prehistoric creature might move.

Dinosaur : Production Notes

Referencing the artbook Dinosaur: The Evolution of an Animated Feature, several of the senior crew had amateur experience of palaeontology.

For David Krentz, a lifelong dinosaur fanatic, designing prehistoric animals was a dream come true. He recalls, "When I heard they were making a film about dinosaurs, I begged and kicked and pleaded until I got on it. Even before they hired me to work on the show, I'd bring material over and make suggestions about the design. I took a crack at designing the main character and gathered a lot of attention."

"We had to walk a really fine line between reality and caricature," observes Krentz. "It was important to remember that these were characters first and foremost. Dinosaur facial muscles tend to be minimal so we had to take quite a few liberties. In the case of Aladar and the other Iguanodons, we threw in some horse facial muscles. We also added eyebrows and mouth shapes to help make them more expressive. There was a big debate for awhile about beaks or lips and we eventually settled on the latter. We ended up putting lips over the beak. Body-wise, the Iguanodons are pretty close to reality and the musculature is essentially accurate. They actually had a bone in their eyebrow."

In terms of accuracy, the herd members range from "bang-on" (e.g. the Ceratops) to loose caricature (e.g. Eema the Styrachosaur). Included in the group of over 30 species are some that have never been seen on film before, including the Microceratops and the Ankylosaur (Url).

Krentz describes his assignment on the film as "probably the most Nirvana-like experience that I'll ever have in my life. For three and a half years, they paid me to draw dinosaurs. It was just a dream come true to be able to bring dinosaurs to life. My mother still can't believe it. My career choices were paleontologist or animator. This is the best of both worlds. It was so much fun to work on that I couldn't wait for Christmas vacation to be over so I could get back to work."

Disney pushed for the film to be more 'kid friendly' with the inclusion of talking dinosaurs and mammal cast. Krentz in particular was not happy about this development

Krentz was put in a difficult position on Dinosaur. He had pushed, pleaded, cajoled and threatened his way onto the Dinosaur team, due to his lifelong obsession with dinosaurs and their physiognomy. Now he was being asked to alter what fossil evidence had revealed to science about the actual creatures.

"I just had to get over the idea that these are dinosaurs. They aren't," Krentz says. "They're characters. There's walking the line, and there's going over the line. We had to walk the line. They had to be believable as animals and interesting as characters. In order to make them read as characters, we really had to push things. And that meant making them very inaccurate dinosaurs."

Dinosaur: The Evolution of an Animated Feature

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