Forget Disney’s usual mid-June ‘toon release. This time the studio’s moved it to May 19, eschewed hand-drawn characters for computer-generated beasties against live-action backgrounds, dropped the songs, and — gasp! — kicked up the intensity to PG territory. ”Just to look at our villain, the carnotaur,” boasts codirector Zondag, ”is to look at PURE EVIL.” True to Disney animated form, however, ”Dinosaur” is an otherwise cuddly coming-of-age tale — about an orphaned iguanodon (voiced by Sweeney).
It also chomped through five and a half years of production effort and sacks of money; the directors estimate $80 million went just to build Disney’s new digital-production studio. On top of that, reports have pegged the film’s budget at about $140 million. ”Friends outside Disney have thrown around numbers [for the movie AND the new facility] as high as $350 million,” says Leighton. ”We just don’t see that. What we have spent, you’ll see every penny.” As for Reese (TV’s ”Touched by an Angel”), she sees the film as a gift ”for the grandkids and godchildren.” She just hopes the animators ”didn’t look at me and see Eema, my character.” Why? ”Eema weighs 900 pounds, has a fat belly, and walks low to the ground.”