The Land Before Time
Directed by: Don Bluth

Produced by:

Written by:


Music by:

Editing by:


Distributed by:

Release date:

Running time:




Box office:

Don Bluth

Judy Freudberg

(See below)

James Horner

John K. Carr

Amblin Entertainment

Universal Pictures

November 18, 1988

69 minutes

United States


$12, 300, 000

$48, 092, 846

The Land Before Time is a 1988 animated film directed by Don Bluth, executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The film centers around the adventures of an Apatosaurus named Littlefoot and his four friends, Cera the Triceratops, Ducky the Saurolophus, Petrie the Pteranodon, and Spike the Stegosaurus. It is the first of a franchise.

Produced by the American companies Amblin Entertainment and Lucasfilm, and the American-Irish Sullivan Bluth Studios, it features dinosaurs living in the prehistoric times. The plot concerns a young Longneck named Littlefoot who is orphaned[4] when his mother is killed by a Sharptooth. Littlefoot flees famine and upheaval to search for the Great Valley, an area spared from devastation. On his journey, he meets four young companions: Cera the Threehorn, Ducky the Bigmouth, Petrie the Flyer, and Spike the Spiketail.

Released by Universal Pictures on November 18, 1988, the film spawned a franchise with 22 direct-to-video sequels and a television series as well as merchandise.


Set in between the Jurassic and Cretaceous, a drought has occurred and to escape it, the dinosaurs have gone searching for the Great Valley, a lushful paradise.

A baby Apatosaurus, Littlefoot, tries to play with a Triceratops, Cera, but her father stops them, telling Cera that "Three-horns never play with Long-necks." Littlefoot's mother comes and takes him away, explaining to him how dinosaurs from different species are not supposed to interact with each other.

During the night, Littlefoot chases after a frog and finds Cera. They play with each other until a Tyrannosaurus rex, called a Sharptooth, attacks. In their effort to escape, Littlefoot unintentionally blinds Sharptooth in one eye, infuriating it. As it's about to kill them, Littlefoot's Mother arrives and battles Sharptooth, which injures her. An earthquake occurs during the fight and Littlefot's Mother knocks Sharptooth into the chasm. During the earthquake, Littlefoot is separated from his grandparents and Cera is separated from her parents.

Littlefoot finds his dying mother, who, in her last breath, tells him the way to get to the Great Valley before dying in front of him. Littlefoot is comforted by a Scolosaurus, named Rooter, and soon after finds Cera, and volunteers to help her her way to the Great Valley. Cera stubbornly refuses, and ends up in the chasm.

Littlefoot becomes friends with a Saurolophus named Ducky and a Pteranodon named Petrie, who follow him on his journey to the Great Valley. At the same time, Cera finds Sharptooth's body, and starts head-butting him. Sharptooth wakes up, and Cera runs away in fear, and runs into Littlefoot and the others. Cera lies to them, telling them she fought Sharptooth, which Littlefoot does not believe as he's convinced Sharptooth's dead. While lying, she accidentally flings Ducky into a patch of grass, where she finds an egg, which hatches into a Stegosaurus named Spike, who joins the group.

The group sleeps inside a huge footprint. Upon waking up, they are chased by Sharptooth, who had made the footprint. The escape through a small hole. Littlefoot and Cera then have a fight when Cera denies the Great Valley existing and calls Littlefoot's Mother a "Stupid Longneck." Cera wins the fight and becomes the new leader of the group, while Littlefoot leaves.

Cera's path causes disaster for the group, with Ducky and Spike ending up trapped on a small rock in the middle of lava and Petrie stuck in a tar pit, with Cera leaving them. Littlefoot comes and rescues them, and find Cera harassed by Pachycephalosaurs. Being covered in tar, the Pachycephalosaurs and Cera are convinced they are monsters, with the Pachycephalosaurs retreating while Cera is ridiculed by the group. She leaves.

Littlefoot and the group hatch a plan to defeat Sharptooth, using Ducky as bait to lure Sharptooth into a lake so they can drop a boulder on him and sink him. The plan nearly fails when Sharptooth jumps up on the cliff that the group is on, but Cera arrives and helps push the boulder, knocking Sharptooth into the lake and apparently drowning him, though he nearly takes Petrie with him.

Littlefoot gives up hope of ever finding the Great Valley, but the ghost of his mother comes and leads him and the group to the Great Valley. Littlefoot reunites with his grandparents, Cera reunites with her father, Ducky reunites with her herd and Spike is adopted by them, and Petrie finds his mother and siblings. The group then has a group-hug.


  • Gabriel Damon as Littlefoot - A kind-hearted young Apatosaurus who is orphaned after his mother dies.
  • Candy Hudson as Cera - a stubborn young Triceratops who accompanies Littlefoot on his journey.
  • Judith Bars as Ducky - A cheerful Saurolophus and Spike's adoptive sister.
  • Will Ryan as Petrie - A paranoid Pterodactyl afraid of flying.
  • Frank Welker as Sharptooth - An aggressive Tyrannosaurus who attacks the group constantly.
  • Pat Wingle as Rooter - The wise Scolosaurus. Pat also narrated the film.
  • Helen Shaver as Littlefoot's Mother - Who dies early in the film.
  • Burke Byrnes as Daddy Topps - Cera's father.
  • Bill Erwin as Littlefoot's Grandfather.


The animation production for The Land Before Time took place at Sullivan Bluth Studios in Dublin, Ireland. The film had originally been planned for release in fall of 1987, but the production and the release date were delayed by a year due to the studio's relocation to Dublin. Had the studio not been relocated, many of the cut scenes would have made it into the film.

Storyline developmentEdit

Amblin Entertainment held the idea of producing a film involving dinosaurs, on the basis that dinosaurs were a popular topic with children. Steven Spielberg suggested making the film into a prehistoric version of Disney's Bambi, depicting a young dinosaur's struggles to survive and mature. Eventually, more young dinosaurs were added to the story, and a decision was made to give the film a "soft, gentle" plot about five young dinosaurs working together as a group. As the concept was developed more, the idea of segregation between dinosaurs of different species was added in, and the moral of the story became that the young dinosaurs, who had been taught to avoid each other, would have to look past their differences and function together. As production on The Land Before Time officially began in the summer of 1986, due to delays brought on by Amblin and Universal's concerns that their previous animated film, An American Tail might flop, the story featured the main characters on a mission to find a wise old dinosaur. After Sullivan Bluth Studios' move to Ireland delayed the movie's production again, full production on the movie began in the spring of 1987.

As individual parties in various locations were needed to review the script for the movie, sections of the script were reviewed at a time, similarly to the old script reviewing methods the Walt Disney studios had followed decades before.

An early working title for the film was “The Land Before Time Began”.

Developing the charactersEdit

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas originally wanted the film to have no dialogue, like The Rite of Spring sequence in Fantasia, but the idea was abandoned in favor of using voice actors in order to appeal to children.

Littlefoot was originally going to be called "Thunderfoot", until it was found out that there was a Triceratops in a children's book who already had that name. It was George Lucas's idea to make Cera a female Triceratops, when she was in mid-animation as a male named Bambo. Steven Spielburg's son, Max, suggested the voice of Digit, from An American Tail, for the character Petrie, which resulted in Will Ryan, who had voiced Digit, performing the voice of Petrie. In fact, Petrie was originally to have a whistle voice until it was later decided that he would instead have a talkative voice with broken lines. The character of Spike was inspired by director Don Bluth's pet chowhound, Cubby.

Editing of the filmEdit

Like Disney's The Black Cauldron and The Jungle Book, which were made years earlier, and Warner Bros./Zoetrope's The Outsiders, which was made five years earlier, The Land Before Time went under a severe cutting and editing of footage. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas thought that some scenes in the movie would appear too frightening or could even cause psychological damage to young children.

Around 10 minutes of footage, a total of 19 fully animated scenes, were cut from the final film. The film with all the scenes, many of which were completed, were approved until April or May of 1988, when many scenes were cut. The original film with the cut scenes was confirmed by Gary Goldman to have a runtime of 80-82 minutes.

Only some of the cut footage consisted of the Tyrannosaurus rex attack sequence. There were also sequences of the five young dinosaurs in severe situations of peril and negative stress. The scene of Sharptooth landing on the back of Littlefoot's mother was altered so that it was only shown in shadow.[Citation Needed] Some early VHS of the film have been said to have the original version of the scene, though this seems to have been proven false. A pre-release McDonalds VHS of the film was thought to have cut scenes, but this was also proven false. Don Bluth was unhappy with the cuts, and fought for all the footage, but in the end he had to settle on a final running time of 69 minutes, one of Don Bluth’s shortest; in fact one of the shortest feature films ever produced (depending on how "feature film" is defined).

As of today, the original cut of the film with the removed scenes has not been released on video or DVD and it is not known if the motion footage still exists. Some stills do exist, however, including deleted Sharptooth scenes, stills from the original ending, Ducky making faces, and Spike being enticed with berries by Ducky, from a scene that was to have included Cera arguing against Spike coming with the group. A couple of these scenes did make it into the movie novelization, however, and others were in the picture books released with the original film. Many fans of The Land Before Time are trying to recover these scenes and add them into the movie again. Supposedly, one tape that included the deleted scenes was sent to a Finnish company by mistake, and was aired on their TV station. However, this has not been confirmed, and could possibly be a rumor. 

Another part of the movie that was going to be eliminated was the death of Littlefoot’s mother. However, it was thought that if the scene were removed it would simply produce problems in explaining why Littlefoot had to journey to the Great Valley alone. In the end, psychologists were shown the scene and gave feedback to the production team. The character of Rooter was brought in to the story to soften the emotional blow, and teach Littlefoot and the audience that although loved ones may die, they are always with us in the lessons we have learned from them. Shortly after the information was released, a rumor was spread that all five of the young dinosaurs died, with the Great Valley as an interpretation of heaven, as one of the deleted scenes. However, this has been denied by Don Bluth.

The film's ending was also altered. The original version had Littlefoot finding the Great Valley on his own, after Cera and the rest of the group go their own way. He then goes to play in a waterfall under him, and then climb back up it to find his friends. He would then have gone back to find the others and help them defeat Sharptooth, before they all entered the valley. Evidence of this ending remains in the scene of Littlefoot talking to his mother's spirit after the death of Sharptooth. The rock pushed onto Sharptooth's head is still there in the background, on its ledge, because this scene was meant to appear before the death scene. There are also a few production stills showing Littlefoot running down the path to the valley with Petrie on his head, and the narration after he rejoins the others (stating that Cera was too proud to admit she went the wrong way) makes more sense with the original ending. The ending was altered after the soundtrack was made, so the original ending's music in its proper order can still be heard, including the cut parts. This ending also appears in three children's books released along with the original film, "Friends in Need", "The Search for the Great Valley", and "The Land Before Time: The Illustrated Story".

The original ending was also to end with Littlefoot saying "Now we'll always be together.", but that bit was cut from the final version (ending only with Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike hugging each other), although it can be seen in the US Pizza Hut commercial promoting the film's theatrical release and the Australian Pizza Hut commercial promoting the film's home video release. It is unknown as to why this line was cut. It was possibly done to take away evidence for the rumor of the Great Valley being heaven.

There was a scene planned to be included but cut before it was animated, where the gang happens on an oasis inhabited by a group of fat "crown-heads" (Pachycephalosaurus/domeheads) who tell the group that only their own kind can eat, and thin "gray-noses" (Saurolophus/bigmouths) who say only their own kind can drink. The two species refuse to share food/water, even though both will eventually die at the end. This is when Cera realizes that judging others by their species is not the best thing to do. Ducky is told by the gray-noses that she can drink because she is like them, but the others cannot, so the group moves on to find their own food. This scene appears in the book "Friends in Need" and "The Land Before Time: The Illustrated Story". In "Friends in Need" the illustration is of the movie scene where the stand of trees are eaten by the longnecks, but in the Illustrated Story it shows a painted picture of the scene (although not footage from the actual movie). This scene was presumably removed to tone down the racism aspect of the film. A scene from the theatrical trailer includes a short scene where Sharptooth steps in front of Littlefoot and Cera, making swampy water fly everywhere when he steps. This is not in the final film; it can only be seen in the trailer. It might be part of the 19 seconds of the fight between Sharptooth and Mama Longneck that was cut. The fight may have moved to the swamp at some point. A scene of Ducky taunting Sharptooth by making faces in the water and him jumping next to her, and part of the scene after the gang gets green-food from the tree were also cut, although they can also be seen the film's theatrical trailer.

Some scenes with the characters in the movie screaming were revoiced with them having milder exclamations.


The Land Before Time received a 70% "Fresh" rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, while the movie's fans gave it a higher score of 78% "Certified Fresh".


  • This is the only film in The Land Before Time series which is not a musical.
  • Though Spike does not talk in the English version of the film, he utters a single line while climbing up the rocky mountain side in the Finnish version; "ruokaa", which translates into English as "food".
  • Bill Erwin is credited as voicing Grandpa Longneck, despite the character not speaking in the film. He only chuckles at one point.
  • It is unknown who voiced Grandma Longneck, though like her husband isn't heard speaking in the film. Both of them are only heard chuckling when their daughter gives Littlefoot his first treestar.
  • This film is the first in which Littlefoot, Ducky and Cera cry.
  • The character who alarmedly shouts "Sharptooth!" in his introductory scene differs across the various international dubs of the film.
    • Cera screamed, "Sharptooth!" in English, Hungarian, Japanese, German, and Chinese.
    • Littlefoot screamed, "Sharptooth!" in Canadian French, European French, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Greek, and Swedish.
  • To date, An American Tail and this film are the only two feature-length Don Bluth films not owned by 20th Century Fox.


  • The dinosaurs featured existed in different time periods. Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus existed in the late Jurassic period, while TriceratopsPteranodonSaurolophus and Tyrannosaurus existed in the late Cretaceous period.
  • Pteranodon ate fish and lived near beaches and coastal areas. It also did not have teeth, and was not able to climb trees.
  • Tarpits did not form in the Mesozoic era; they formed in the Cenozoic era. Also, the tarpit shown in the film is portrayed as a giant pool of tar, whereas a real tarpit has a layer of water and sand.
  • Littlefoot and the others steer clear of a Dimetrodon on the prowl, although Dimetrodon was extinct by the time the dinosaurs came into existence.
  • Grass is frequently seen in the film, though it did not develop until the Cenozoic era. However, ancestors of grass have been found in fossilized Titanosaur dung.
  • The main characters are shown hatching from their eggs in under a minute, whereas a young animal usually takes several hours to hatch.
  • Tyrannosaurus is not believed to have been able to jump the way Sharptooth is shown jumping in the film, though this may have been based on the Ceratosaurus jumping in a Ray Harryhausen and Willis OBrien film/documentary about animals, including dinosaurs, The Animal World (1956). Also, the Sharptooth is shown standing and walking up straight, whereas modern paleontological thought dictates that Tyrannosaurus stood and walked with its body approximately parallel to the ground.
  • Pachycephalosaurus is not a carnivore, and doesn't have sharp Deinonychus-like claws on their feet.
    • However, because the teeth of Pachycephalosaurus are quite similar to those of the omnivorous Troodon, some palaeontologists have theorized that it was similarly omnivorous.
    • The reason why the Pachycephalosaurus attack Cera could be either they were defending their territory, or simply harassing her for their own amusement.

Memorable QuotesEdit


  • (Arriving in the Great Valley) We did it. We did it together.
  • (After fighting with Cera) Go on! Go the wrong way! We never wanted you with us anyway!
  • (The others have collapsed from exhaustion) Oh, you can't quit now. What if the Great Valley's just over the top of these rocks?
  • (Last original lines) Now we'll always be together. (Note: This line was removed from the entire film, although it was used in the Pizza Hut commercial advertising the Land Before Time handpuppets.)


  • (After Littlefoot insists that Sharptooth is dead) My father told me that flatheads had very small brains.
  • (Littlefoot offers to share some of the leaves he and the others have obtained, with Cera) I can find my owngreen food! (Cera struggles to knock the leaves off of a tree. Littlefoot drops some from the rest of the group's stash, while making it look as though Cera knocked them down herself) See? I can take care of myself all by myself. I'm not afraid to be alone, I know my way to go, and I'm not afraid of Sharptooth... I hope he doesn't eat any of you!
  • (Describing a fabricated version of her underground encounter with Sharptooth, to the others) I could see his one, big, ugly eye looking for me.


  • (Repeated line) Yep yep yep.
  • (Trying to coax Spike out of his egg) You should come out. You should. You are late. Yes, you are. Yep yep yep.
  • (Helping Spike to hatch from his egg) You are a we will call you Spike!
  • (Petrie rejects the idea of trying to fly up to grab leaves from a tree) Petrie, do not feel sad. It is alright. Many things cannot fly. Rocks, trees, sticks, Spike...
  • (to Petrie) Up Petrie! Higher! Higher like a flyer!
  • Spike, do not stop! We must stay together!


  • (Perched on Littlefoot's head) You've got a nice flat head, flathead.
  • (As Littlefoot, Ducky and Spike come to save him from the tar pit) Flathead! Ducky! Spike! Oh, Petrie is so happy!
  • (Trying to smell for green food) I smell, I smell, I smell... Hmm. Ducky.

Littlefoot's MotherEdit

  • (Last words) Littlefoot, let your heart guide you. It whispers so listen closely.
  • (Littlefoot questions how she knows the Great Valley exists, if she's never been there) Some things you see with your eyes, others you see with your heart.

Daddy ToppsEdit

  • (Stopping Cera and Littlefoot in their game) Come, Cera, Threehorns never play with Longnecks.


  • (Consoling Littlefoot over his mother's recent death) The Great Circle of Life has begun, but, you see, not all of us arrive together at the end.


  • One herd had only a single baby - the last hope for the future. And they called him...Littlefoot.
  • All that remained of his herd was his mother, grandmother and grandfather. He knew them by sight, by scent, and by their love. He knew they would be together, always.
  • At first, Littlefoot could only think about his mother. He hardly noticed his hunger and had forgotten about the Great Valley and that he must somehow reach it.
  • Then Littlefoot knew for certain he was alone, and although the Great Valley was far away, the journey there was perilous. He would have to find his way, or the chain of life would be broken.
  • So the five hungry dinosaurs set off for the Great Valley. There had never been such a herd before. A longneck, a threehorn, a bigmouth, a flyer and a spike-tail all together, all knowing that if they lost their way, they would starve or find themselves in Sharptooth's shadow.
  • Littlefoot had been wrong about the Sharptooth, but the others followed him. Their only hope was to reach the Great Valley, and Littlefoot alone knew the way.
  • Cera was still too proud to admit that she'd gone the wrong way. [Cera cries]
  • Though, they were sourced out and tired, Littlefoot urged them on. He'd never seen the Great Valley, but his heart told him that they were close. Surely, at the top, they'd behold it, finally.
  • And Littlefoot found his grandmother and grandfather at last. The same loving faces he looked into on the day of his birth.
  • (last released lines) And they all grew up together in the valley, generation upon generation, each passing on to the next. The tale of their ancestor's journey to the valley long ago.
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