Friday, October 9, 2015

An Interesting 'Good Dinosaur' Footage Report...

Reporters and news site runners were given a tour of Pixar, and were treated to roughly 30 minutes of The Good Dinosaur... Not the first 30 minutes, mind you, but 30 minutes of footage...

Perhaps the interesting reaction to this footage comes from Matt Goldberg of Collider...

After describing how the film is a subversion of the "boy and his pet" story, how some of the characters move (such as the T-rex trio's movements being more akin to cowboys on horses), and how it's more like a Western, he said this about the world it takes place in...

"The realism is astounding, and it feels like nature is another character. It’s an antagonist for Arlo (especially early in the footage we saw where he really takes a beating from the elements), and it also highlights how small he is even though he’s an 18-foot-tall dinosaur. While lots of Pixar movies are about world building, Good Dinosaur feels like a recreation that has stripped away people and dwarfed its characters. Which left me feeling ambivalent about what I saw. I can’t deny that it’s gorgeous, but it’s also oddly desolate.

Westerns that highlight the frontier tend to make that frontier feel majestic and overpowering. The Good Dinosaur takes that environment and makes it feel lonely. We’re lost in the woods, but those woods are also beautiful, so we’re at odds with nature that’s both comforting and oppressive. Tonally, that makes for a very bizarre movie that’s desperately clinging to the chemistry between a dinosaur and a young boy."

From the sounds of it, this picture really seems like... Bambi. A film whose antagonist was also nature. It's been emphasized that nature will pretty much be this film's antagonist as well, similar to how it was in Finding Nemo...

"What’s also notably absent from the footage I saw was humor. The odd triceratops gets some good laughs, but because The Good Dinosaur has so few characters and takes place away from a well-defined society like WALL-E or Monsters, Inc., there’s not a lot of room for jokes. That’s not to say the movie won’t be funny, but I was rarely laughing during what I saw, and while Pixar is under no obligation to fill their movies with jokes, the lack of humor made Good Dinosaur feel like even more of an odd duck in the studio’s filmography."

It sounds like a Golden Age Walt picture, honestly.

Some of Walt Disney's greatest films didn't have much comedy in them. Director Pete Sohn has said in multiple interviews that the likes of Dumbo and Bambi had inspired him during the making of this film, and this review more than confirms to me that the film will indeed be more in line with those films. We live in a day and age where a lot of animated movies are joke machines, or happen to be lighthearted in tone. Pixar eschews this a lot, their latest picture alone is a fine example. Inside Out is laugh-out-loud funny in parts, but very emotional and heavy in others. Some reviewers complained the film was too depressing!

WALL-E and Up also come to mind. WALL-E's first half has a lot of great bits of humor, but it's also atmospheric and quiet, with nothing but visceral storytelling. Up has stretches of hilarity and thrills, but also has stretches where things get a little moody. Pixar tells a story from the heart, they rarely pander, if not ever.

A shot like this perfectly illustrates what
Goldberg means by the size of this
world compared to the dinos
that inhabit it...

The Good Dinosaur, I feel, shouldn't have to have humor and Goldberg does indeed clarify that Pixar isn't obliged to make their movies super-funny.

A less comedic Pixar film is a good experiment to me, because Walt Disney didn't always have to rely on comedy to tell a story or to captivate an audience. Again, I go back to Bambi. What funny moments are there in Bambi? The first act stuff with Bambi interacting with Thumper and the rabbits produces some levity and humor, along with Bambi's first encounter with Faline in the meadow. Bambi and Thumper's ice lake shenanigans are also a fine example, and some of the Twitterpated business in the second half.

Other parts of Bambi, however, are very atmospheric and very quiet. Others simply focus on nature and the world around the characters. We have a whole sequence that shows a rainstorm, another that shows stags marching out onto a meadow, another where we see autumn progress. There are scenes that are dialogue-free and go on for a little while, and thankfully so. In fact, it was reported that Walt was actually concerned that there was too much talking in the finished film!

Bambi is by no means a downer. It excites you in different ways, and it goes to show how masterful Walt Disney and his crew were. The storytelling is exciting on a whole other level, most of it is very visceral and the film mostly shows, not tells. An animated film like Bambi probably wouldn't be made by a major animation studio today: It's very short, it's not dialogue-heavy, it doesn't take the time to explain different things, a scheming bad guy doesn't kill our main character's mother, it isn't even a point A to point B adventure! It's a story alright, but it isn't really plot-based. It doesn't need to be, even though some out there insist that all movies absolutely need a plot in order to be good.

Me? Just tell me a good story and make me care about the characters, and you're all set.

So I think The Good Dinosaur sounds a lot like Bambi. I've heard that it won't have much dialogue either, so that's another plus for me. Again, Pixar is praised for many reasons, one of them being the fact that they take pretty big risks. Back in the mid-2000s, who would've even thought of making a mainstream computer animated movie like WALL-E? Or Up, for that matter? Heck, not too many folks were making pictures like that in the 90s even. Those beloved Disney Renaissance films? While they have some quiet sections, they're pretty chatty!

You'd expect a family-friendly animated movie about dinosaurs to be some big, noisy film... But Pixar's The Good Dinosaur seems like it will shatter an expectation like that. The film will have lots of spectacle and visual wonder, but a quieter story that doesn't feel the need to be humorous all the time.

At the end of his review, Goldberg states...

"But perhaps it will fit in better when I see the finished feature. That’s the problem when you only see a chunk of footage out of context from the rest of the picture. There’s a reason we start watching movies at the beginning as opposed to 20 or 30 minutes into the total runtime. So let me be clear: I have no judgment on The Good Dinosaur; only on this brief collection of footage, which may not have had me sold, but certainly had me curious."

I'm sold on anything Pixar makes, but it's a bit troubling when footage leaves reviewers a little cold. I haven't seen this footage, but the description of it all is what makes me even more excited for the film. Being such an admirer of Walt's films, the whole idea of this film being more like those classics really, really makes me want to see this. I'm sick of the modern "rule" book, all this quasi-"complex plots" and "adult jokes" nonsense. Animation is much more than The Lion King, Toy StoryShrek, Frozen, etc., etc.. Pixar has shown this before, and I'm glad they are going to show it again.

The most important question, though... Will it all work as a whole? Ideas are great, execution is pretty much everything.

I certainly hope it's all great. But again, the idea of The Good Dinosaur being quieter, more atmospheric, and more like Walt's early films? That's the selling point for me, though I have no idea what the execution will be like. I'm hoping it's great!

What say you?


  1. Well, I guess this confirms that Moana won't be having its title changed.

  2. Oops. I meant to post that on a different entry.

  3. Oops. I meant to post that on a different entry.

  4. Hi. Did you notice the Latin American trailer? It has different footage.