EW Staff
April 28, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

STARRING THE VOICES OF D.B. SWEENEY, JULIANNA MARGULIES, ALFRE WOODARD, DELLA REESE, JOAN PLOWRIGHT, OSSIE DAVIS, SAMUEL E. WRIGHT DIRECTED BY RALPH ZONDAG AND ERIC LEIGHTON

BUZZ-O-METER 6

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Huge creatures! Huge budget! Huge layoffs if this doesn’t click!

Forget Disney’s usual mid-June ‘toon release. This time it’s moved 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 co-director 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.” (May 19)

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