That’s It LA had the rare privilege of being able to take part in a special press day for the Blu Ray release of Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. We were allowed to get a personal look at the different aspects that go into making an animated feature and were able to speak to the people that make it all possible. As we entered each room we knew we were in for a magical experience.
In the 1st room we got to speak with the man who shapes and builds the whimsical characters we see on screen, Alonso Martinez, Modeling Rigger for the digital character department at Pixar. The first thing you notice about him is his giant beaming smile and cartoonishly tall sweeping point of his hair. He later tells us that he actually cuts it himself to give himself a distinctive silhouette, the same thing he strives to give his characters so that you can recognize them a mile away.
As he talks in his friendly child-like excited tone he draws for us on a sheet of paper, slowly through out the conversation the mischievous face of Spot, Alonso’s favorite character in the movie, appears on the page grinning.
When creating a world with dinosaurs you can’t just go to the zoo and take a look at one, so when he was getting ideas he drew inspiration from all sorts of other creatures including giraffes, alligators, birds, and horses which you can see when you look at his designs. Every aspect is thought out, from the symbolic meaning behind the general shape of a character, to how each individual tooth in a giant dinosaur’s mouth was used in their lifetime. Alonso says that, “The best characters make you want to reach out and touch them!”. He tells us a story about his first time getting to explore Pixar when he first came aboard where he discovered the character model for Woody in the files and did just that, he reached out his hand to shake Woody’s and shared a polite, “Nice to meet you!”.
Believe it or not, there are no layers inside his designs for rigging, no complex musculature, the entire character is formed by manipulating a surface. All the range of motion and expression must be able to be achieved by squishing and stretching a very carefully wrinkled digital blanket of sorts, all be it a magical blanket that can be made of any material.
In the 2nd room we get to experience the music and sound of the soundtrack as the composers, Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna (Yes, they are brothers!) as their band play for us live. This is no ordinary band either, the instruments they use are peculiar and unique. They play everything from a fiddle that is over a hundred years old to dried pupa husks that are used as percussion instruments. The film used an entire orchestra to produce the soundtrack’s epic sound but on that day, with just a handful of instruments, they still manage to make it come alive and transport you across sweeping plains right to the heart of the emotional moments of the film to experience them again with each swell and note. Watch the clip below to hear a snippet from their special performance.
Watch a clip from the event.
In the 3rd room we got to speak with the film’s director, Peter Sohn. His background in voice acting and long history with Pixar make him a very special addition to the film. As he speaks you can tell he is a very kind man who is understanding, thoughtful, and supportive and who is there for his cast and crew, like a father he wants to nurture and guide the project he is on to be the very best it can be. Although he replaced the original Director and was presented with the challenging task of coming on board to a film after it began production Sohn stepped up to the plate and shined. He talked about coming on the project and treating the film like a sick child where his job is finding what it needs and the very best care to make it strong and thriving again.
Sohn strives to make his set a place that is trusting and to bring out the strengths in everyone working on the project. He talked about how his immigrant family inspired him, even though his parents had to deal with a language barrier he saw how they were able to derive meaning from body language and tone alone, this understanding led to his passion for cartoons which to him are a way to provide a universal language that unites everyone. He is driven by seeing how people are able to succeed and overcome fears and not be bound by the limitations people put on them.
Sohn also spoke about the unexpected reaction viewers had to the film’s ending. When he first envisioned the ending scene to him it was about being able to let go, about accepting a moment where it’s time to let someone move on to something better even if it means losing having them as part of your life. He wanted it to be about continuing on in a new way even if doing so is hard. He talked about being approached by people who had watched the movie and having that scene resonate with them after they had someone close in their life pass away and using it as a way to explain death to a child and find catharsis, which he found touching.
In the last room we were able to talk with the voice actors who play Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) and Nash (AJ Buckley). AJ has a gruff but friendly voice, he is muscular and has a fuzzy beard and makes an amusing match up next to his child co-star. While AJ talks to us he makes little T-Rex arms from time to time and you can tell he is a perfect fit for his role. His favorite scenes of the movie were the camp-fire scene and the bug harmonica.
Raymond is young and ambitious and tells us all about his experiences in the studio and adventures with his siblings while being home schooled. He says he is most excited that his role as Arlo finally has earned him the respect of his four year old sister. Meanwhile, his brothers can’t get enough of his “awkward bathroom scene” which still makes them giggle to this day.
Raymond and AJ speak fondly about working with Sohn and how much they appreciate him as a director and having him take the time to read out lines with them and consider themselves fortunate to get to benefit from Sohn’s voice-work experience and insider inspired patience to get results they are truly proud of and making their experience on the film so enjoyable. The only thing Raymond feels like he needs work on is his “whoo hoo” game, which he said was ironically his greatest struggle. He still wouldn’t do it any different though since he knows he gave the performance his all. He says getting to watch the behind the scenes footage makes him appreciate the film in a whole new way.
The Blu Ray is packed with extra goodies that are a real treat and is a must have for fans of the film.
Good Dinosaur Blu Ray Features
THEATRICAL SHORT: SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM
TRUE LIES ABOUT DINOSAURS
THE FILMMAKERS’ JOURNEY
EVERY PART OF THE DINOSAUR
FOLLOWING THE T-REX TRAIL
HIDE AND SEEK
The Blu Ray also includes deleted scenes and commentary from director Peter Sohn, story supervisor Kelsey Mann, supervising animator Mike Venturini, director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan, and supervising technical director Sanjay Bakshi.
The Good Dinosaur is available on Blu Ray Feb 23rd.