I was invited by Disney to cover this press event. All expenses were paid, however all opinions are my own.
I think anyone who works in television and movies has an beautiful mind. Think about it, they had a dream bigger than themselves that led them out of their comfort zone and into the “unknown” that is Hollywood. Not all shows get produced and not all movies get made, so when a movie makes it to the public, it’s a beautiful thing. The producer and director of a movie are such important positions in the film process. Their creativity and passion fuel a movie into production. Let’s go into the minds of the producer and director of The Good Dinosaur!
We interviewed The Good Dinosaur’s Producer Denise Ream and Director Peter Sohn, and you are going to agree! Yours truly also go to sit right next to them too! I simply cannot wait for you to see The Good Dinosaur movie! It’s in theaters tomorrow!
Peter Sohn on Becoming Director
“What’s interesting was this show was pitched by original director Bob Peterson in 2009 and then he asked me to come help develop the project. During the development I was doing story and designs for him and then he asked me to be his co-director. A lot of these Pixar films go through that kind of place where you put every answer and you go in every direction. We had like the boy and dog story. We had a father-son story. We had like a trying to change community story and then just got — it was hard to kind of end it all. They asked me to become the director from there because I had known all the paths that we have gone through and so I basically, simplified it to Bob’s original pitch. I love Bob and he’s a great friend and so I just loved that original idea. It was really Bob who got me kind of developing into that co-director position so overseeing a lot of that. But, to your point, I learned a lot from working with the other departments too. But that’s nothing like, the directing job. There’s so much I didn’t know. Along with Denise Ream, our producer, I was surrounded with a lot of experienced people to help out with that. And everyone was just like here’s our hearts. Let’s do it. I’m like, oh, okay. Let’s do it, you know.“
One of the things I can’t wait for you all to see in The Good Dinosaur is how beautiful the imagery is. It’s not your standard backdrop. I warn you now, it’s absolutely breathtaking! and You just want to reach out and touch it! I could not believe this was animated!
Insights Into The Imagery
Producer Diane Reams explains the breathtaking scenes. “It’s not new technology but we ended up using basically Google maps, to create a lot of the locations. It’s called USGS topological survey maps. We started with that and it got us a long ways to kind of getting the big scope that we wanted and then the trick was populating that terrain with trees that we had modeled, the leaves, the mulch, the rocks, sort of all of the vegetation. That was a special tool that we wrote. This was the first time we used 3-D clouds what we call “volumetric clouds” throughout the entire film. Usually we map paint our clouds. It’s not new technology but we did many, many more water shots then we’ve typically done in a Pixar movie. And then just in terms of the actual process we just had a slightly different workflow process for the animators. We doled out shots individually and instead we gave each animator sort of a run of shots that we felt would kind of make a more consistent performance. So that was a very different workflow for the animation department and they actually really, really loved it.”
What does it take to get these amazing shots? Research of course! John and Denise explain more.
Peter Sohn explains, “It was in service to the story. We did a lot of research. Denise, when we started — when we restarted this project, she took us out. She said let’s go get lost. I’m from New York where we would go into the wilderness and the Rockies and I had never been before. Going out there, it was just so dang gorgeous, like for me, horizon lines in New York was like McDonald’s to Subway you know and then going out there it was just like so awe inspiring that you could go from there and see 500 miles down that way and see the other 500 miles down that way. It was just full of clouds, it went forever and it was so soul enriching it is something we wanted to capture. So that’s why all this technology was just like okay, if we want to do that we have to do this.” I think they did a fantastic job!!
The movie is set in the West and has Western elements
Diane Reams explains, “Because originally the story took place in a different part, kind of a country. It wasn’t really our intention to set up where we did. But then when we got there we thought gosh, it makes so much sense because there’s you know, that’s where you find dinosaur bones and, and again it was just, it was very inspirational to us and so we–.
Peter Sohn tells us, “I mean, it started off with the kind of idea of like doing a frontier story but where we would do it was just a little, like it could’ve been in the south you know, like a Southwest kind of look, even though Monument Valley is in Utah but there was that kind of a thing. But I grew up on the Western and it’s all I did was watch these movies. And you know, Shane was one of my favorite movies and in the opening of that film was this farm in front of the Teton Valley. It was the Grand Tetons and I was like let’s go there. And so that’s where we started everything. It was lucky that there was a Snake River that went through there that we were like oh, my goodness, this is exactly what we need for this story. The whole idea like when you go out there all you ever think about is how did people survive out here? How did they get across these mountains with nothing? How did they do that? And you know, like growing up in New York my dad had a grocery store and so it was a small family. All of us in this little grocery store trying to survive in a city. And then all the research that we would do in meeting farmers and ranchers out there it hit me so hard that these were the same types of families surviving but on thousands of acres each member of that family was an integral part for the survival of that thing. Everyone has to do something for the survival of the family. And so a lot of the Western movies that we’d be are about survival you know and so — and when we first started doing this story board it became a cliché.“
“I want to honor this. I’m American and born in this country. I love that people fought to live through this and so it’s, it was something that you know.” Peter Sohn
A Family in Oregon was Their Greatest Inspiration
This part of the interview was very touching, word of Pete Sohn: “Yeah, the McKay’s, this ranching family that we met in Oregon. When we first started with the original, I mean when we re-started the version of this film that was so much like a parody, we had these T-rexes but they were like cowhands and it was JR, JW and JL, you know. And it was so silly. And they were like ding, dang and it was like just a big cliché. But we met this family, the McKay’s, and they have a large ranch right on the border of Idaho and Oregon. A really unique family. There is the mom and dad, both white and then they adopted five black Haitian kids. And so when you get there it was like whoa, this is like a whole unique kind of family here. But they would change my life. The way that family lived in love really blew me away. Let’s make them a family. And it’ll also parallel what Arlo’s family is going through. It’ll help Arlo’s journey.”
The Voices of The Good Dinosaur
We have had an opportunity to meet the young men who voiced the characters of The Good Dinosaur and they have such wonderful things to say about the producer and director. Here’s the reaction from Sohn and Reams.
Peter Sohn, “Oh, that’s very nice. I love those guys. And so when I’m getting to work with these kids it was always like you know what, I’ve been in those shoes. This is all going to be about trust. If we don’t get through the lines don’t worry about it you know. Like, we’ll have some fun and whatever– and very observant. You have to be very emotional and I would be uncomfortable like if I’m in front of you guys and I’m like okay and you have to cry now in this scene. Like–. And then you know sometimes we’re like let’s turn out the lights you know, don’t worry about it. It’s always just try to find a secure place where you can be vulnerable. Those kids are such pros. They were so amazing, all of them.“
You use the word trust a lot. You gave them a lot of trust. “Yeah, well, I did, yeah. I really trusted them.” on the young men. It was so wonderful to hear how nicely everyone talked about each other on their work during The Good Dinosaur.
This was one of my favorite scenes in the movie! You’re going to love The Pet Collector!
Director Pete Sohn was the voice of The Pet Collector, “What’s funny is that I do scratch voice at work. I do a lot of temporary voices and I’d been through like all the directors at Pixar and how they like kind of direct you. Sometimes it can be tough because you’re just like you know, the line is elbow macaroni. Elbow macaroni. Do it again like this. Elbow macaroni. And then you go elbow macaroni. No, no, like this, elbow macaroni. Okay, elbow macaroni. No, no, you’re not listening to me. Elbow macaroni. On the 15th take you’re like I don’t know what you’re looking for. Or some other directors are like imagine that you are, you had cereal and then like the milk is all the way up to the top of the bowl and you have to carry it like this and make noises would you make. And you’re like oh, I don’t want to spill you know, and so every director has their tools. And I learned a lot from that.”
At the time of our interview the film had just been finished two weeks prior to the viewing. A film that took two years while most Pixar films can take up to ten years to make. I can’t wait for you to see it!
A little more on Peter Sohn and 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.
IT’S DINO WEEK YA’LL!!