Dinosaur film wrong by a few million years

Charles Arthur
Sunday 30 July 2000 00:00 BST

It is one of the most realistic animations ever devised. It took Disney more than three million computer hours to create. Trouble is, they got it wrong.

It is one of the most realistic animations ever devised. It took Disney more than three million computer hours to create. Trouble is, they got it wrong.

Dinosaur, to be released in the UK this autumn, is "a fable-like story", according to Disney. But according to Britain's Geological Society, the £200m film is an anachronistic mishmash which places the wrong sort of dinosaurs in the wrong sort of setting.

Dinosaur follows the adventures of an iguanodon called Aladar who is separated from his own species and so brought up by a clan of lemurs.

Unfortunately, as scientists have been quick to point out, some of the dinosaurs featured would have been long dead at the time the film is set. More basic still, they would not have co-existed with modern lemurs, as they were yet to evolve.

"The Disney publicity describes them as a herd of 'misfit' dinosaurs," noted Dr Ted Nield of the Geological Society. "Possibly this is because some of them should have been extinct by the late Cretaceous era." He prefers to call them "Aladar and the Anachronisms".

"The [lemurs] should have been dinosaur snack food 10 minutes into the film," commented one American reviewer.

Even Disney itself, in the copious publicity which accompanies the film, briefly acknowledges that " Dinosaur intentionally veers from scientific fact in certain aspects of its storytelling".

But it prefers to concentrate on the enormous processing power used to produce the film, which is entirely computer generated: "Bringing Dinosaur to the screen required 3.2 million processing hours and the film's total elements occupied 45 terabytes (45,000 megabytes), comprising more than 100 million individual files."

A film crew spent 18 months travelling the world to capture pictures to form the backdrops. Huge efforts were devoted to making sure that the lemurs' hair looked realistic.

But why bother with lemurs? After all, there were very few mammals alive - if any - when the dinosaurs met their end soon after (in geological terms) a meteor strike about 65 million years ago.

"Well, there were shrew-like mammals at that time, according to the latest scientific findings," said a Disney spokeswoman. "We are quite aware of the historical inaccuracies. But we never set out to make a historical documentary. There were only a few million years between dinosaurs and lemurs. We were told by a child during the American screenings that there probably wouldn't have been grass at that time." But that's unimportant, she insisted, because "it's a character-led, fantastic story".

Dr Nield has dubbed the film, which is released here in October, "Schmaltzing with Dinosaurs", after the BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs.

Perhaps it is wiser to say, with the French: " Demandez pas; c'est du cinéma."

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