Animated movies from the nineties are my deepest well of nostalgia. Existing outside the Disney and Pixar pantheon, most of these movies go unmentioned beyond 'nineties kids know this' BuzzFeed listicles. The last few weeks, for some cosmic reason, I’ve come across many of these childhood movies.
They’ve brought sharp, long-forgetten memories of playing the VHS tapes endlessly, removing them from those oversized plastic cases that sealed with such a satisfying pop. These movies include Fievel Goes West, The Land Before Time, and The Secret of NIMH, but also understandably less appreciated movies like Once Upon a Forest, A Troll in Central Park, and my most recent re-discovery, 1992’s We’re Back! A Dinosaur's Story, which I easily watched two dozen times.
The movie drips with over-wrought lessons. It tells the tale of four dinosaurs turned civilized cartoons by a scientist who brings them into modern (nineties) Manhattan to fulfill a child’s wish for friends. That scientist, Captain Neweyes, is a savior figure whose unambiguous goodness, warmth, and love of knowledge was an archetype of authority for four-year-old me. And, in his only film appearance ever, he was voiced by Walter Cronkite.
I was bowled over the other day to learn Neweyes was America’s original stentorian anchor. If Woodward and Bernstein are the archetypal American print journalists and Murrow is the archetypal American radio journalist, Cronkite is the archetypal American television journalist. Public opinion rose and fell with his CBS broadcasts, each one ending with the signature phrase: “And that’s the way it is.” In 1968, after he called for an end to the “stalemate” in Vietnam War, President Johnson concluded, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."
I thought I was too late for the Cronkite generation. But, unbeknownst to me, he had been my childhood voice of reason, knowledge, and compassion. And a rich caramel of a voice it is. You can watch the movie below if you’re interested - it’s all on Youtube. That fact might show how little people regard We’re Back! now, but (unlike many of its contemporaries) it did make it into two BuzzFeed listicles: 18 Kids Movies From The ’90s You’ve Probably Forgotten About and 16 Animated Movies You Totally Forgot Existed. Cronkite wasn’t the only atypical casting in the star-filled Steven Spielberg feature. Julia Child, the chef and television host, voiced a friendly scientist character in her only movie role ever as well.
Here’s the movie, in six parts: