“Can we please get the DVD when it comes out?” implored my ten-year-old son as we exited the movie theater on Friday night.
My response was a quick, perhaps curt, “no” and then a request for some time to formulate the reasons why.
My initial reaction to Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur was palpable. Like anyone else, I was swept up in the intricacies of the animation, in the charm of the main characters. But as an adoptive mother, the good was eclipsed—and forcibly so—by the ending.
At the risk of spoiling the story for others, a quick summation is necessary: Dinosaurs and humans, thanks to an errant if historically and scientifically inaccurate asteroid, coexist. In a violent storm, a dinosaur named Arlo loses his father and is separated from his family of origin. He meets a small human, named Spot, and forms an alliance, indeed a family, with him. The two share adventures, look out for one another, and love each other fiercely.
In one poignant scene, Arlo and Spot attempt to communicate to one another their respective losses. Using sticks, Arlo arranges five, two large and three small—his parents and the three children–vertically in the dirt. He then draws a circle around them to indicate family. Spot takes his cue and does the same—his two large sticks and one small. He draws the circle, knocks over the two big sticks, and buries them.
As I sat in the theater and listened to these animated characters then cry out their losses to the universe and the audience, myself surrounded by the beautiful sons I have the privilege, honor, and luck to parent, I thought of their losses. Adoption begins with, indeed cannot happen without, loss, and this fact is never far from my mind or my heart.
I wished then with everything in me that Arlo and Spot would draw a new circle, a symbol of the leap of faith and love that forged their new family, and move their sticks to that circle. But that didn’t happen. The adventures instead continued until the ending when a family of humans appears and Arlo moves Spot—despite his protestations—toward them and is then promptly reunited with his own biological family—a perfect, happy ending by Pixar’s standards, I suppose.
But sometimes the perfect, happy ending has not a thing to do with biology. Sometimes it looks exactly like this and is better than any fiction the movies could ever imagine.