THE LAND BEFORE TIME takes place at the end of the late prehistoric era when the Earth was in the process of great change, giving rise to earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural phenomena. At this time the Earth was ruled by two classes of dinosaurs: those who were leaf eaters and those who were carnivores who fed on the leaf eaters.
The film opens deep underwater with bubbles and small creatures abounding. The camera pans to a lighter area where various forms of prehistoric sea life are seen. This is broken by the head of a brontosaurus coming under water to eat the foliage. The scene then moves above ground as the narrator instructs that this happened a long time ago, in "the time of the dinosaurs." The narrator explains that there are two types of dinosaurs; the leaf eaters and the mighty carnivores. Various land dwellers such as triceratops and others are viewed. As the narrator continues to explain, a drought came and the leaves began to die. It was discovered that the mighty sharp toothed dinosaurs also lived off the leaf.
This drought in the land sends some of the dinosaur herds West, in search of the Great Valley where they hope to find bountiful food. The narrator states it was journey of danger, as the sharp-teeth stalked the herds looking for stragglers. The leaf eaters only stopped to lay their eggs.
A nest of Platypus eggs begin hatching. One breaks mostly free of its shell, and rolls down the nest struggling to catch an insect. It is Ducky. She follows the insect and is almost bitten by another dinosaur, but her mother comes and brings her back to the nest. The first words of the feature are hers, "Mama!"
Next a pair of triceratops watch over their young ones. As the parents grunt, the children squeal in human tones. One is still in the shell, having some difficulty. Upon breaking out, the first thing she does, is butt her head against her parents'. This is Cera. The narrator says, "Some were born without fear." A thunderstorm suddenly breaks and Cera runs under her mother for protection.
Elsewhere, in the swamp, a brontosaurus family eats lazily around their nest. There is a stretch of mud full of broken eggs, but one egg is still intact and unhatched. This egg begins to shake with life when a small dinosaur runs and grabs it out of the nest. One of the parents, swats the small dinosaur with its neck and the egg goes flying. It rolls along the skeletal remains of another dinosaur, along some coastal area and into the water and over a waterfall, finally coming to rest in a nest of small lizards. As this egg hatches, the narrator says, "one herd had only a single baby, their last hope for the future." It is Littlefoot.
>His mother comes up and greets him, the first adult voice heard from a dinosaur. She nuzzles him, but he becomes frightened by the return of the little lizards. He then returns to his mother's feet. She picks him up in her mouth and places him on her back. The narrator states all that remained of his family was his mother, grandmother and grandfather. Littlefoot then falls asleep.
Later, when Littlefoot seems a bit older, the family is eating. Littlefoot asks if there is more to eat. His mother explains that the land is changing, which is why they must walk as far as they can each day to reach the Great Valley. As Littlefoot tries to chew some dry branches, his mother calls to him. She shows him a leaf, the only one, in a large tree. She calls it a "tree star," and says it is very special. Then she picks it from the tree and brings it down to him.
Littlefoot is first awed by it, then becomes playful. He rolls on his back and bats it like a cat. She tells him it will help him grow strong. His mother explains that the Great Valley has many tree stars for him to eat, as well as all the water that he can drink. The family then begins walking again. His mother says they must travel to where the sun touches the ground each night.
Littlefoot, then asks if she has ever seen the Great Valley. She tells him that "Some things you see with your eyes, others you see with your heart." He says he doesn't understand and then follows.
Later while the group is resting and looking for food, Littlefoot hears a noise and goes to investigate. His mother tells him to be careful. Looking through a plant, he sees Cera chasing an insect. She runs straight into several small rocks attempting to smash it. As she is about to get it, the bug sprays her in the face.
Littlefoot bursts out laughing, as Cera casts an angry look his way. She begins to dig the ground as she prepares to charge. Littlefoot, wanting to play jumps out of the bush and also prepares to charge. The two young ones race towards each other, Cera growling a charge. Her father, hearing the charge, races to her, stepping between her and Littlefoot.
Cera's father gives Littlefoot a glare and the small brontosaurus backs up. As Littlefoot's mother begins calling for him, Cera's father continues staring at Littlefoot, while telling his daughter that three-horns don't play with long-necks. As Littlefoot's mother comes and gets Littlefoot, Cera runs after Littlefoot repeating her father's words.
As Littlefoot's mother carries him off, he asks what a long- neck is. She explains they are long-necks. When he asks why he can't play with the other dinosaurs, his mother states "We'll all keep to our own kind." Littlefoot does not let the issue die and asks "Why?" again. His mother explains that all the dinosaurs are different, and that it's always been that way. She also says when they reach the Great Valley there will be plenty of long- necks for him to play with. Littlefoot says he wishes he were there already, but his mother says they still must pass the rock that looks like a long-neck and the mountains of fire.
That night as they sleep, Littlefoot is awakened by a hopper (a frog). He leaves his family and follows it, running into Cera, again. She claims that it is her hopper. He asks why, since he saw it first. Cera claims that it is now in her pond. Littlefoot follows and the two begin playing with the bubbles rising from the pond bottom. Soon they are almost playing together as a shadow comes over the nearby rocks.
It is Sharp-tooth, a tyrannosaurus. The two young ones scramble to get away as the giant walks closer and closer. They take refuge in a large thorny growth. Sharp-tooth first looks at the situation, then begins trying to dig his way through the thorns. As his head draws closer to the pair, the giant's nostrils are sniffing, dog-like, around. The two go deeper into the growth, but argue over which direction to go.
Cera takes off one way, and Littlefoot runs after her yelling that she is going in the wrong direction. She runs out of the growth and into another, followed closely by Littlefoot and Sharp-tooth. In the second growth, Littlefoot gets caught up in some vines and can't get away from the ever nearing Sharp- tooth. As he slips through, the vines snap back at Sharp-tooth, causing him to stand up, breaking through the thorn growth. He then takes off after the two and is moments away from grabbing them when a large tail knocks him down.
Littlefoot's mother has arrived. As Sharp-tooth tries to stand back up, the small dinosaurs take refuge under the large long-neck. She tells the children to run as she and the Sharp- tooth engage in a battle that crumbles the land they stand upon. Using her tail, she manages to again knock the Sharp-tooth over and run with the children. However the Sharp-tooth quickly recovers and leaps on her back. The children run to a mountainside and watch as the two battle, only their shadows visible to the audience.
Finally, Littlefoot's mother is able to knock the Sharp- tooth over a cliff. Injured, she leads the children to safety, when the Earth, itself, begins to shake and split apart. Suddenly the children are on one side, and Littlefoot's mother is on the other. Their side is also the side with Sharp-tooth, who has now recovered and is back with a vengeance.
They run and are aided at times by the shifting Earth. At one point, both almost fall into a chasm, saved only by grabbing on to Sharp-tooth's tail. He also almost goes over the edge, and is barely able to hang on. The children run up his back and to apparent safety, but they are soon sliding backwards, towards the jaws of Sharp-tooth. Mother arrives in time and with a final tail swipe knocks the monster into the chasm. She also grabs the pair before they fall away.
As the Earth continues to rumble, she and Littlefoot head for family, as Cera heads off for the same. The Earth's movement increases in intensity as mountains rise and the ground cracks. The narrator explains the clashing of continents caused a great quake that split families. He also explains that Littlefoot is separated from his grandparents. Also separated were Cera and her parents.
Time has apparently passed as it is now dark and raining. Littlefoot is looking for his mother. He finds her, laying on a rock. She says she is not sure she can get up, and then asks if he remembers the way to the Great Valley. He says he does, but why does he need to since they'll be together. His mother reassures him that she will always be with him, "even if you can't see me." He again doesn't understand. She says to listen for his heart. "It whispers" so he'll have to listen hard. She then dies.
The storm is gone and Littlefoot is traveling on his own. He slips down a ravine and rolls into Rooter, an older dinosaur. Littlefoot begins crying. When Rooter asks why, Littlefoot rambles about his mother and it being unfair, and her fault for fighting Sharp-tooth, and his fault for wandering. Rooter catches on and tells Littlefoot it isn't anyone's fault. He also discusses the "circle of life" and how not everyone arrives at the end at the same time. Littlefoot then claims his stomach hurts. Rooter tells him that too will pass, and then leaves the small one.
The scene changes to a group of small pterodactyls fighting over a fruit. It's taken from the group by a large animal. Their faces brighten up, though, when the mother produces a whole batch of the fruit. She throws them out and each catches one. The family then walks off the branch, past Littlefoot who is laying on the ground. One of the small pterodactyls offers Littlefoot the fruit, but Littlefoot just looks away. The pterodactyl then takes the fruit back. The narrator says that all Littlefoot did was think of his mother, even forgetting that he had to get to the Great Valley.
Littlefoot wanders through a desert landscape, crying and rolling in footprints left by long-necks. From high above, a tree star floats down. As it nears Littleneck, a light from above shines. The tree star lands in one of the footprints as Littlefoot hears his mother's voice. She asks if Littlefoot remembers the way to the Great Valley, and then proceeds to tell him. Then she says to have his heart guide him.
Thrilled, Littlefoot picks up the tree star and puts it on his head, calling to his mother. He sees a large brontosaurus shadow on a nearby cliff and runs to it, calling for her. As he nears the cliff, though, the shadow disappears. Not noticing it is gone, he licks the cliff lovingly. It is only then that he notices it is not his mother, it was only his shadow on the cliff. He looks saddened. The narrator explains that it was at this time that Littlefoot knew he was truly alone. Now Littlefoot knew he must go to the Great Valley or the chain of life would be broken.
At this time, he meets Cera again. She is trying to find a way to get across the huge crack, caused by the quake, to be with her own kind. Littlefoot says he's tried and there's no way to get to the other side. She says, maybe for him there isn't but not for her and proceeds to try. He suggests that they go to the Great Valley together. Cera then accidentally slides to the bottom of the chasm, telling Littlefoot she doesn't need help from long-necks. Littlefoot says if they travel together, though they won't be alone. Cera states when she finds her sisters, she won't be alone. She then ventures into a dark cave at the bottom of the chasm, repeating her father's philosophy about not playing with long-necks.
Littlefoot picks up his tree star and heads off on his own. He soon finds himself next to a pond where he lies dejected. Out of the water comes Ducky, a small platypus. She asks his name, but he responds by getting up and saying that long-necks don't talk to whatever she is. She hops out of the water and follows him and tries to convince Littlefoot that she is a long-neck. Amused, but not believing her, Littlefoot smiles.
Ducky admits that she isn't a long-neck, she's a big-mouth. But she's all alone, having lost her family in the big earthshake. Littlefoot invites her to join his search for the Great Valley, if she can keep up. She says "Yes" and the pair walk off together eventually skipping and laughing.
Soon, their stomachs are talking and Littlefoot decides to taste a leaf of a nearby fern. As he pulls it, the fern seems to yell. Ducky says it's not good to eat plants that talk, "nope, nope, nope." Littlefoot continues pulling the leaf until a small pterodactyl comes sliding down it. When the pterodactyl hits Littlefoot's nose, Littlefoot shouts and lets go. The snapping leaf sends the pterodactyl off, crashing through the dry ground.
Ducky and Littlefoot go to investigate and find Petrie. Petrie asks if he "flied," but Ducky tells him he "falled." Petrie then gets angry and tells them that even though he is a flier, he cannot fly, "It's hard," he states. The other two agree since they can't do it.</p>
Meanwhile, in the cave in the chasm, Cera continues her own trek. It is a world of eerie shadows and shapes. She comes across a still Sharp-tooth. At first frightened, she becomes bolder and begins butting her head against it. Suddenly it opens its eyes and comes to life. She runs away, as it begins to get up.
Back on top, Littlefoot and crew continue walking, avoiding a fin-back. However, Littlefoot becomes irritated by Petrie always riding on his head and ruining his tree star. The group decides to get Petrie flying, so Littlefoot and Ducky start running and Petrie, on Littlefoot's head, begins flapping. Petrie cries out there is danger ahead, but the group runs straight into a skeleton of another dinosaur. They turn and run screaming with the skeleton now on them.
From the other direction, Cera comes running at them screaming. The group collides with Cera. Littlefoot asks her why seems so frightened. Cera denies she is scared and asks what they were scared of. Littlefoot says they weren't scared. She then says, she could have been with the other three-horns, but she came back to warn them that she saw Sharp-tooth. Petrie and Ducky become frightened, but Littlefoot says Sharp-tooth fell into the underground. "And that's where he met me," replies Cera.
Ducky and Petrie are impressed with Cera's bravery, but Littlefoot maintains that Sharp-tooth is dead. Cera proceeds to give a full account as to what happened between her and Sharp- tooth. In doing so, she accidentally knocks Ducky far into the distance.
Ducky lands by a bush with snoring egg inside. As the others call for her, she examines the egg. The egg's inhabitant begins to hatch, but then falls back asleep. Ducky pulls the shell away revealing a spike-tail, a stegosaurus. She names him Spike and tells him that he is all alone and should move on, and then invites him to join on their voyage to the Great Valley. Spike gets up and starts following her, eating his nest/bush as he goes.
The narrator explains that all five are now hungry and heading towards the Great Valley. He further states that there had never been such a herd before, five different types of dinosaurs.
Below a waterfall the group stops. Littlefoot states that since tree stars need lots of water, perhaps they should follow the water. As they walk along the creek, Littlefoot says he smells tree stars. The group looks through a group of rocks and do see a small batch of trees. Cera claims they have found the Great Valley.
An earthshake knocks the group around. They begin to run, but Spike won't budge. Suddenly, the source of the earthshake is discovered when a herd of long-necks race by and begin devouring the batch of trees. The small group is discouraged that the Great Valley now has no green food left. Littlefoot states it is not the Great Valley, but they might as well go see if there is any food left.
After failing to convince Petrie to fly up to the top of a tall tree where there are still some leaves, the group makes a dinosaur ladder. Littlefoot gets up on his hind legs and leans on the tree. Ducky goes to Littlefoot's head and pushes Petrie towards the leaves. Spike crawls under Littlefoot. Petrie gets high enough that he's able to pull leaves off the tree as Cera laughs.
When the group return to the ground, they begin eating. Littlefoot offers some to Cera, but she declines, stating she can get her own food. She starts butting her head against a tree to no avail. Littlefoot takes some leaves, and after one butt, tosses them to ground, fooling Cera into thinking she did it. It makes her even more adamant about not needing help as she walks off from the group.
Night is falling, and Cera claims she isn't afraid of being alone or of Sharp-tooth. Littlefoot again states Sharp-tooth is dead, but the others are frightened. As Littlefoot heads to a place to sleep, he finds he is alone. The group has gone to sleep next to Cera, much to her discomfort. Feeling dejected, Littlefoot goes to sleep by himself. Spike's snoring drives Ducky and Petrie to Littlefoot, and eventually Spike follows them. Cera is left shivering alone, and she eventually joins the group.
The next morning, Cera is awaken by growling. She looks out and is frightened. She tries to wake the others, telling them Sharp-tooth is coming. Littlefoot, again, denies it only to have Sharp-tooth's shadow fall over him. The small group panics and runs, barely escaping through a small hole in the rocks. On the other side, Littlefoot says they are safe now, but Cera claims no one is safe with him.
Littlefoot looks up and sees the rock shaped like the long- neck, a key landmark for finding the Great Valley. The narrator states that even though Littlefoot had been wrong about Sharp- tooth, the group followed him anyway. Only Littlefoot knew the way to the Great Valley, and if they were to survive, they would have to reach it.
Later, the group is climbing up rocks as ash falls around them. Obviously weakening and tired, Littlefoot urges the group on. He tells them the Great Valley could be just over the mountains they are climbing. The narrator states that even though Littlefoot couldn't see the Great Valley, his heart told him that they were close.
When they reach the top of the mountains, the swirling wind obscures their view. It appears to be a green wilderness below them, but when the wind stops, it becomes clear that it a barren, blue, rocky area. Cera decides to take the easy route and tells the group she's leaving. Littlefoot tells her it's the wrong way. When asked how he knows, Littlefoot tells her that his mother had told him. Cera then says his mother must have been stupid too.
Littlefoot and Cera begin fighting and roll down into the rocky area. Spike, getting too close to the edge, also falls in with Ducky and Petrie in tow. Below, Cera and Littlefoot continue to fight as the other three watch. Cera finally bests him and heads off. He calls out that it's okay, because they never wanted her anyway.
As Littlefoot begins to climb out of the rocks, back towards the peaks, he finds the others hesitating to follow him. They state that Cera's way does look easier. Angry, Littlefoot continues up the mountain. Petrie follows momentarily, asking Littlefoot not to be angry. Ducky calls after Cera asking her to wait for the rest are coming and all except Littlefoot join her.
The scene changes to a volcanic setting. As Cera leads Spike, Petrie rides Cera and Ducky is on Spike. Ducky wishes that Littlefoot was with them and Petrie agrees. Spike stops to eat some vines, much to Ducky's worries that they are becoming separated from Cera and Petrie.
Cera comes to a break in the route and decides to jump to the other side. She makes it, but Petrie falls off into a tar- like substance. Petrie cries for help, but Cera continues on. From the distance, Littlefoot is seen running towards the cries of help.
When he arrives, he looks down to see Spike and Ducky caught on a small rock surrounded by lava. He knocks a rock down near them and helps them cross the burning river. They then race to Petrie and by forming another "bridge" they are able to reach him. Unfortunately, the stump Littlefoot is holding on breaks and all four end up stuck in the tar.
Elsewhere, Cera is being chased by various meat eaters. She is only saved when a monstrous creature arrives, scaring the meat eaters away. Cera is equally terrified. The creature turns out to be the foursome she had abandoned, covered with tar and other material. As they laugh, Cera claims to have known it was them all along.
Cera walks off angrily as the others call for her. She settles down by a waterfall and cries. The narrator tells that she was too proud to admit that she had gone the wrong way.
The scene changes to a water area where the foursome are all frolicking. The fun ends when Sharp-tooth is seen further up on the mountain. Littlefoot suggests that they get rid of Sharp- tooth once and for all. His plan is to drop a rock on Sharp- tooth's head when the monster is over the deepest part of the lake. Since the Sharp-tooth can't swim, he'll drown. Littlefoot and Spike will get above Sharp-tooth, and Petrie is to tell them when the beast is over the deepest part. Ducky is left for the bait.
As Sharp-tooth roams various caverns, Ducky appears at an entrance. Spying the creature, she screams to attract his attention and then hides behind a rock. When she looks back, he is gone. Upon turning around, he leaps in behind her. She shrieks and runs with him right behind her. Both slide down the cliff and into the water. All of this is seen by Littlefoot and Spike who are standing with Petrie next to the rock.
Unfortunately, it's the shallow end of the pond. Ducky hides underwater, but Sharp-tooth is using his feet to dig up the ground. Littlefoot and Spike try to push the rock anyway, but can't get it move enough. Meanwhile, Petrie is tossing small stones at Sharp-tooth and laughing. Sharp-tooth hits his head against the cliff, knocking Petrie off. Petrie falls towards the beast flapping his wings desperately. The monster roars and the blast lifts Petrie higher and Petrie continues to rise suddenly, discovering he can now fly!
Back in the pond, Ducky is racing for her life from the jaws of Sharp-tooth. Spike and Littlefoot are still struggling with the rock. As Sharp-tooth rises up, Ducky is on his muzzle. Petrie sees this and gallantly attacks Sharp-tooth's eye. An enraged Sharp-tooth leaps up to the cliff where the pair are pushing the rock. He stands on the other side as Petrie continues pulling at his eyelid.
Spike and Littlefoot continue trying to push the rock, when Cera comes at them shouting she will help. Her head butt turns the tide and the rock goes over the cliff with Sharp-tooth hanging on to it. Petrie is grabbed by Sharp-tooth's mouth and dragged under water with him. Both disappear into the deep end of the pond.
From the cliff, the remaining four look sadly down. They begin to walk away as Petrie pulls himself up onto the land. Ducky runs over and hugs him. She then runs along with the rest, carrying Ducky.
Next Littlefoot is seen out on a ledge. He hears his mother calling as overhead, clouds form the shape of long-necks. He tells his mother he tried, but it's just too hard. The clouds begin to blow away and Littlefoot runs after them. They blow though an opening in the mountains. When Littlefoot comes out on the other side, below him is the Great Valley. A beam of sunlight comes through the clouds and shines on him, eventually spreading out to reveal the entire Valley.
Littlefoot calls to the others who come and see the Valley. As Littlefoot declares, "We did it together," the narrator states that the Valley was all they had hoped for. The dinosaurs would now have all the tree stars they wanted.
Ducky discovers her family and introduces them to their new brother, Spike. Her parents nuzzle him warmly. Petrie locates his mother, proudly announcing he is now a flier. Cera finds her father and has a warm reunion. Littlefoot locates his grandparents and then (via flashback) recalls his first moments with them and the journey he made with his friends. Littlefoot is called and the fivesome meet atop a green hill, grouping closely together in friendship. The narrator explains that they all grew up in the Valley, and for generations, the tale of how they journeyed together to the Valley was passed along.
- Gabriel Damon as Littlefoot
- Candace Hutson as Cera
- Judith Barsi as Ducky
- Will Ryan as Petrie
- Joe Ranft as Spike
- Helen Shaver as Littlefoot's Mother
- Burke Byrnes as Topsy
- Bill Erwin as Grandpa Longneck
- Pat Hingle as Narrator and Rooter
- Frank Welker as Sharptooth
- Music By James Horner
- "If We Hold On Together" - Diana Ross