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HISTORY

The film begins with voice-over narration: “Once upon this same earth, beneath this same sun, long before you, before the ape and the elephant as well. Before the wolf, the bison, the whale, before the mammoth and the mastodon, in the time of the dinosaurs.” The narration continues throughout the film. End credits state: “Special Thanks To: The Industrial Development Authority of Ireland.”
       During the film, the following terms are used to identify different creatures, items, and events: “longneck” is a Brontosaurus; “three-horn” is a Triceratops; “swimmer” is an Anatosaurus; “flyer” is a pterodactyl; “spiketail” is a stegosaurus; “Sharptooth” is a Tyrannosaurus Rex; “hopper” is a frog; “tree-star” is a leaf; “bright circle” is the sun; and “earthshake” is an earthquake.
       According to studio production notes in AMPAS library files, director-producer Don Bluth and producers John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman started work on the film in 1985, “even before their state-of-the-art headquarters, Sullivan-Bluth Studios, moved to Ireland in November, 1986.” An article in the 27 Jan 1987 HR referred to the film by its working title, The Land Before Time Began, and noted that production had already started at Sullivan Studios Ireland with an anticipated completion date during the summer of 1988. HR also stated the picture’s budget would be larger than the $9.5 million spent on Sullivan Studios’ previous film, An American Tail (1986, see entry). Although a 20 Apr 1987 DV news item used the title, Land Before Time Begins, and stated the ...

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The film begins with voice-over narration: “Once upon this same earth, beneath this same sun, long before you, before the ape and the elephant as well. Before the wolf, the bison, the whale, before the mammoth and the mastodon, in the time of the dinosaurs.” The narration continues throughout the film. End credits state: “Special Thanks To: The Industrial Development Authority of Ireland.”
       During the film, the following terms are used to identify different creatures, items, and events: “longneck” is a Brontosaurus; “three-horn” is a Triceratops; “swimmer” is an Anatosaurus; “flyer” is a pterodactyl; “spiketail” is a stegosaurus; “Sharptooth” is a Tyrannosaurus Rex; “hopper” is a frog; “tree-star” is a leaf; “bright circle” is the sun; and “earthshake” is an earthquake.
       According to studio production notes in AMPAS library files, director-producer Don Bluth and producers John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman started work on the film in 1985, “even before their state-of-the-art headquarters, Sullivan-Bluth Studios, moved to Ireland in November, 1986.” An article in the 27 Jan 1987 HR referred to the film by its working title, The Land Before Time Began, and noted that production had already started at Sullivan Studios Ireland with an anticipated completion date during the summer of 1988. HR also stated the picture’s budget would be larger than the $9.5 million spent on Sullivan Studios’ previous film, An American Tail (1986, see entry). Although a 20 Apr 1987 DV news item used the title, Land Before Time Begins, and stated the picture was being directed by Don Bluth in Los Angeles, CA, a 28 Oct 1987 Var production chart reported production began in Sep 1987. A 7 Jul 1988 Exhibitor Relations Co., Inc. press release stated production was located in Dublin, Ireland, and a release date set for 18 Nov 1988.
       Production notes mentioned that Bluth, storyboard artists Dan Kuenster and Larry Leker, and researchers worked together to develop how the film’s prehistoric characters would look and move. The research involved observing the movements of modern creatures, like giraffes and elephants, and studying models and fossils at museums such as: the Smithsonian Institutions in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles; the Field Museum in Chicago, IL; and the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Production notes noted that approximately 1 million drawings were generated from the film’s concept phase to completion. Included were 100,000 hand-painted cels and 600 painted backgrounds.
       A news brief in the 10 Nov 1988 LAT reported the film was scheduled to have “an invitational family preview” on 12 Nov 1988 at the Natural History Museum located at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. The 15 Nov 1988 LAHExam reported the preview screening was co-sponsored by retailer J.C. Penney Co., and was attended by approximately 1,000 people.
       The film was released 18 Nov 1988, as stated in the 18 Nov 1988 LAT review. Contemporary sources, such as the 18 Nov 1988 Long Beach Press-Telegram and NYT reviews, listed the film’s duration as seventy-three minutes. Reviews in the 18 Nov 1988 HR and LAT listed the running time as sixty-nine minutes, and the 18 Nov 1988 DV stated the running time as sixty-six minutes. The print viewed for this record was sixty-nine minutes. A 23 Nov 1988 HR brief reported the film placed first in the box-office totals for the weekend of 18--20 Nov 1988, and a trade advertisement in the 23 Nov 1988 DV stated that during the “first three days” of release, the film took in $7,526,025. An article in the 24 May 1989 DV reported the picture grossed around $46 million during its theatrical run.
       Production notes and a press kit in AMPAS library files dated 24 Oct 1988 listed actor Fred Gwynne as the film’s “Narrator.” However, the press kit offered the following as a “correction”: “Please note that the voice of the Narrator/Rooter in the 'The Land Before Time' should be credited to Pat Hingle.” Gwynne is not credited onscreen and there are no further reports of his participation in the production.
       According to the 26 May 1994 HR , MCA/Universal Home Video and Universal Family Entertainment were reported to be producing three sequels to the film to be released directly to video cassette. As reported by the 9 Aug 2005 DV, the film’s franchise at the time was valued at $1 billion. At the time of this record, there are thirteen films in “The Land Before Time” series. The DV and 9 Aug 2005 LAT mentioned an animated television series was scheduled to premiere in 2007 on the cable television channel Cartoon Network. Modern sources state the series premiered 5 Mar 2007.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1987
p. 8.
Daily Variety
18 Nov 1988
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Nov 1988
pp. 10-11.
Daily Variety
24 May 1989
p. 8.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 2005
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 1987
p. 1, 47.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1988
p. 5, 52.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1994.
---
LAHExam
15 Nov 1988
Section B, p. 3.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
18 Nov 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1988
View, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1988
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 2005
Calendar, Section E, p. 3.
New York Times
18 Nov 1988
p. 8.
Variety
28 Oct 1987
p. 24.
Variety
23 Nov 1988
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Lucas/Spielberg presentation
a Don Bluth film
Produced by Sullivan Bluth Studios Ireland Ltd.
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
Apprentice asst dir
Apprentice asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
Co-exec prod
WRITERS
Story
Story consultant
Story consultant
PHOTOGRAPHY
Prod cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
Anim cam
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Storyboard
Storyboard
Storyboard
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutting
Negative cutting
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus and post prod exec
Mus performed by
London, England
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Choral dir
Orchestrations
Mus copyist
Mus rec
Asst mus ed
Mus recorded at
London, England
SOUND
ADR dial eng
ADR rec
Supvising re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Asst re-rec mixer
Supervising sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley by
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley rec
Dial recorded at
Dial recorded at
Dial recorded at
ADR rec
ADR rec
Re-rec at
Borchamwood, England
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff directing anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff anim
Spec eff painting
Opt eff supv
Apprentice spec eff painters
Apprentice spec eff painter
Apprentice spec eff painter
Opt tech
Opt tech
PRODUCTION MISC
Supervising exec for Sullivan Bluth Ireland, Ltd.
Prod supv
Casting
Scene planning
Scene planning
Scene planning
Apprentice scene planner
Apprentice scene planner
Supv systems eng
Engineering
Studio operations
Asst to Mr. Sullivan
Personnel mgr
Personnel officer
U.S. personnel officer
Amblin controller
Prod accountant
Asst to accountant
Asst to accountant
Payroll master
Corporate accounts
Corporate accounts asst
Purchasing mgr
Purchasing asst
Pub asst
Secy to Mr. Goldman
Prod secy
Asst to Mr. Marshall
Secy to Mr. Sullivan
Management secy
Personnel secy
Personnel secy
Prod coord
Prod D. P.
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Engineering asst
Transportation
Transportation
Transportation
Office mgr (USA)
Cam stand engineering
Studio facilities
Dublin, Ireland
ANIMATION
Layout supv
Layout artist
Layout artist
Layout artist
Layout artist
Background stylist
Background artist
Background artist
Background artist
Background artist
Background artist
Directing anim
Directing anim
Directing anim
Directing anim
Directing anim
Directing anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Char key supv
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Char key asst
Rough asst anim supv
Anim checking
Anim checking
Anim checking
Anim checking
Anim checking
Final checking
Final checking
Key col stylist
Key col stylist
Col stylist
Col stylist
Col stylist
Col stylist
Xerography supv
Supv Xerox checking
Paint lab supv
Cel painting supv
Col mark-up supv
Inking supv
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Addl char anim
Asst layout
Asst layout
Asst layout
Spec eff inbetweener
Spec eff inbetweener
Spec eff inbetweener
Spec eff inbetweener
Spec eff inbetweener
Spec eff inbetweener
Spec eff inbetweener
Rough inbetween asst supv
Rough breakdown asst
Rough breakdown asst
Rough breakdown asst
Rough breakdown asst
Rough breakdown asst
Rough breakdown asst
Rough breakdown asst
Rough breakdown asst
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Rough anim inbetweener
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Char clean-up
Asst Xerography supv
Key Xerography processor
Key Xerography processor
Key Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography processor
Xerography checker
Xerography checker
Xerography checker
Xerography checker
Xerography checker
Xerography checker
Xerography checker
Mark-up
Mark-up
Inker
Inker
Apprentice inker
Apprentice inker
Apprentice inker
Apprentice inker
Apprentice inker
Apprentice inker
Paint lab asst supv
Paint lab mix and match
Paint lab mix and match
Paint lab mix and match
Paint lab mix and match
Paint lab mix and match
Paint lab mix and match
Cel paint asst supv
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Cel painter
Paint checker
Paint checker
Paint checker
Paint checker
Apprentice final checker
Apprentice final checker
Cel service
Cel service
Cel service
Cel service
Cel paint laboratory
COLOR PERSONNEL
Key col stylist
Key col stylist
Col stylist
Col stylist
Col stylist
Col stylist
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"If We Hold On Together," music and words by James Horner and Will Jennings, produced by Peter Asher, performed by Diana Ross.
PERFORMED BY
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Land Before Time Begins
The Land Before Time Began
Release Date:
18 November 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 Nov 1988
Production Date:
began 1985
Copyright Info
Claimant
DATE
CopyrightNumber
Universal City Studios, Inc., and U-Drive Productions, Inc.
1 May 1989
PA412518
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
Color
Animation
Duration(in mins):
66,69 or 73
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
Ireland, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29372
SYNOPSIS

In prehistoric times, a severe drought causes “leaf-eater” dinosaurs to leave their homes to search for the mythical “Great Valley.” As different leaf-eaters herds migrate, the last surviving “longneck” egg hatches. Its mother names him Littlefoot, and introduces him to his grandparents. Later, Littlefoot’s mother finds a tree with a lone “tree-star.” Plucking it from a branch, she tells Littlefoot the Great Valley is full of tree-stars. Before he eats the tree-star, Littlefoot hears laughter and sees Cera, a young “three-horn” dinosaur, playing. When he wanders over to her, Cera’s father, Daddy Topps, intervenes. Daddy Topps informs Cera that three-horns do not associate with longnecks. Afterward, Littlefoot asks his mother why he is not allowed to be friends with Cera. She tells him that leaf-eaters have always stayed within their own herds, and promises there are other young longnecks in the Great Valley for him to play with. Littlefoot wishes they were already at the Great Valley, but his mother explains they must continue to travel: by following the “bright circle” to a large rock resembling a longneck, and then through the “mountains that burn.” Later that night, Littlefoot chases after a “hopper.” As he follows the hopper away from his family and into a pond, he runs into Cera. Finding more hoppers in the water, they work together trying to catch them. While playing, a fierce dinosaur, “Sharptooth,” attacks. Littlefoot’s mother arrives and fights Sharptooth to rescue Littlefoot and Cera. However, Sharptooth bites her on the back. While Littlefoot, his mother and Cera flee, a powerful “earthshake” occurs, breaking the ground ...

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In prehistoric times, a severe drought causes “leaf-eater” dinosaurs to leave their homes to search for the mythical “Great Valley.” As different leaf-eaters herds migrate, the last surviving “longneck” egg hatches. Its mother names him Littlefoot, and introduces him to his grandparents. Later, Littlefoot’s mother finds a tree with a lone “tree-star.” Plucking it from a branch, she tells Littlefoot the Great Valley is full of tree-stars. Before he eats the tree-star, Littlefoot hears laughter and sees Cera, a young “three-horn” dinosaur, playing. When he wanders over to her, Cera’s father, Daddy Topps, intervenes. Daddy Topps informs Cera that three-horns do not associate with longnecks. Afterward, Littlefoot asks his mother why he is not allowed to be friends with Cera. She tells him that leaf-eaters have always stayed within their own herds, and promises there are other young longnecks in the Great Valley for him to play with. Littlefoot wishes they were already at the Great Valley, but his mother explains they must continue to travel: by following the “bright circle” to a large rock resembling a longneck, and then through the “mountains that burn.” Later that night, Littlefoot chases after a “hopper.” As he follows the hopper away from his family and into a pond, he runs into Cera. Finding more hoppers in the water, they work together trying to catch them. While playing, a fierce dinosaur, “Sharptooth,” attacks. Littlefoot’s mother arrives and fights Sharptooth to rescue Littlefoot and Cera. However, Sharptooth bites her on the back. While Littlefoot, his mother and Cera flee, a powerful “earthshake” occurs, breaking the ground apart and creating a wide chasm. Sharptooth falls in. When the shaking stops, Cera is separated from her parents on the opposite side of the chasm, as is Littlefoot from his grandparents. Littlefoot finds his mother dying from Sharptooth’s attack. She asks her son if he remembers her directions to the Great Valley. After he says yes, Littlefoot’s mother tells him she will always be with him, and dies. Heartbroken, Littlefoot meets an older leaf-eater named Rooter, who tells him it is not his fault, nor his mother’s fault, for dying. As Littlefoot cries, Rooter leaves. Later, Littlefoot sees a tree-star with dew on the ground. Looking at it, he hears his mother’s instructions on getting to the Great Valley. Heading back to the chasm, Littlefoot sees Cera looking for a way to the other side. He invites her to join him on his journey, but Cera refuses. As she wanders down into the chasm alone, Littlefoot leaves. Later, he finds a pond and meets Ducky, a happy “swimmer.” Still upset about Cera not wanting to travel with him, Littlefoot informs Ducky that longnecks do not speak to swimmers. However, Ducky insists she must be a longneck as she has a long neck and tail just like Littlefoot. When Littlefoot does not respond, Ducky admits she is more of a “bigmouth,” and was separated from her family during the earthshake. Taking a liking to Ducky’s cheery disposition, Littlefoot asks her to join him. Later, Littlefoot and Ducky become hungry. Stopping at a palm tree, Littlefoot grabs a palm frond with his mouth, and Petrie, a small “flyer,” falls out. Petrie tells them it took him a long time to climb the tree. When Littlefoot and Ducky ask why he did not fly up into the tree, Petrie admits he is afraid to fly. Littlefoot and Ducky invite Petrie along, and the three new friends continue on their way to the Great Valley. While walking inside the chasm, Cera persists in finding a way to the other side, and finds Sharptooth unconscious on the ground. Wanting to prove herself a brave three-horn, Cera repeatedly rams her head into Sharptooth’s head. However, Sharptooth is awakened by her actions and begins to move. Scared, Cera runs out of the chasm. Later, she catches up with Littlefoot, Ducky and Petrie. Cera lies and tells the group she fought Sharptooth by herself. Littlefoot says Sharptooth is dead, but Cera insists she defeated him, and demonstrates her fighting skills. As she reenacts her battle, she accidentally launches Ducky into the air. Upon landing, Ducky finds a “spiketail” hatching from an egg. Ducky names the young spiketail Spike, and invites him to join her friends as they search for the Great Valley. Later, the group finds a small stand of trees. Suddenly, a herd of fast-moving leaf-eaters run past and devour the majority of tree-stars. After the herd departs, Littlefoot, Ducky, Petrie, Spike and Cera find one small tree with tree-stars on the high branches. Being too scared to fly, Spike, Littlefoot and Ducky lift Petrie to reach the tree-stars. After pulling down enough to share, Petrie loses his balance and falls. However, his friends encourage him to spread his wings, allowing him to glide safely down. After eating, they huddle together and fall asleep. In the morning, Sharptooth awakens the group. Escaping through a small crack in a rock wall, Littlefoot sees the rock formation in the shape of a longneck. Encouraged, he leads his friends toward the mountains that burn. Later, tired of climbing, Cera decides to find an easier way to the Great Valley. Littlefoot attempts to explain his mother’s directions, but Cera responds that his mother was wrong. Angry at Cera’s comment, Littlefoot fights her. After the fight, Cera leaves. Ducky, Spike, and Petrie choose to follow after Cera in search of another way. Disappointed, Littlefoot continues alone. While following Cera through more burning mountains, Petrie falls into a tar pit. When he calls out for help, Cera ignores him. Ducky and Spike attempt to save Petrie, but they become trapped on a rock in the middle of lava. Littlefoot appears and rescues Spike and Ducky first. Afterward, they try to save Petrie from the tar pit, but fall in. Elsewhere in a cave, three dinosaurs with hardheads surround Cera. However, a tar monster appears and scares off the hardheads, leaving a frightened Cera. As the monster approaches, Cera sees it is Littlefoot, Spike, Ducky and Petrie covered in tar. Embarrassed by appearing weak and getting lost, Cera hides from them and cries. After cleaning off the tar in a nearby pond, Littlefoot sees Sharptooth in the distance, and comes up with a plan to stop Sharptooth: by pushing a boulder onto him, and knocking him into the pond’s deep trench. Ducky is nominated to lure Sharptooth into the water. Ducky gets Sharptooth's attention, and he chases her into the pond. On a cliff above, Petrie signals Spike and Littlefoot to move a boulder, but they struggle to move the rock. Sharptooth sees them and rams his head into the cliff, knocking Petrie over the ledge. While Petrie falls, the air puffed out from Sharptooth’s nostrils gives him a boost. Flapping his wings, Petrie realizes he is flying. Seeing Ducky still in trouble, Petrie tries to distract Sharptooth. Angry, Sharptooth leaps onto the boulder, preventing Littlefoot and Spike from moving it. Cera appears and rams her head into the boulder, causing Sharptooth to fall. While falling, Sharptooth grabs Petrie and the two disappear under the water. Ducky, Cera, Spike and Littlefoot cry for their lost friend, but Petrie climbs out of the water alive. Afterward, Littlefoot hears his mother’s voice and sees her form in the clouds. As the clouds move, Littlefoot runs after them, and sees the Great Valley. In the valley, Ducky finds her parents and siblings. She introduces Spike as part of the family, even though he is a spiketail. Petrie locates his mother and siblings and shows them he can fly without fear. Cera also finds her father, Daddy Tops, and Littlefoot happily reunites with his grandparents. Afterwards, Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie and Spike meet up to play together as friends.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.