JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: Dinosaur (James Newton Howard – 2000)

dinosaur

“Dinosaur” is the 39th movie in the “Walt Disney animated classics” collection. I haven’t seen if but I grew up on that collection so I imagine the movie is great for kids. Might watch it with my little girl someday….I am revisiting its score as part of “JNH Thursdays”. Now among the genre of scores I completely trust James Newton Howard with, fantasy ranks very high. He knows how to use his incredible sensitivity to convey emotions and warm our hears.

It’s obvious from the second cue of this score…”The egg travels”. It’s all right there. From the African tribal and vocal start the music just takes off and turns into a gorgeous melody fit for dreams. I want to be in that world, I want to hear that story. It’s like “How to train your dragon” with an extra touch of warmth. The joyful choirs add to the sweeping sound of the track and I am just blown away.

The African element is heard all through the score. I guess the composer felt this sound would fit the story better than a Celtic based theme. It’s a little hard for me to  imagine this is a story where the main character is a dinosaur but I can stretch it a bit and just enjoy the music. There is an extraordinary joy in this composition. I am listening to “The courtship” and it feels like a celebration of life. There’s no shadow, there are no worries everything is safe and happy.

When danger appears in “The end of our island” I feel like an explore trapped in an unknown territory. I think James Newton Howard remembered this track when he had such a short time frame to write his score for “King Kong”. I recognize here the seeds for the action cues from that score. I want to grab this cue’s hand and hold it very tight until it’s over. This is one of those pieces written by this amazing composer that you will never forget. You will tell your kids about as if you were telling them a big adventure that you were part of.

In “Raptors / stay together” I hear “The last airbender”. It has the same feeling of something that transcends human limits and dives into a territory where times and space can be altered. This cue is a tornado, a mighty storm that takes control away from you in a beautiful orchestral whirlwind. I love it. There are these surges of energy and heart in the score that are simply amazing and they are the beautiful mountain peaks in the fantasy landscape of this score.

“Dinosaur” is not among my favorite James Newton Howard scores but I enjoyed it a lot. It’s right up there with the best adventure scores you’ll hear and I have still yet to find a misplaced note from this composer. This is the kind of score that makes me smile all the time. I felt happy listening to it and it’s a very nice discovery. I will surely come back to it.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 22 / 52

Album excellence: 42%

Highlights:

The egg travels

The Courtship

The End Of Our Island

Raptors/Stand Together

Breakout

Epilogue

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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