The Land Before Time V: The Mysterious Island (1997)


USA. 1997.


Director/Producer – Charles Grosvenor, Screenplay – John Loy, Music – Michael Tavera, Songs – Michele Brourman & Amanda McBroom, Art Direction – Flammarion Ferreira. Production Company – Universal Cartoon Studios/Universal Home Video


Brandon La Croix (Littlefoot), Jeff Glen Bennett (Petrie/Mr Clubtail), Rob Paulsen (Spike), Aria Noelle Curzon (Ducky), Anndi McAfee (Cera), Cannon Young (Chomper), Christina Pickles (Elsie), Kenneth Mars (Grandpa), John Ingle (Narrator)


A swarm of insects ravages the Great Valley, stripping it of all the foliage that the leafeaters live on. The only choice for their survival is for the dinosaurs to go on a trek to find a new source of greenery. As the adults march across the desert, hunger makes them bicker. And so Littlefoot and the other dinosaur children decide to set out on their own. They eventually come to the ocean and discover a verdant island not far offshore. However, as they set out to investigate, waves cut off the causeway to the island, abandoning them there. They meet their old friend, the baby tyrannosaur Chomper, but become fearful that his parents will regard them as meals.

The Mysterious Island was the fourth of the films spun off from Don Bluth’s The Land Before Time (1988). The other video-released sequels were The Land Before Time II: The Great Adventure (1994), The Land Before Time III: The Time of the Great Giving (1995), The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists (1995), The Land Before Time VI: The Secret of Saurus Rock (1998), The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire (2000), The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze (2001), The Land Before Time IX: Journey to the Big Water (2002), The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration (2003), The Land Before Time XI: Invasion of the Tinysauruses (2004), The Land Before Time XII: The Great Day of the Flyers (2006) and The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends (2007), followed by a cartoon series The Land Before Time (2007-8).

By this point, the Land Before Time franchise was starting to become a little creatively worn out. While the original film was about a quest for a Utopian dinosaur paradise, the rest of the Land Before Time films were about environmental threats to the fragile ecology of that Utopia. The Mysterious Island returns to that original Utopian quest theme but there is not much of a plot to it. It is very picaresque in nature and there is much muddling about on the island, during which time the film has no dramatic drive. Some of the songs prove surprisingly listenable, particularly the Big Water number. These offer some at times amusing rhyming schemes – “It’s deep and dark and dangerous/It’s scary and could rearrange-erous.”

The Mysterious Island is clearly a film that has been made for very young children – the dinosaurs sing songs about parents always being there to comfort you. Again there is a strong pro-vegetarian, anti-carnivore theme. The most interesting parts of the film are where the group befriends a cute baby T-Rex but cannot be sure if his parents are going to eat them or not. Eventually, even the carnivores are included in the film’s big warm fuzzy hugs – “Chomper and his friends may be different from us but they’re family” – with the peculiar belief that friendship alone would be enough to change dietary habits.

Trailer here

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