Upon its release in 1988, The original Land Before Time movie was both lauded and criticized for its simultaneous beauty and darkness. The film’s message is simple: the power of friendship can overcome even the greatest of hardships. But really, did we have to do Littlefoot's mom like that?
As kids, it didn’t seem that deep, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the Land Before Time emotionally scarred an entire generation of kids. With the power to make grown men cry, the unsung tearjerker movie Land Before Time contains a shocking amount amount of social commentary, disturbing circumstances, and deep-reaching questions about the goodness of man.
With a level head and a steadfast belief in a better life, Littlefoot's mother was too good for her lot in this life.
When all of her eggs shattered, she poured every ounce of her love into her sole son, Littlefoot. She believed that the Longneck people deserved to live and eat prosperously in the Great Valley, and she saw this vision through to its gristly conclusion.
Littlefoot’s mother’s untimely end is a major contender for “most unsettling cartoon parent losses”. The other logical front runners, Bambi and Simba, were at least granted the respite of not personally bearing witness to the carnage. However, the children watching these movies saw every gritty detail.
Littlefoot really bears the brunt of the psychic anguish throughout the Land Before Time franchise. He’s the only surviving egg of his litter, he gets rebuked by his ignorant childhood friend, and he grows up starving and desperate.
On top of all of this, Littlefoot has to overcome all these obstacles while carrying the immense survivor’s guilt incurred by watching his mother fall victim to the jaws of the man who wanted to eat him.
Even though Littlefoot loses everything, he still has the capacity to love, to give and forgive, and to grieve.
Even before the enduring trauma of Littlefoot's life began, his family was already living in the age of dinosaur end-times. Struck by famine and drought, his sparse herd of Longneck brethren bore only one son.
Though the first film has a happy ending, the generational baggage may have followed Littlefoot for life. That must have been a tremendous psychological weight for a single child to carry.
The Land Before Time grapples with many complex, multilayered social and societal issues. Transposing these contentious subjects onto dinosaurs - creatures never known by man - made them more palatable to a young audience.
Many children have already experienced race-related tension at a young age, so hearing “Threehorns never play with Longnecks!” may have been a sobering and relatable experience. For those who did not have this experience, it may have been their first confrontation with prejudice.