Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Dino Stuff: 'Good Dinosaur' Interviews and Articles Reveal New Details


With Pixar's next, The Good Dinosaur, making a splash at Annecy this week, new details have come up... Yesterday, The Pixar Post have uncovered and dissected two articles on the film. One of which is an interview with director Pete Sohn...

First, there's a French poster out. Similar to the European posters for Frozen, it's a beauty. It has a very autumnal color scheme, too. It's the perfect film for the holiday season...


Anyways, The Telegraph ran a piece on the production with a lot of details...

The article confirms that the film was in the works for four years up until its director change, which means that it did begin work in 2009. After all, we saw concept art for the film in the Up B-roll video way back when. (Curiously, the boy in the concept art was a modern day kid.)

"Extraneous characters and story twists and turns had crept in during the development process, and the film was stretching in too many directions at once, tying its 30-foot necks in knots. So John Lasseter, the studio’s chief creative officer, took the drastic step of putting the film on pause – and, after a period of frenzied rewriting and brainstorming, replacing its original director, the Pixar veteran Bob Peterson, with his then-35-year-old deputy Peter Sohn."

So rewrites were occurring before Peterson was replaced? I had heard about Peterson not making decisions on time when he needed to, what with the film's intended May 2014 release around the corner back in summer 2013. (Peterson stopped tweeting altogether in June 2013, no-showed at D23, and weeks later it was confirmed he was off of the film.) It's no wonder why the film had to be delayed, a lot of work had to be done to get the film back on track. No different from Ratatouille...

Footage from the film was shown at Annecy, and it is indeed going to be a subversion of the "boy and his dog" stories. The earlier versions were, to the writer, more akin to Old Yeller and Big Red. Now, it's "more plaintive lost child’s odyssey, in the style of the great, heart-wrenching Forties Disney animations Dumbo and Bambi."

Similar to two of Walt's finest films, you say? The article goes on to mention that the film will have a lot of non-verbal communication, in fact it's almost the entire film. Think something similar to WALL-E's first act, since Spot the human doesn't speak, nor do the humans - should some more show up - of this particular alternate world. Dumbo's main character is silent, and Bambi has little dialogue. Thankfully so. There are stories of Walt getting upset about Bambi having too much dialogue! Imagine that!

Animated films that eschew talky talkiness for body language and whatnot, I feel, are often the superior kind. So much communication, heart, and beauty can be brought out in that form of storytelling, and Disney Animation and Pixar don't seem to have forgotten that, in an age where big-scale American animated films are constantly chat-chat-chatting and loud and noisy. It is reassuring to hear that The Good Dinosaur will not only be going in this direction, but that it'll also be very much like a Walt film. Inside Out was very much like a Golden Age Walt film too, alongside plenty of other Pixar films. Losing their ability to create great movies? I think not...

Sohn had this to say when interviewed for the piece...

"The issue was that some of the foundational elements of the story were creating problems that just could not be fixed. So you have to break them, and in breaking them there are a lot of sacrifices that you have to make. We had got to the point where The Good Dinosaur wanted to be two or three different kinds of films in one, and so we had to try to hone back in on the heart of it."

Nothing new for animated films, and certainly nothing new for Pixar. Ratatouille was a similarly-troubled production that had to be restarted with a new director and a new storyline, only working off of some of its originator's core ideas. Originator Bob Peterson's film sounds, from this information, like it would've been overcomplicated and riddled with subplots. If released as is, it probably would've gotten a lot of criticism. If he couldn't make crucial decisions so late in the game, there were going to be problems.

As I writer myself, I know the struggle too. Recently I've found myself cutting big things out of my own works that complicate the heck out of them! It took me a long time to do so too, years actually! It's a rough process, emotionally, for some to make such decisions and I understand completely. I wanted to keep the ideas I so loved... But for the good of the whole story, they had to go. Some people handle that well, others don't... It's normal.

Pixar took the smart option, I think, something they arguably didn't do for Brave. They tried to add modifications to the originator's version less than two years before its debut, rather than extensively retool it and attempting to get to the bottom of things. Whether Brenda Chapman's original film was superior or not is something we don't know, all I know (from various sources) is that the finished film is not too dissimilar to her vision, the big changes being parts moved around, it being set in summer instead of winter, and some things being dropped. Cars 2? Lasseter was iPad-directing that film within a year before its release, unfortunately he didn't exactly Toy Story 2 it.

Since the crew now wanted to focus on the heart of the story (Arlo and Spot's journey), many of Arlo's siblings had to be written out of the new story, which explains why Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, and Bill Hader are no longer part of the cast. Instead, Arlo has one brother who is played by Marcus Scribner. As I detailed in an earlier article, they most likely weren't removed at last minute, they must've exited back when the film was in turnaround. Over a year ago...

The Telegraph also described a sequence from the film...

"That heart was very much in evidence in a two-minute sequence that Sohn screened from the middle of the film, in which Arlo and Spot, sitting on the bank of a mighty river one night, draw symbols in the sand to describe how each one misses their families in this enormous, edgeless world. The scene has a piercing emotional directness that’s all the more acute for its essential wordlessness. Even though Arlo talks, and Spot growls and snuffles, the meaning of what they’re saying is carried entirely by their gestures and looks, and the warm lights of the fireflies that blink in the darkness."

How can one not get excited after reading that? The more I hear about this film, the more excited I get. This year is really shaping up to be the Year of Pixar, two ambitious originals! Having seen it, I feel that Inside Out is a miracle of a film that pulls every ambition off, so I'm confident this will be no different, no matter what some out there may say or think.


Moving on...

Over at Yahoo! Movies UK, Sohn explained that Arlo's new voice actor was picked for the reason I and many others suggested: Arlo is a teenaged apatosaur, his voice actor Raymond Ochoa is a teenager, original voice Lucas Neff isn't.

"It was all about finding a younger Arlo. It was really about finding a boy [to play Arlo], so that we could push into that idea of him growing up and becoming a man, so the actor previous – who is a great actor – he was already a man, and so I needed to push that arc and find that compassionate kid, so that was the major kind of change. Then everything else, all the other characters that supported that story came in and out and changed and evolved and through that evolution, some of those performers changed out of it."

Again, an explanation for why some actors left and why others were replaced. The story changed, the characters' roles changed, so the actors had to be replaced. Plus, Sohn pretty much confirms that the voice cast changed when the film was being reworked last year.

On the film's Walt-esque qualities, Sohn said...

"There’s not a lot of dialogue in the film, and we’re trying to create a tone that is – I wouldn’t say quieter – but in that sincere way that Bambi and Dumbo are. Like those early films where a gesture can mean everything, where certain behaviours can mean more than words could ever and in my years in animation, hunting for these gestures, hunting for these little details that can speak volumes, that’s been a great inspiration."

On top of this writing decision, it's always - to me - refreshing to hear someone speak positively about Walt's films, rather than acting as if they're old-fashioned or dated or not as good as today's animated films. Comments like these show how highly influential Walt's films are today, and that they aren't films that were designed for kiddies only, like so many articles would like you to think. (Hey John Lasseter, next time you talk about Frozen, quit calling Snow White and Cinderella damsels that were dependent on men. You're supposed to know these things.)

When asked if the film will have long silent sections, similar to WALL-E and Up, he said...

"There are moments in the film where Arlo’s just dealing with nature and it’s been really exciting trying it out like that, because for me, I love movies, and I love being enveloped in something and really immersed. There’s a lot of orchestration to get that going. Sometimes I can really mess up something but I’ve been getting a lot of help in terms of balancing all these things. You see these things over and over again and it’s always finding that balance of pulling the audience in and not raising any flags that pull the audience out. It’s been amazing."

On production problems, what was going on with Peterson's version, and changing it, he said...

"All these films go through this. Every film I’ve worked on, they always go through this, and I guess it all goes with trying to build something original and new, you always have to go through this process. I don’t remember the number of screenings [we went through], but I do remember the film becoming heavier. Meaning that there were a lot of ideas in there that were supporting – all good ideas – they were just support ideas of other ideas that were good, but it just became about trying to honour what Bob started.

I love Bob, he’s a great mentor to me and still is, and he’s still at Pixar. Everything that we started out with, I’m trying to protect. It’s that initial DNA that I want to honour for sure and I feel like we have, we really have. We’re not done yet."


We knew as far back as fall 2013 that Peterson was staying, and it was recently announced that he was helping write Finding Dory. He also appeared in the behind-the-scenes tour that preceded the special screening of Inside Out that I saw yesterday...

Lastly, Sohn explains why the film is titled The Good Dinosaur...

"Arlo has a lot of issues when he’s born. He’s fearful and he’s weak and he’s disconnected from the family because of these issues and he feels like he’s not worthy, and so he finds a way to become worthy."

These interviews and pieces confirm everything I assumed before: The Good Dinosaur, like Ratatouille, seemed like a surefire film under its originator. Ratatouille was in the works under Jan Pinkava for five years until the film was restarted and reimagined in 2005, 2 1/2 years before its summer 2007 release. The Good Dinosaur took off in 2009, and four years later, it was restarted. A full two years before its Thanksgiving release. The voice cast change is a result of that, and it didn't happen recently. That voice cast had to be in place when the film was rewritten extensively...

There seems to be a lot of pessimism out there now that the new voice cast has been revealed, assumptions about the film being in so much trouble that it can't be saved and that the new cast signed on just recently, among other things. Other people act as if they time-traveled to spring 2016 and know that the film turned out to be awful or that it bombed at the box office. The usual with upcoming Pixar films post-Cars 2, endless pessimism and apocalyptic predictions. The decline, you know?

The film itself seems like it really did come around. There are many troubled productions in the history of film that have made it out of the pit and ended up being great films, I can't see why The Good Dinosaur can't be just that. The film could be excellent and amazing for all I know. Also, let's not assume that the pre-Sohn version of the film was some masterpiece that the Pixar heads - namely John Lasseter - were too close-minded to appreciate. Let's not go there.

I feel there is little to worry about at this point. The details on the reimagined film sound great, the film sounds like it'll be the next WALL-E or Up-esque film, it's also Walt-esque, yes... I am very excited for it! Are you?

1 comment:

  1. I am beyond excited for this film. The interviews show that these gifted filmmakers are trying their hardest the make the movie great. The internet really needs to stop being so hard on Pixar because of Cars 2, because they have clearly not lost their touch.

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