Ten points for Gryffindor if you knew that The Land Before Time had spawned thirteen direct-to-video sequels. The latest release, “The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave,” continues the series after a nine-year hiatus.
Somehow, this property has survived without a reboot for nearly thirty years. The original film’s creative team (including director Don Bluth, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and composer James Horner) abandoned the franchise decades ago. Since then, no fewer than nine separate voice actors have played the lead character, Littlefoot the Longneck.
I’d be fascinated to learn more about these movies’ ongoing production. How do the economics work? Was the original movie so iconic that even the diminishing returns of watered-down sequels can justify the production costs? Or is there some minimum threshold that a cute dinosaur movie is guaranteed to haul in?
I’m also curious who works on these movies. Are these films staffed by leftovers from the heyday of hand-drawn animation? Or by eager young film students, determined to get their feet in the show business door? What’s it like to tell friends and family that you’ve been hired to mix sound for Land Before Time XIII?
Finally, who watches these films? Kids are the primary target audience, but do nostalgic parents keep the franchise afloat? Or is there a “brony” factor at play here? Is there a contingent of adults who follow Land Before Time like the bronies track My Little Pony? That seems possible; there is a YouTube channel dedicated entirely to speculation and “hot news” about the Land Before Time franchise. Here’s a recent video in which a grown man spends nearly ten minutes dissecting the Wal-Mart product page for Land Before Time XIV. Yes, really.
To be fair, I also loved Don Bluth’s original feature film when it hit theaters. But I was seven years old then. Now, at thirty-four, I doubt I could make it through Land Before Time XIV without clawing out my eyes. Please, never tell my daughter that these movies exist.