Don Bluth's 1988 animated feature film The Land Before Time began production in 1985, under the title The Land Before Time Began throughout half of its production. In April/May 1988, just six/seven months before the release of the film, the running time sat at 80-82 minutes. However, due to various scenes that were deemed either too frightening or too difficult for children to understand (plus a few other minor cuts that happened for unknown reasons) the running time was reduced to 69 minutes (including credits), making it one of the shortest feature-length films ever released.
Against Don Bluth's wishes, a grand total of 19 fully animated scenes were cut from the film before release, many of which were the result of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (who had previously added dialogue to the film earlier in production so that the film appealed more to children). One of the first of these major cut scenes included potentially overwhelming images from the encounter with Sharptooth (the Tyrannosaurus rex), which showed close-ups of him attacking out of nowhere in the briars. It was also rumored that the scene of Sharptooth ripping open the back of Littlefoot's mother was originally more graphic and was altered to show the event only in shadow, however, there is no evidence to support this clam. The theory that the early release tape contained some cut footage also seems to have been proven false.
In addition to these scenes, the ending was also altered. Originally, Littlefoot was to find the Great Valley on his own after parting with his friends, before returning to his friends and helping them defeat Sharptooth, later entering the Valley with his reunited group. Other scenes cut from the film included one in which Ducky is seen taunting Sharptooth by making faces at him, and one that shows the inclusion of Spike into the gang and the decision to lead him using berries. The rumored scene in which the main characters come upon an oasis inhabited by fat "crown-heads" (Pachycephalosaurus) and "gray-noses" (Saurolophus), who refuse to share food and water with one another, giving Cera an epiphany on not judging others based on their species was also a part of the film, which was unknown until 2018. It is unknown as to whether this scene was cut with the other 18 scenes during late production, or if it was cut earlier. One thing is certain - it can be found in the April-May-June 1987 script draft for the movie, which was around the halfway point in the film's production.
Small snippets from some of the deleted scenes can also be found in pieces of promotional material for the movie that came out before its release. It is rumored that an unedited copy of the film was accidentally sent to a Finnish broadcasting company, which they then subsequently aired, although this claim has never been verified.
The original cut of The Land Before Time has never shown up in any form of public release, and it is largely believed that the extra footage has been either lost or destroyed. Despite this, stills and animation cels from some of the deleted scenes have shown up in the past (and continue to show up nowadays), some, interestingly enough, a number of them appear in the movie's counterpart storybooks Friends in Need, The Search for the Great Valley, and The Land Before Time: The Illustrated Story. Also, another Don Bluth-directed film from 1989, All Dogs Go To Heaven, contained a major cut scene that was found in 2016, leading fans to believe that the cut scenes for The Land Before Time may show up in the future and are not truly lost.
Attempts are being made to contact people who worked on the film. Some members of the Gang of Five (the biggest Land Before Time forum to date) have asked Mark Pudleiner, Dick Zondag (animation director), and Stu Krieger about information.
Update 06/23/2017: New information was discovered on 06/23/2017 from Mark Pudleiner, who asked producer Gary Goldman for information.
I asked the one of the owners and producer Gary Goldman.
This is his reply.
"Though it was approved at the storyboard stage. It was at a screening in April or May of 1988 just 6 months before completion of the film at a a 20th Century Fox theater in Soho Square, London, with just Don, John, me, Steven and his first wife and George in one of the small 30 seat theaters. The problem is that when it was edited, cutting 19 scenes out - including audio, by one of Steven’s favorite editors at Pinewood Studios in England, it was mainly the T-Rex shots (scenes to me) of full head shots with wide open mouths, attacking into the lens of the camera at the child dinosaurs as they took cover in the briars. However, it was less than a minute lost sections of the T-Rex attack and the kids. Steven and George both felt that those scenes would have triggered an audience of 4 and 5 year olds crying and having their mothers and fathers holding them in their arms in the lobby waiting for a safe time to take their kids back to their seats. Those cuts remained, the tiny short cuts were taped together and rolled and we took them back to Dublin. However, we never saved the prints or the negatives for those scenes, all were animated and cleaned up, many of which were in color.
The additional 10+ minutes of cuts came after we finished the film. Steven and the same editor, who had been fast-tracked to get a green card, to move to Burbank and work with Spielberg there at Amblin on the Universal lot on other projects. Steven continued to edit the film to be sure it would not disturb parents or their children. I believe we delivered an 80 to 82 minute film including all credits. The final edited length was 69 minutes, the same as Bambi (1942).
Though it was said that the scenes were not saved, the same was said for the cut scenes of All Dogs Go to Heaven, but the uncut hell scene was found in the summer of 2016.
- 1 The Three Main Cuts
- 2 The First Edit (early production; 1986)
- 3 The Second Edit (late 1986 to early 1988)
- 4 The Third Edit (April/May 1988 to after the soundtrack was created)
- 5 Miscellaneous
- 6 Voices
- 7 Gallery
- 8 References
The Three Main Cuts
When the movie was first screened, it seems it wasn't yet scored, since there are a number of scenes that simply don't fit into the music. Other scenes were removed after it was scored, which is why there are chunks in the music that are missing, like in The Black Cauldron, though normally not to as great of an extent. Nearly all of the cuts come from the third edit, which took place during the later stages of production.
Below is a documentation of all the known cut scenes as of 2019.
The First Edit (early production; 1986)
Littlefoot and the Snake
- Early in the film, when Littlefoot was still a baby, there was originally going to be a scene where he encounters a Dinilysia (a type of prehistoric snake). The scene was titled "Littlefoot and the Snake". In the scene, it attacks and nearly kills Littlefoot, before his mother arrives and saves him by picking it up in her mouth and flinging it away. This was one of the earliest of all the cuts. Storyboards for this scene are all that survives of it.
The Second Edit (late 1986 to early 1988)
Rooter (added scene)
When the film was (allegedly) screened to psychologists, the death of the mother was deemed too traumatic, and so the Old Rooter scene was added to the movie. The original version was originally planned to just fade or cut to the flyers playing with the cherries. This addition of Rooter prevented the entire death scene from being cut out. Rooter was added a while before most of the cuts happened in mid-1988, as the June 1987 section of the April-May-June 1987 script includes Rooter's scene as part of the new revision.
The Third Edit (April/May 1988 to after the soundtrack was created)
Sharptooth Attack (extended)
Through a number of storyboards released by one of The Land Before Time's animators, Mark Pudleiner, on his blog in early 2015, a good portion of the first Sharptooth attack has finally been pieced together. These scenes were also fully animated, as shown on the cel from "The Search for the Great Valley" book to the right, but as of now they have not been found in full. In 2018, a cel of Sharptooth from one of the cut shots was discovered from an unknown source.
In order of the storyboards: Cera and Littlefoot notice the ground shaking. The frogs vanish, and Sharptooth is shown walking up to the thorn tree and smashing into it. The kids run out, slip and fall, and his shadow looms over him. They leap away before he can stomp down on them, and run back under the tree. Trying to escape, they climb up the hollow inside but Sharptooth lunges down the top of it, trying to grab them. They fall and run away as he tears up the thorn tree (as seen beside this). The part where Sharptooth rams the tree, where the kids climb the tree, and when he lunges from the top and then completely rips it up is completely missing from the final film.
Then, Sharptooth leaps as the children enter a thicket of briars. Littlefoot gets caught in thorns and when he breaks free, they fly into Sharptooth's eye blinding it. He then starts to search for the children, before Cera runs out into the open. The injury part was supposed to happen before he started looking for the children; this is why he appears injured already when he is searching for the kids. These two scenes in this paragraph were switched around before the film was scored for unknown reasons.
Sharptooth then breaks through the brambles in front of Cera and misses biting her, and later Littlefoot. He then bites the dirt as they make it past him. He then turns and misses another bite, before he bursts out of the thorn bushes and leaps, landing in front of them. They try to turn around and run the other way, but he lowers his tail blocking them off. They both run around the opposite sides of his head as he lowers it down. All of the scenes in this paragraph are not in the film, sans footage of him bursting out of the bushes and scratching off, the kids running, and him leaping. This "scratching off" bit is actually reused animation of him trying to scratch Ducky and Petrie before his death near the end of the film. It was likely added in to make this heavily edited scene make more sense, as opposed to him bursting out of the bushes and leaping in a weird way, preparing to jump in a now different position.
Sharptooth then leaps again as the kids exit the bushes and try to run, before Littlefoot's mother knocks him away with her tail. It seems that in the final film, this second leap is actually the landing of the first leap.
Sharptooth vs Littlefoot's Mother (extended)
The extended fight between Sharptooth and Littlefoot's mother. Notably, this scene is only missing 19 seconds of footage (according to soundtrack official and final comparisons) shortly before the earthquake begins, and plays lower, dramatic music. This explains the sudden appearance of the mother's neck wound.
Going by the April-May-June 1987 script, the cut footage features Littlefoot's mother fighting with Sharptooth AFTER she is bitten by him, which has a close-up of her yelling in pain. A cel was discovered at an unknown date that shows this close-up; however, it wasn't until the 1987 script was discovered that the validity of the cel was confirmed. Meanwhile, Littlefoot and Cera hide in a canyon while the battle takes place. When both combatants near the children, Littlefoot's mother hits Sharptooth with her tail and sends mud flying at him down a small hill. This causes Littlefoot and Cera to slide down and crash into Sharptooth's foot, as seen in the clip below from a trailer. Afterwards, Littlefoot's mother hits Sharptooth again and sends him down a steeper hill while she and the children escape the canyon area. This scene is cut down heavily in the final film, to the point where only the soundtrack was any sort of hint that it existed.
Discovery of Spike (extended)
One of the best known cut scenes, the discovery of Spike, was cut down a lot. Originally, Cera and Littlefoot fought about keeping him, and Ducky figured out how to get him to follow with cherries: in the final, the narrator seems to reference this scene slightly. It seems to have been cut early on, since it's hard to pinpoint how it was cut. After Spike is found, it seems Cera left for a while, since she vanishes right before they find the green food. She's very obviously not there in any scene until she starts claiming she found the food and calling it the Great Valley; she probably came back when Littlefoot and Spike were calling the others. This scene appears in "The Illustrated Story" and "Friends in Need" books.
In the soundtrack, "If We Hold on Together" is listed after the "Whispering Winds" track, and before "Foraging for Food" (which was ultimately cut down), and the credits are separate. In fact, the lyrics suggest there could have been a sequence when this song played, perhaps to do with the group separated. It may have fit in after they find the "Rock That Looks Like A Longneck", where the movie does an awkward fade out and the characters noticeably freeze in place. This never happens at another point, so it's obvious something was cut. There is a possibility that it contained Cera acting like a jerk after claiming she found it first. There's also potential that Cera left the group and stormed off, only for them to be reunited again shortly after, which could explain why tensions were so high in the following scenes.
The April-May-June 1987 script confirmed the travel montage speculation - there was in fact going to be a montage mid-way through the film that played "If We Hold On Together" during the course of it.
Green Food Scene (extended)
Small bits of the green food scene are known to be cut, and this was probably just to speed up the pacing a bit. It seems nothing major was cut, but there is some slight continuity problems involving Cera: She backs up to ram the tree again for food, and then is walking away, teasing the group. The music seems to be severely cut up, since it's impossible to line up anymore. One shot from the trimmed green food scene can be seen in one of the trailers for the film, and is also shown in the restoration video below from 0:18 - 0:21.
Plan to Kill Sharptooth (extended)
There is also additional missing footage of the plan to kill Sharptooth, with Littlefoot likely explaining the reasoning behind doing this: Sharptooth has found the Great Valley, and they must stop him before he enters. Plants are also growing around the area on the right side when they spot him climbing as well, indicating that the Great Valley is close. The whole gang originally knew it was there, and they needed to defeat Sharptooth first, together. However, in the final film, they are not supposed to know that the Great Valley is close; this does not make much sense and is reason for why the original ending was more reasonable.
Sharptooth's Death (extended)
Sharptooth's death was a nightmare to re-edit, but it seems the scene went on longer, with Ducky having to lure him into the water again. As shown in the April-May-June 1987 script draft, Petrie originally fought with Sharptooth for a much longer period of time, with Ducky trying to distract him by making faces and him landing in front of her.
The shot showing Sharptooth's body sinking into the lake was also originally supposed to be longer, and there was also a scene with the group reuniting with Petrie when he turned out to be alive, which could have had the hugging scene follow it, since it could also fit in there. Littlefoot then guided them to the Valley, carrying Petrie on his head. This is reused animation from earlier, so it's possible the re-cut may have been done to spare audiences another segment of repeated animation in this film. The movie then continued on as normal.
What is now the ending of the film happened considerably earlier, but piecing it together is hard. Before the main characters reached the Mountains That Burn, Littlefoot had split up after a fight between himself and Cera. Originally, this would have continued with Littlefoot wandering past the pond they drown Sharptooth in, asking his mother for help, then discovering the valley (this last bit is still used in the movie). There was a scene with him playing in the waterfalls, then, in an unknown scene, he ends up finding the others at the river of fire (potentially his mother told him to bring them, but nothing is known of this moment).
It is noticeable that they eventually ended up on the right path from there, and may have been going the right way. In the film, the narrator says that Cera is too proud to admit she went the wrong way: how did she know she was going the wrong way? Something was likely cut out with Littlefoot revealing he had found the Great Valley, but the narration regarding these scenes were not. It's also notable that it looks like it's raining outside when she storms off, not a waterfall, so there might be a large amount of footage missing from that point on. This ending is seen in all three of the book adaptions of the movie.
- It's worth noting that near the end, when the spirit of Littlefoot's mother is leading him through the cave tunnel, Littlefoot is smiling as he runs through the cave, though he is supposed to be upset during that scene. So it's obvious to which that part was most likely a scene that was part of the original ending; when Littlefoot found the great valley himself.
- Also, in the wide shot, when the clouds re-shape to form the spirit of his mother, you can actually see both the pond where they defeated Sharptooth and the boulder they used to stop him sitting where it was before it was pushed. Indicating that the scene was indeed swapped around.
- As Grandpa Longneck's (Littlefoot's grandfather's) voice actor was listed in the credits, there may have been a scene where he spoke in either the beginning or the end, but this is unknown at this point. In the film, he only chuckles. However, in the April-May-June 1987 script draft, he does not speak, so it may also have been just a rumor.
- There seems to be some footage missing from Ducky's introduction, since there's a huge continuity gap (the tree star vanishes and reappears a few scenes later), but this may have been simply an animation mistake.
- The film contains music that is not included in the soundtrack. Two scenes, particularly the scene where Sharptooth wakes up, and when he attacks the gang later, both play a track that is not in the soundtrack.
Main article: The Land Before Time Sequels: Deleted Scenes
- Gabriel Damon as Littlefoot
- Candace Hutson as Cera
- Judith Barsi as Ducky
- Will Ryan as Petrie
- Bill Erwin as Grandpa Longneck (chuckling only, possibly had a more major speaking role before the cuts) and Clifford (crownhead) (unconfirmed)
- Burke Byrnes as Daddy Topps/Mr. Threehorn/Cera's Dad/Topsy
- Helen Shaver as Littlefoot's Mother
- Pat Hingle as Narrator and Rooter
- Frank Welker as Sharptooth, Spike, The Grey-Nose (unconfirmed) and Lizard-heads (unconfirmed)
The full script of the film can be downloaded at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/194ERbXiImSdBJJRfn96ZVxJS0Txsr04T/view
- Reply to e-mail sent to Mark Pudleiner about cut scenes: http://z7.invisionfree.com/thegangoffive/index.php?showtopic=16016&view=findpost&p=40015439
- The rumor of the pre-release McDonalds VHS containing cut scenes debunked. http://z7.invisionfree.com/thegangoffive/index.php?showtopic=14138&view=findpost&p=22077664