If you haven’t seen it already, David James Armsby of the YouTube channel Dead Sound has recently released a truly fantastic short film called Sharp Teeth, depicting a snapshot in time from the Age of the Dinosaurs. Before reading anymore of this, you owe it to yourself to watch it first; I even embedded the video right here at the top of the post before any preamble. Younger children might be saddened by the events in the film, but said events are integral to the moral of the story. It’s relatively tame in terms of violence, and so I recommend letting younger children watch it anyway, as a safe venue for exploring the ideas presented.
Now, if you’ve watched it, we can get on to discussing it! I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in an animated dinosaur feature, or just about any dinosaur film, really. Although highly stylized, the dinosaurs nevertheless don’t sacrifice too much in the way of accuracy. Every animal is clearly identifiable, and include all the important features they should posses. Even the Struthimimus (ostrich mimics) get a full coat of feathers!
Beyond the art, I really appreciated the plot as well. Most stories about animals in general, and particularly dinosaurs, fall into the trap of casting their stars in roles clearly defined as either good or evil. This does a great disservice to the natural world. A carnivore is simply living its life every bit as much as an herbivore; its dietary needs don’t make it any more evil than the creatures it preys upon. This film is one of the few I’ve ever seen to clearly and emphatically make that point. As we see at the end, the supposedly evil Tyrannosaurus doesn’t set out to instill fear and anguish in the mother Triceratops: rather, she herself is also a mother, and also seeks first to care for her children in the best way she knows how.
The fact that the film resists the urge to anthropomorphize its characters helps this message tremendously. Any anthropomorphic thoughts come to us entirely through the narrator’s interpretation of events; watch it with the sound off, and nothing about the animals’ behaviors stands out as unnatural. While we still feel sad for the mother Triceratops, enough distance sits between her and us that despite the initial set-up to view the T. rex as monstrous, it doesn’t feel so jarring when we realize it’s just another animal trying to care for its own, with no intentional malice or ill will towards others.
Well, that’s about all I have to say on that. Give it another watch, and if you’re curious to learn more about the filmmaker’s intentions and the creation of this film, check out his channel for more videos! I’ve embedded the “Making of Sharp Teeth” video here below, which gives an interesting account of Armsby’s process.
Oh, and P.S., this definitely gets my Stomp of Approval!