In Florence Foster Jenkins, Meryl Streep plays a singer who's tantalizingly awful at singing. The performance, uninhibited and loose, earned the actress her twentieth Oscar nod—and foreshadows her work as the melodic Julia Child in 2009’s Julie & Julia. As it stands this is the definitive Julia Child performance on film. Right?
Which plunged me down the rabbit hole of all the other times Julia Child (or a depiction of her) has been on film. Most of the time, she was relegated to archival footage blaring on television screens in the background, her mellifluous voice pitching and yawing as she walks you through how to make crêpes suzette. I'm thinking such movies as Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), The Money Pit (1986), Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1990), and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). All well and fine.
But there’s an oddity in Child’s admittedly sparse filmography: Her one stint as an actress was in 1993’s We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, released by Universal Studios. Did you know this? Is this common knowledge? Why does no one talk about this?
Here's a movie that got one whole star from Roger Ebert upon its release, and, today, it graces such coveted lists as “10 Worst Dinosaur Movies of the 90s.” Released by the same animation studio that would bring us Balto two years later, this movie centers around the adventures of a few city kids who meet time-traveling dinosaurs who can talk. Child is the voice of Dr. Julia Bleeb, a craggly and bespectacled museum curator at a natural history museum. The movie was part of the onslaught of animated films featuring anthropomorphic dinosaurs that began with The Land Before Time in the decade prior. Child's costars were men like John Goodman, Jay Leno, and Walter Cronkite.
Shop the Story
I'll admit that I never saw this movie growing up, but now I must. The fact that Child was once in film, an animated film no less, is rarely a topic in any biographies of Child I've read. The phrase “Julia Child dinosaur” isn’t even a suggested search term. Why? I have no idea. So, a gentle request: Dust this movie off. (It's on Amazon, if that's something you'd like to do.) Here's a side of Julia Child you probably haven’t seen—or heard.
What's your favorite Julia Child movie appearance? Let us know in the comments.
On our new weekly podcast, two friends separated by the Atlantic take questions and compare notes on everything from charcuterie trends to scone etiquette.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.