The Land Before Time (1988)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice strong story that isn't afraid to be a bit challenging

Older style of animation, too many sequels ruin the original

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Land Before Time

Studio:  Sullivan Bluth Studios

Genre(s):  Animated/Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Release Date(s):   November 18, 1988

MPAA Rating:  G



Hey kid, stop playing with your food and eat it!

A cataclysmic disaster has struck the Earth, and the dinosaurs are fighting for their lives. Born into this dangerous world is an Apatosaurus (aka Longneck) named Littlefoot. As Littlefoot and his family seek out the Great Valley which is believed to be untouched by the destruction, he meets a young triceratops named Cera (aka Three-Horn) named who reveals that different dinosaurs don’t mix together. When Littlefoot’s mother is killed saving Littlefoot from a tyrannosaurus (aka Sharptooth), an earthquake separates Littlefoot and from their families. Now Littlefoot and Cera are making friends like Ducky a saurolophus (aka Bigmouth), Petrie a pteranodon (aka Flyer), and Spike a stegosaurus (aka Spiketail) as they try to reach the Great Valley, but the different dinosaurs might learn that they have to work together to survive with on their tails.



Directed by Don Bluth and produced by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, The Land Before Time was the theatrical premiere of the long running series of movies. The movie was well-received and did well in the theaters.

The Land Before Time is one of the better animated movies of the ’80s. When The Land Before Time was released, Disney was in a downward spiral. The Fox and the Hound (1981) was rather successful, The Great Mouse Detective (1986) less so, and The Black Cauldron (1985) took a heavy toll on Disney financially by failing at the theater. With the release of An American Tail (1986) and The Land Before Time, real, viable alternatives to Disney were starting to appear (Disney of course struck back with the game changing The Little Mermaid in 1989).


Very similar to Fantasia‘s dinosaur battle

The Land Before Time provides a good story that isn’t afraid to be a bit challenging like earlier Disney movies. Much like Bambi (which has the killing of Bambi’s mother), Littlefoot is faced with the tragic death of his mother, and like Simba later in The Lion King, Littlefoot blames himself…at least for a bit.  Unlike Bambi who seemed to get over his mother’s death rather quickly, Littlefoot is haunted by his mother who always promised to be there for him in spirit. It is a sad but realistic view of death for younger viewers who might not have experienced it yet.

The strong story is back up by rather solid art. Spielberg had considered making the film silent citing Fantasia’s dinosaur segment “Rite of Spring”, and you can see direct ties to Fantasia in Littlefoot’s mother’s battle with the tyrannosaurus. The art is standard animation which might turn off some younger viewers who are accustom to computer animation, but I usually prefer it to the computer animated art.


Dinosaurs will live forever!!!

The characters of The Land Before Time are rather endearing and have helped provide the series longevity. I do find it rather odd however that they added two very jumpy characters in both Petrie, the pteranodon who can’t fly, and Ducky whose childlike voice was provided by Judith Barsi (who also starred in Jaws: The Revenge) and was killed by her father before the film’s premiere. Other vocal talents include and Pat Hingle in the rather unevenly used narrator.

The Land Before Time is one of the better “off-Disney” animated films of the ’80s. It and An American Tail really gave Disney a run for its money by providing a solid story with great characters. The movie does have a lot of heart and has a number of Bambi type moments involving Littlefoot and his mother. I think the film holds up quite well and can still be enjoyed by a wide range of ages. I do recommend The Land Before Time over Disney’s 2000 film Dinosaur which had a virtually identical set-up (a cataclysm, a sacred valley, and predators on the trail). The Land Before Time was followed by The Land Before Time II:  The Great Valley Adventure in 1994.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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