Oh my gosh, we are SO excited about this new Disney Pixar movie The Good Dinosaur! Only 163 sleeps until this new kids movie comes to UK cinemas on November 27th 2015, at which point your children will be brimming with excitement and will have told you every dinosaur fact you ever wanted to know… and plenty you didn’t really want to know!
Before you check out The Good Dinosaur trailer, let me tell you a little bit about the making of this newest animation by those incredibly talented folks at Disney Pixar. Yesterday, in the cosy little screening room at the Soho Hotel (London), we had the remarkable opportunity to meet Director Peter Sohn and hear first-hand about his journey through Pixar and the story behind The Good Dinosaur.
A film that transcends language
Much as you’d expect for a Pixar Director, Peter Sohn is a masterful storyteller and has us all hooked from his first hand-sketched slide. Sohn tells the story of growing up in America with two hard-working Korean parents, how his mum would take him to the movies if there was any money left at the end of the month. His sketches show him in the cinema laughing his head off while his poor mum is sitting there looking either perplexed or glum – hard as she tries, she doesn’t understand the language enough to get what’s going on, and his translations leave much to be desired.
Until one day, when they went off to see Dumbo in the cinema… And then Sohn’s story shifts. As Mrs Jumbo caresses baby Dumbo with her trunk, Sohn’s mum’s face changes – for the first time ever, she doesn’t need a translation to understand the story. It’s a moment in the film that transcends language, that doesn’t require special effects or a fancy script, it’s just a perfectly captured moment of a mother’s love for her little boy.
For Sohn, witnessing his mother connect emotionally to a film for the first time was a pivotal point in his life – and he was determined to learn everything he could about visual storytelling.
“Doing something out of your reach always teaches you something.”
Cue 15 years of hard work, tears, magical moments, seas of sketches and storyboards that didn’t make the cut, and successes punctuated by epic fails… all told in Sohn’s hilarious down-to-earth, self-deprecating style. I loved his take on the learning process, the painful ups and down that go into Pixar’s incredible films. How scared he was to put his heart into his work after his first ideas were stomped on. “One of the things that makes Pixar stand out,” he says, “is people put their hearts into it. They make themselves vulnerable.”
Sohn’s take is that jumping into the deep end is all about floundering but eventually finding your way – it is scary, you do want to give up, and sometimes to keep going takes more than you think you’ve got… but “doing something out of your reach always teaches you something” and is the only way to create something amazing. Like the stunning and beautifully crafted Pixar films, for instance!
So… back to The Good Dinosaur movie. In their storytelling, Pixar always tries to ask the question “What If…?“. What if all the toys came to life whenever you left the room? What if monsters had to learn to be scary?
In The Good Dinosaur, Pixar asks “What if that asteroid missed planet Earth completely and dinosaurs never became extinct?”.
It’s an easy enough story to tell (in theory.. and if you have the world’s best storytellers at your fingertips), but Pixar wanted to make it unlike anything we’ve seen before, and to create an emotional connection that would transcend language – just as Disney did so many years ago with Dumbo.
In the case of The Good Dinosaur, they’ve taken a traditional coming of age story and “boy and dog” characters, but given it a little twist. Arlo is a young Apatosaur and the son of farmers, the dinosaurs in the foothills of the Rockies having evolved towards an agrarian society. If you’ve ever been to the NorthWest USA or up to Alberta you’ll recognise the stunning prairies, prairies and mountainscapes. You’ll have seen the farmers and the ranch hands and the cowboys… so weirdly the world Pixar has created feels familiar. Because the asteroid never struck Earth, though, Pixar had the opportunity to completely reimagine the evolution of other species, and what they’ve come up with is just delightful.
“It’s pretty dangerous being a parent in a Disney Pixar film”
As one of the movie critics in the audience commented, “it’s pretty dangerous being a parent in a Disney Pixar film”… so as you would expect, Arlo’s coming of age story is prompted by tragic loss. He has to find his way, confront his fears, and along the way discover who he really is. As with most stories that stand the test of time, his emotional loss and his journey to self-discovery are mirrored by a more literal representation – he finds himself far from home, lost and alone, and needs to learn to support himself and to find his way home. Along his journey, he meets a rambunctious little puppy-like human called Spot, and they find they have more in common than either of them thought.
Besides a great story and believable characters (yes, strangely believable, even though it’s a farmer dinosaur and a boy-dog), Pixar believes in precisely the right setting, so they’ve planted the seed of this story into a setting like no other.
The beauty and danger of Arlo’s natural world
They wanted to create a real sense of nature and the world being almost a character in itself – the natural world is both beautiful and dangerous, and with changing moods to enhance the storytelling. You’ll notice, for example, that the river churns when Arlo is fearful, and at other stages of the film when he is feeling grounded, the waters are calm. To really give a sense of the beauty and danger of Arlo’s natural world, they felt they needed to make the setting as realistic as possible… in all honesty, the animation will leave you breathless – it is so real that until Sohn told us otherwise, every person in the audience thought it was videography and not animation.
The big question
The big question is whether Peter Sohn managed to use visual storytelling to create a powerful emotional connection – the sort of story that his mum could connect with. Well, judging from the mood in the screening room during a pivotal scene – the pure silence and the surreptitious wiping away of tears, I’d say he’s nailed it.
Without further ado, here are a few more details and the movie trailer to whet your appetite…
The Good Dinosaur movie trailer:
More about The Good Dinosaur:
“The Good Dinosaur” asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of.
The Good Dinosaur is directed by Peter Sohn and produced by Denise Ream. Peter Sohn made his directorial debut with the Pixar short film “Partly Cloudy.” He has worked in the art, story and animation departments, and also has voiced the characters of Emile from Academy Award®-winning “Ratatouille” and Scott “Squishy” Squibbles from “Monsters University.” Denise Ream produced the Golden Globe-nominated film “Cars 2” for Pixar Animation Studios, and served as associate producer for Disney•Pixar’s Academy Award®-winning film “Up.” She also has an extensive background in producing visual effects and animation for live action films.