We're Back! A Dinosaur Story is a 1993 American animated film based on the 1987 children's book of the same name written by Hudson Talbot. It was directed by Dick & Ralph Zondag, Phil Nibbelink and Simon Wells, and written by John Patrick Shanley.
The film was released on November 24, 1993 by Universal Pictures.
Set in present-day New York City, an Eastern bluebird named Buster runs away from his siblings and meets an intelligent orange Tyrannosaurus named Rex, who is playing golf. He explains to Buster that he was once a ravaging dinosaur, and proceeds to tell his personal story.
In a prehistoric jungle, Rex is terrorizing other dinosaurs when a spaceship lands on Earth, piloted by an alien named Vorb. Vorb captures Rex and gives him "Brain Grain", a breakfast cereal that anthropomorphizes Rex and vastly increases his intelligence.
Rex is introduced to other dinosaurs altered by the Brain Grain: a blue Triceratops named Woog, a purple Pteranodon named Elsa, and a green Parasaurolophus named Dweeb.
They soon meet Vorb's employer Captain Neweyes, the inventor of Brain Grain, who reveals his goal of allowing the children of the present time to see real dinosaurs. He plans to take them to Dr. Julia Bleeb who will guide them to the American Museum of Natural History and warns them to avoid Professor Screweyes, his insane brother.
Neweyes drops the dinosaurs off in the Hudson River in the present day, but they are unable to meet with Bleeb. Instead, they meet a young boy named Louie, who plans on running away to join the circus.
Louie agrees to help the dinosaurs get to the museum. While riding on Elsa, Louie soon meets a girl named Cecilia, who is miserable with her life because of her neglectful parents. She agrees to run away with Louie and help out the dinosaurs.
To prevent people from panicking, Louie decides that the dinosaurs need to stay hidden during their journey to the museum. He disguises them as floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the audience realize that live dinosaurs are among them, they go into a panic and the dinosaurs flee to Central Park while being pursued by the police & the army.
Meanwhile, Louie and Cecilia meet Professor Screweyes, who is running his "Eccentric Circus." Unaware of Screweyes' sinister nature, the children sign a contract to perform in his circus troupe. When the dinosaurs arrive at the circus, Screweyes explains that he enjoys scaring people and believes that the dinosaurs would make a great addition to his circus.
Using his "Brain Drain" (which are pills that are the polar opposite of his brother's Brain Grain), Screweyes turns Louie and Cecilia into chimpanzees. When he offers the dinosaurs to consume the pills and join his circus, they reluctantly accept and Screweyes releases Louie and Cecilia. Knowing that their friendship will be lost forever, Rex transforms Louie and Cecilia back to their human forms with his gentle pats.
When the kids awake the next morning, they are greeted by a circus clown named Stubbs, who works for Professor Screweyes. Upon seeing the dinosaurs returned to their natural savage states, Louie and Cecilia plan to sneak into the night's show and save the dinosaurs with with Stubbs' help.
That night, Professor Screweyes opens his circus and unveils the dinosaurs to the terrified audience. Screweyes says he can control Rex and proceeds to hypnotize him. However, a crow unintentionally activates the flare lights which breaks Rex out of the trance.
After realizing he has been tricked, Rex becomes enraged and attempts to eat Screweyes, but Louie steps in and desperately talks Rex out of killing Screweyes. His impassioned pleas return Rex and the other dinosaurs to their kind and friendly natures.
Captain Neweyes arrives in his ship and congratulates Louie & Cecilia, who kiss each other; Stubbs announces his resignation from Professor Screweyes' employ. Neweyes, Louie, Cecilia and the dinosaurs board the aircraft, leaving Screweyes to be swarmed upon and devoured by the crows.
The dinosaurs spend the rest of their days in the museum which allows the children to see live dinosaurs.
Back in the present, Rex tells Buster that he and his fellow dinosaurs are still in the museum. He also reveals that Louie and Cecilia have each reconciled with their parents and become a couple. Rex returns Buster to his family and tells him to remember his story before leaving for the museum.
- John Goodman as Rex
- Rene LeVant as Woog
- Felicity Kendal as Elsa
- Charles Fleischer as Dweeb
- Jay Leno as Vorb
- Walter Cronkite as Captain Neweyes
- Joey Shea as Louie
- Yeardley Smith as Cecilia Nuthatch
- Julia Child as Dr. Juliet Bleeb
- Kenneth Mars as Professor Screweyes
- Martin Short as Stubbs The Clown
- Blaze Berdahl as Buster, The Bird
- Rhea Perlman as Buster's Mother
- Larry King as Himself
The production and development of "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" began at Universal Studios in Universal City near Los Angeles, California & Amblimation in London, United Kingdom in May of 1989 (which is at the time "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" was also in production).
As in a five-year production schedule, it takes four years for the film to be made.
In January of 1990 (after the film's voice actors recorded their voices for the characters), the animating and filming began through storyboards, pencil tests (rough and clean-up) and ink and paint (the final version of the film) to bring the characters to life, using cameras and recorded audio.
James Horner composed music for the film, including the only song "Roll Back the Rock (to the Dawn of Time)" performed by John Goodman.
After four years in the making, the movie was completely wrapped in the fall of 1993 (the time before the film's theatrical release on November 24th of that year).
The film was originally promoted with John Malkovich listed alongside Walter Cronkite, John Goodman, Julia Child, Jay Leno and Martin Short, but he didn't appear in the final version.
The soundtrack to "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" included the songs "Roll Back the Rock (to the Dawn of Time)" and "Roll Back the Rock (to the Dawn of Time) (Finale Version) by James Horner, Little Richard and Thomas Dolby.
- Main Title / Primeval Times – 4:14
- Flying Forward in Time – 5:48
- Welcome to New York – 2:26
- First Wish, First Flight – 3:48
- A Hint of Trouble / The 'Contract' – 1:49
- Roll Back the Rock (to the Dawn of Time) by John Goodman – 2:55
- Grand Slam Demons – 2:05
- Hot Pursuit – 3:18
- Central Park – 1:21
- Screweyes' Circus / Opening Act – 1:12
- Circus – 2:29
- Fright Radio / Rex's Sacrifice – 6:19
- Grand Demon Parade – 7:39
- The Kids Wake Up / A New Day – 2:57
- The Transformation – 5:30
- Special Visitors to the Museum of Natural History – 2:12
- Roll Back the Rock (to the Dawn of Time) by Little Richard – 2:56
To promote the film's release, a giant helium balloon of Rex the T. Rex was included in the real-life 1993 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
As the parade moved through Columbus Circle, high winds caught the Rex balloon and caused it to lift over the nearby sidewalk; the head of the balloon struck a protruding street light and popped, but the rest of the dinosaur's body remained inflated until the end of the parade.
There were also video game adaptations of "We're Back!" released for the SNES, Sega Genesis and Game Boy.
Pizza Hut carried a series of toys; Dakin and Just Toys made stuffed animals and bendies.
"We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" debuted at #7 at the box office, grossing $3,707,770 during its opening weekend. Domestically, it grossed $9,317,021, resulting in a box office bomb.
On Rotten Tomatoes, "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" has an approval rating of 38% based on 16 reviews with an average rating of 4.1/10.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star out of four stars and wrote: "It's shallow and kind of dumb, and the animation is routine, and the story isn't much, and the stakes are a lot higher these days in the featurelength animation game."
In her review of the film, Pamela Bruce of the Austin Chronicle said: "Mercifully, this feature is only about 80 minutes long. It probably won't frighten kids, but it might bore them instead."
James Berardinelli of ReelViews said, "We're Back is an exercise in endurance -- not only is it dull, but it has such an overwhelming sense of sweetness that it threatens to become nauseating."
Variety's Daniel M. Kimmel gave the film a positive review and wrote: "In spite of narrative problems... the film's chief appeal is its central conceit -- that giant monsters... can be transformed into creatures who like to play with children".