While sitting at home and watching TV (As I am writing this, I had just finished two movies in a row on HBO. Only the harrowing prospect of watching Chuck Norris in another B-movie tore me away from the screen and on to another couch potato occupation, the Internet. Hehe.) I saw a plug announcing the premiere on HBO of one of the most memorable animated films of my childhood -- Land Before Time (July 27, 5 PM).
For those who don't know, Land Before Time was an animated film originally released in 1988 by Universal Pictures. It features five young, anthropomorphic dinosaurs who are trying to find their way to the Great Valley (a place of abundant food source where all the other dinosaur species have converged because of a drought that has devastated the rest of the land), all the while, trying to elude the film's carnivorous villain, Sharp Tooth (a Tyrannosaurus Rex) and being guided by the spirit of Little Foot's (the main character) mother who died trying to protect him.
It is a story of five friends journeying through life, coming of age and reaching the end of their quest despite insurmountable odds -- a formidable group of youngsters who find strength and courage in each other.
The main character of the film is Little Foot, an Apatosaurus. It is mostly his determination to reach Great Valley, just as his mother had told him to do before she died, that drives the journey forward.
Cera, a Triceratops, is the feisty one in the bunch. She was also separated from her pack in the confusion of the evacuation to the Valley. Little Foot saves her life and after much prodding, she eventually joins him in his journey. She likes to assert her independence and pretends to be brave and self-sufficient even when she feels afraid and vulnerable.
Ducky, a Saurolophus, is probably the sweetest and most adorable character of the bunch. She seems to be the most impressionable too. Yes, she's the one who says, "Yep.yep.yep." all the time.
Petrie is the baby Pteranodon who can't fly. While Spike is the Stegosaurus with the hearty appetite who can't talk.
My personal favorite as a kid was Cera.
Her rebellious streak and tough-girl exterior attracted me (If you must know, I was never the sweet, demure type.) and while the many illogical decisions borne out of her gigantic ego irritated me at times, I guess I respected her for not wanting to take crap from anybody and looking to take care of herself. I guess she was also the one who seemed most real to me with all her trust issues and what-not. Haha. PLUS she vindicated herself when she pushed the 'ol T-Rex to his death in the end. ;)
Anyway, RJ and I have been talking about the movie for the past two nights now and we were both amused to find that it was one of the first movies we cried buckets of tears over. The first lines of the film's theme song, "If We Hold On Together" did us in. Hehe. All the nostalgic talk about the movie has also made my young sister-in-law Monique, eager to see it. I'm glad she now has a chance to catch it on TV.
On a more reflective note though, I think the reason why it had such a huge impact on my 6-year old mind (and on the many who got to see it), was that it may have been my first "educational cinematic experience." Okay fine. I first saw it on video but I'm talking about films in general.
For one, it launched me into this MAJOR dinosaur phase where I forced my mom to buy me all the dinosaur books I could find in National Bookstore. I also just HAD to know by heart then, the different pre-historic periods and the dinosaurs that appeared within them. And let's not forget all my gloating over getting the spellings of the dinosaur names correct. Talk about getting the right motivation. ;)
Of course, I could only remember a handful of those stuff now but more memorably though, Land Before Time also educated me in a way that it allowed me to confront the reality of death and loss through the experiences of the five young characters, particularly Little Foot's. To my young mind, it was a little traumatic to look at Little Foot and witness him deal with the loss of his mother and come face to face with situations or choices that could spell the difference between survival and death.
Yet it was also the perilous circumstances he had to endure along with his friends that lead me to a more profound understanding of friendship, faith, and love. It allowed me to perceive that a deep connection that defies even physical absence or separation is possible. In a sense I guess it taught me about Hope and what it really means.
As adults, we sometimes remember the most mundane yet interesting details from our childhood. For instance, I also remember how Land Before Time merchandise was sold everywhere then or was even part of the promotional gigs of some establishments like Shakey's. Heck, it's only now that I realize what a commercial success that film was.
But it's also interesting how some things, the really important ones, also find their way to our minds and hearts, aside of course, from the action, plot twists and engaging artwork/graphics. I guess the key to keeping them alive in us is just to have the same openness and receptivity that we once had as children.
We may just be surprised at the messages that many of our experiences, mediated or not, hold for us.
So I highly recommend seeing the film if you haven't yet. It may just be what your weary heart needs these days.