Having seen the film, I can confirm to you the dinosaurs do, in fact, walk. A lot. Unfortunately, they do so aimlessly and without the ruthless efficiency that herd migration normally offers.
And that’s a problem. Walking With Dinosaurs isn’t really about anything. It’s just a series of events in one dinosaur’s life. I suppose there’s a personal life progression and a vague theme of growing up that ties everything together, but there’s no sense of momentum at all because viewers are never shown what the runtime might be building toward. It’s just a long series of “And then this happened” events that all involve a dinosaur named Patchi (Justin Long).
The smallest in a large family, Patchi narrowly avoids death a few times thanks to his father who is the leader of the pack and his brother who is hard-headed and more than capable of defending himself. Once the father is removed from the picture, however, Patchi must learn to stand up for himself and to be his own dinosaur and to find his way back to the pack and to be a leader and to express himself around girl dinosaurs and to do a whole bunch of other tasks I’ve since forgotten but are still shoehorned into the film.
Script wise, it’s really a hot mess. The dialogue is every bit as clunky as that plot description, and some of the characters behave without logic or clear motivation, depending on the momentary needs of the film. Directors Neil Nightingale and Barry Cook also choose to pause the action periodically to explain to viewers what type of dinosaur they’re meeting. Narrated by children, these asides sound like a really good idea, but there is just the wrong number of them. They either should continually happen and outline a wide variety of interesting facts and backstories about dinosaurs and their natural environments, or they shouldn’t happen at all. The middle ground bridging the gap between informative museum piece and fun children’s entertainment is awkward death.
As terrible as everything described above is, however, the animation is brilliant with equal aggression. The designers who worked on the dinosaurs themselves did a bang up job. It really is a joy to watch the reptiles move and interact with their environments on screen, especially considering the very wide variety of creatures Walking With Dinosaurs finds time to depict, many of which most viewers won’t have seen before. The backdrops are also visually beautiful without trying too hard and are brimming with plant life and natural beauty.
The creators of Walking With Dinosaurs clearly wanted to build a beautiful and textured prehistoric world populated by careful and extraordinary representations of various dinosaurs. They accomplished that goal visually, but unfortunately, the results aren’t presented in a format like Planet Earth. They’re presented as a story about a dinosaur named Patchi, and that story is patched together to the point of barely being watchable.