The Land Before Time is a 1988 animated adventure drama film directed and produced by Don Bluth from a story by Judy Freudberg and Tony Geiss and a screenplay by Stu Krieger, and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, and Frank Marshall. The film stars the voices of Gabriel Damon, Candace Hutson, Judith Barsi (posthumously) and Will Ryan with narration provided by Pat Hingle. It is the inaugural film in The Land Before Time franchise.
Produced by the American companies Amblin Entertainment, and the American-Irish Sullivan Bluth Studios Ireland Ltd., it features dinosaurs living in the prehistoric times. The plot concerns a young "Longneck" (Apatosaurus) named Littlefoot, who is orphaned when his mother is killed by a vicious carnivore (Tyrannosaurus). Littlefoot flees famine and upheaval to search for the Great Valley, an area spared from devastation. On his journey, he meets four young companions: Cera the "Threehorn" (Triceratops), Ducky the "Bigmouth" (Saurolophus), Petrie the "Flyer" (Pteranodon), and Spike the "Spiketail" (Stegosaurus).The film explores issues of prejudice between the different species and the hardships they endure in their journey as they are guided by the spirit of Littlefoot's mother and forced to deal with a "Sharptooth" (Tyrannosaurus). This is the only Don Bluth film of the 1980s in which Dom DeLuise did not participate (instead, he starred in Disney's Oliver & Company that same year), and the only film in The Land Before Time series that is not a musical, as well as the only one to be released theatrically worldwide.
The film was released by Universal Pictures on November 18, 1988, to generally positive reviews from critics and was a box office success, grossing $84.4 million. Its success, along with An American Tail and the 1988 live-action/animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit led Spielberg to found his animation studio, Amblimation. The first film spawned a franchise with thirteen direct-to-video sequels, a television series, video games and merchandise, none of which had Bluth, Spielberg nor Lucas' involvement (though Amblin Entertainment was involved in the television series like it was for Fievel's American Tails).