Pixar operates on debuting one original film a year, but for the first time in history, they scheduled 2 movies to be released this year.
The first one was “Inside Out“, a film that takes place in a young girl’s head with each emotion operating in the “headquarters” of her mind. As for the 2nd film, Pixar will take you on an epic yet emotional journey into the world of dinosaurs through the eyes of Arlo, a young apatosaurus who makes an unlikely human friend.
Unsurprisingly, this movie also starts with the “What if?” premise:
What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?
Titled “The Good Dinosaur”, this Pixar movie centres on Arlo, a young and lost Apatosaurus who travels through a harsh and mysterious landscape with his unlikely human friend Spot. While finding his way home, Arlo learns to confront his fears, discovering what he is truly capable of.
Having seen its trailer, it’s safe to assume that this movie will keep the emotions in the “headquarters” of your mind busy throughout its running time. But first, let’s explore some fun facts about the animated feature film, starting with some behind-the-scenes facts ;)
(WARNING: Might contain some spoilers so read at your own risk)
1. “The Good Dinosaur” is helmed by Peter Sohn, the first lead Asian director at Pixar
Director Peter Sohn is a Pixar veteran. He has worked in the art, story, and animation departments of the studio for Pixar classics such as “Toy Story 3”, “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles”, and “WALL-E”. He also voiced the characters of Emile from Academy Award-winning “Ratatouille” and Scott “Squishy” Squibbles from “Monsters University”.
Remember “Partly Cloudy”? That adorable animated short that was played before the screening of “Up”?
The short film actually marked Sohn’s directorial debut.
As for “The Good Dinosaur”, it marks Sohn’s feature debut as a director. In the film, he is also voicing a character called the Pet Collector and acting in certain scenes as a T-Rex.
2. Another amazing Pixar short is attached to the film!
Similar to many other Pixar films, there’s an amazing Pixar short attached to “The Good Dinosaur”.
Titled “Sanjay’s Super Team”, the short is a directorial debut from Sanjay Petal. It is the first Pixar toon to be helmed by a director of Indian descent and the first Pixar film to centre around Hindu deities. It is a semi-autographical short as Petal uses his own experience to tell the story of a young, first-generation Indian-American boy whose love for Western pop culture comes into conflict with his father’s traditions.
Sanjay is absorbed in the world of cartoons and comics, while his father tries to draw him into the traditions of his Hindu practice. Tedium and reluctance quickly turn into an awe-inspiring adventure as the boy embarks on a journey he never imagined, returning with a new perspective that they can both embrace.
3. Original voice cast completely replaced due to creative crisis
“The Good Dinosaur” was originally developed by “Up” co-director Bob Peterson, but it was later announced that he was removed from the movie.
At the time, Lucas Neff, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, John Lithgow, and Frances McDormand remained as the voice cast. Peter Sohn, who was co-directing the film, was subsequently upgraded to director.
The studio was initially revamping its story only, but they later had to revamp almost its entire voice cast as the story has changed drastically. 13-year-old Raymond Ochoa replaced Lucas Neff as Arlo. Jeffrey Wright stepped in to voice Arlo’s father aka Poppa while Frances McDormand, the only remaining original cast member, voiced Arlo’s mother.
Anna Paquin is voicing a T-Rex named Ramsey while Sam Elliott and AJ Buckley are voicing 2 T-Rexes named Butch and Nash respectively. A pterodactyl named Thunderclap will be voiced by Steve Zahn. As for Arlo’s adopted human pet/friend Spot, he is voiced by Jack Bright.
4. The filmmakers & effects team created the river sequences based on their rafting trips
The filmmakers went rafting down the Snake River during their research trip in Wyoming. The experience provided first-hand reference for creating the river sequences in the film. Along the way, a GoPro camera they used to capture reference footage was dislodged and lost in the river. The filmmakers were amazed that their guide was able to “read” the river and locate the fallen GoPro camera.
To experience the kind of rapids Arlo encounters, the effects team took a separate rafting trip down the American River. According to effects supervisor Jon Reisch, they “got swept underneath the current and ended up getting kicked out downstream”. They were able to create the river sequences after “having that shared, visceral experience of how powerful the water felt”.
5. The T-Rexes were inspired by a real-life family called the McKay family
Believe it or not, the T-rexes in “The Good Dinosaur” were inspired by a real-life family called the McKay family.
Joe and Joyce McKay are a pair of married couple who lead busy lives running their ranch just outside Juntura with their 6 children, Gabriel, Claire, Luke, Anna Rose, JoAnn, and Martin. The family was introduced to the filmmakers by production manager Ann Brilz because she knows that the family embodies the lifestyle that they wanted to experience – a life in the kind of vast open spaces that Arlo calls home.
Joe’s relationship with his children is reflected in T-Rex Butch’s straightforward, just-do-it interactions with his children Nash and Ramsey. The campfire scene features the ranchers’ storytelling style too. However, Sohn said that it was the overall experience of spending time with this family in this place that had the biggest impact on the film.
6. The animators brought Arlo to life through their observations on elephants
At 18 feet tall and 25 feet long, Arlo is still a sizable creature.
To get sense of scale and weight to animate Arlo, animator Rob Thompson said they went to a zoo to observe the elephants. Another animator Kevin O’Hara explained that it took an animator an entire day to do a walk cycle that could be used for Arlo.
7. The filmmakers referenced both human boys and animals to create Spot
The filmmakers looked at both human boys and animals to achieve the right look for Spot.
According to supervising animator MikeVenturini, they “referenced lots of animals” including “dogs, raccoons, cats and squirrels”.
We wanted him to move in a way that’s familiar to the audience, but not too literal and not too human. His expressions are more like an animal’s—simple in design, not as complex as a human’s. He’s often wide-eyed. We had fun with Spot.
Pairing Spot with Arlo proved difficult. Director of photography-camera Mahyar Abousaeedi said it was hard to frame Arlo and all of the dinosaurs “due to their size”. Spot further complicated their camera strategy when the tiny human being appeared in the same shot as the gigantic dinosaurs.
“Composing Spot small in frame for most of the movie made for a more powerful connection when the pair begins to bond and we pushed into Spot for a close-up,” he added.
BONUS (Spoiler alert):
“The Good Dinosaur” will only be released next week, but Reddit user named lannisterdwarf managed to spot one of Pixar’s Easter eggs in the film.
In Pixar’s “Inside Out”, one of Riley’s memories shows her taking a photo with her father next to a giant dinosaur statue on the side of the road. If you didn’t notice, the dinosaur looks oddly similar to the Styracosaurus that will be voiced by Sohn in the movie.
Could this Easter Egg be one of the reasons why they had to change the story so drastically? Only Pixar knows.
We’ll leave you now with the official trailer of “The Good Dinosaur”. Enjoy:
“The Good Dinosaur” is slated to hit theatres on 26th November 2015.