Pixar’s ‘The Good Dinosaur’ Is Bad Science

The new dino movie from the creators of 'Toy Story' looks fun, but wrong

There’s a big dinosaur blockbuster roaring into movie theaters later this year. No, I’m not talking about Jurassic World (though that too is coming up this summer)! Behold the first trailer for The Good Dinosaur, the new movie from Pixar, the animation company that has become basically synonymous with quality children’s entertainment after huge hits like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and Wall-E, to name but a few. The Good Dinosaur has veteran Pixar voice actor Peter Sohn in making his feature directorial debut, and its star-filled voiceover cast includes Neil Patrick Harris, Bill Hader and Frances McDormand.

The story, as briefly alluded to in the trailer and explained in slightly more detail on Pixar’s website, imagines what life would have been like had a prehistoric meteor not impacted Earth, letting the dinosaurs to thrive at the same time as human beings were beginning to walk upright and do human things.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1nfAxkpx9M

Based on the trailer and cast alone, it looks like the film will easily become another Pixar instant classic, beloved by children and adults alike. It may also kindle interest among kids in dinosaurs and paleontology, which would be great for science and our understanding of Earth’s history! However, on that note, it’s worth pointing out that the entire premise itself is inherently unscientific: the dinosaurs of course did go extinct about 66 million years ago, while human beings, as we know ourselves today, diverged from our fellow primate ancestors only between 6 million and 13 million years ago.

The Good Dinosaur is certainly hardly the first piece of entertainment to posit an alternate history where dinosaurs and human beings co-existed (although to kids today, The Flinstones probably seems prehistoric in-and-of itself). However, even the narrowly-averted meteor impact shown in the trailer is at best, just one of several major hypotheses for what contributed to the mass extinction of the thunder lizards.

Earth still bears the scars of the impact of an estimated 6-mile wide meteor near today’s Chicxulub, Mexico, in the form of a 110-mile-wide crater. And while many paleontologists and geologists think that this singular meteor impact is likely the dominant factor in the dinosaurs’ demise, gaseous volcanic eruptions from the Deccan Traps in India are also thought to have played a role as well, alterting the climate and making it inhospitable to dinosaurs.

Yes, The Good Dinosaur, is just a movie and shouldn’t be held to the same standard as a scientific textbook, but hopefully when kids see this movie, they’re motivated to seek out the real story, as least as much of it as we humans can tell from the fossil and geological records.