The Good Dinosaur Archives

November 25, 2015

Review: "The Good Dinosaur"



"The Good Dinosaur," Pixar's latest cinematic offering, tells the tale of a young agrarian dinosaur on a journey to face his fears--both real and imagined. While being helped and hindered in his quest by a variety of creatures, Arlo's strongest influence comes from his relationship with "Spot," a young feral human.


Technically, the picture is as proficient as Pixar animation always is: The backgrounds of the American Northwest are gorgeous and border on photorealism. Water--whether portrayed as a flash flood, a glassy lake, or a rough river--is rendered particularly well.


The voice casting is on par, with standouts being Jeffrey Wright as Arlo's fond but frustrated Poppa whose misguided attempts to help Arlo overcome his fear start off his journey, and Sam Elliot's archetypal cowboy-dinosaur Butch who becomes a surrogate father and gives Arlo the insight to end it.

The movie tends to be a study in contradiction--the realistic backgrounds vs. the cartoony Arlo, and the placid life of an herbivore's farm vs. the rough violence of the carnivore cowboys. Even Spot follows scenes of slapstick dog behavior with ones of clearly human sentiment and understanding.


While there are a lot of very effective scenes in the film, there is a curious disjointed quality to it as well. Arlo spends a great deal of the movie as a fairly typical juvenile lead, but occasionally has some great reaction shots as experiences like trying to translate cowboy slang or watching Spot rip the head off a bug with his teeth clearly overload his sensibilities. The best segments are extremely original and show the potential Peter Sohn has as director--the Pet Collector is hilarious, and a "Harold and Kumar"-esque sequence fairly daring for Disney.

The more traditional parts of the story-line however, tend to feel a little too familiar to some of the classic Disney/Pixar filmography, and suffer from comparison. At this point in the game, if you're going to do a father-son story about fear and loss and identity, it needs to stand up to hits such as "The Lion King" and "Finding Nemo." If you're doing a boy and his dog story, it has to battle for recognition against "Old Yeller," and so on. "The Good Dinosaur" doesn't quite meet those standards.


The story also seems to drift a little from the original stated concept, which was a look at an Earth where dinosaurs became the dominant life form and evolved a civilization. While the beginning scenes show an ingenious look at how the dinosaurs adapt farming techniques to their biological constraints, later on in the film there are too many instances of dinosaurs frantically trying to grasp something with their obviously non-prehensile feet. Despite the fact that they are the product of millions of years of evolution, it still feels as though they're reacting to their environment in stunted human ways.


Ultimately, for all it's flaws, "The Good Dinosaur" is a beautiful film with some nice moments and an uneven story. When it works, it really works, showing that it might be Peter Sohn's first film, but it will undoubtedly not be his last.


Showing with "The Good Dinosaur," is the short "Sanjay's Super Team," which I wrote a little about here, when I saw it playing with "Aladdin," at the El Capitan Theatre. It is a fabulous short that I enjoy more each time I see it--probably the best since "Paperman."


Based on Director Sanjay Patel's own experiences as a first-generation Indian-American, it is not only wildly entertaining, but incredibly insightful into the conflict children of recent immigrants have, reconciling American pop culture with their traditional ethnic heritage. Well worth the price of admission alone.

"The Good Dinosaur" is presented by Disney•Pixar. Rated PG, it stars Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Steve Zahn, AJ Buckley, Anna Paquin, and Sam Elliott.

Directed by Peter Sohn and produced by Denise Ream. Screenplay by Meg Lefauve, Original concept and development by Bob Peterson. Executive Produced by John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, and Andrew Stanton.

The film enters general release on November 25, 2015.

November 23, 2015

"The Good Dinosaur" and "Sanjay's Super Team" Press Day



Coming out this week is Pixar's latest film, "The Good Dinosaur." Helmed by Peter Sohn, it follows Arlo the dinosaur as he tries to navigate his way past his fears in order to make his mark on the world.

[All photos and video courtesy of Disney/Pixar.]

At a recent press day, some of the cast and creatives sat for roundtable discussions about the movie and their thoughts on it.


First up was Jeffrey (Poppa) Wright, and Raymond (Arlo) Ochoa.



Jeffrey Wright: [On what the movie says about fatherhood.] "...That's the core issue/challenge for Papa, for my character. And so, what I tried to draw on in order to understand the emotions and the dynamics of...this relationship, was to draw on my relationship with my son and my daughter. And it's a lesson I think that, we all, if we're trying to be responsible parents, come up against in our work with our kids. It's really the central question of how--what level of encouragement or what level of...when pushing your kids does more damage than good. And how do you strike that balance between a nurturing posture and one that's a bit too overbearing? All parents go through that. And so that's what is so wonderful about this movie, because you are experiencing this movie through the relationships you have through either your parents or your children. So we, as audience members, therefore bring a lot to the table as we're watching this. I think it's a fantastic story to take in--for parents to take in with their kids, or for kids to take in with their parents.

"...And on Thanksgiving, too, I mean, come on. What else you gonna do, right?"


Raymond Ochoa: [On what he liked best about the movie.] "Well, on a movie side, where it's like, 'what is your favorite scene?' That was really when my Papa takes me out to the field and he shows me when you move your tail these fireflies come out...and I like that scene so much because I felt it was a bonding moment between me and my dad, and the reason why is because later on, I do the exact same thing to Spot. I show him the fireflies. And I felt like I connected with him in a bonding moment.

"...You know at the beginning of the movie, I hated Spot. I did not like him. So, to know the change in the level between you not liking him and bonding with him, like he's my pet, that's what I found so cool about it."

Following them was AJ (Nash) Buckley, Anna (Ramsey) Paquin, and Sam (Butch) Elliot.




Anna Paquin: [On getting called to be a Pixar character.] "Well, I'd already said yes before they actually told me what I was about...and, I want to say that they seemed ever so slightly nervous that I might be offended that they wanted me to be this like, big, bad-ass T-Rex, that I was...I was so bracing myself to be like, some little thing like this, that's really wimpy, 'cause I'm a girl. And I'm like, 'That's fantastic!' And they're like, 'really?' And I'm like, 'yeah, that's awesome! I get to be, you know, one of the dudes.'

"Except a girl! Even cooler!"


AJ Buckley: [On developing his character.] "I asked (Pete Sohn) when we sat down, 'why did this happen?' He said, 'I saw your character on Justified, and I loved the sound of your voice.' And these guys were already cast, and they took scenes from Justified, and examined it, and mixed it with them, and it fit, and I was like, 'okay.' He said, 'I just want you to do Danny Crow,' and Danny Crow on Justified was this horrible, like, sociopath...And I'm like, 'Huh?' So...We were trying to find the voice and I was trying to figure out like, how to be a dinosaur...and so, my character on the show chewed--on Justified, chewed. So, I needed chew. And they only had Jolly Ranchers there. So I picked up a Jolly Rancher, and put the Jolly my lip there, and Nash came out."


Sam Elliot: [On being part of the Pixar legacy.] "Well, I think it's huge. For obvious reasons. It's huge for me, personally, because the 25th of November, if my mother were still living--she passed away three years ago--would've been her 100th birthday. So that's like, a milestone for me. But, I mean, anytime you get to be involved with a company like Pixar, it doesn't matter what day it is, or date it is, or anything else. I mean, this is a gift. I just look at this as a gift, and a grand opportunity, over the long haul...and the great reward is gonna be on Tuesday. I'm going to be seeing it with an audience, see it with my family, and I know my mom's up there, thinking, 'that's my boy.' Pretty cool."

The next session was with Director Peter Sohn and Producer Denise Ream.


Peter Sohn: [On being the Pet Collector.] "Every character that Arlo meets was all in terms of support of Arlo's journey. In terms of the world, of the frontier, that he was kind of this...transient character that's been living out in the woods too long. But it was almost meant to represent...the end-of-the-line version of Arlo. Like, if he was stuck out in the woods, would he be afraid of everything...and so terrified that he would come up with these protection things that would project him from there. Like, would Arlo fall into this world. 'You have to keep him, so that he can protect you.' And never grow up, essentially."


Finally, from the fantastic short "Sanjay's Super Team," we had Director Sanjay Patel and Producer Nicole Grindle.


Nicole Grindle: [On conceiving the short.] " So, Sanjay has written a number of books. He's been at Pixar for 20 years, doing traditional Pixar animation, art, but over the years, he developed an interest in pursuing South Asian art and learning more about his culture, and that led to him writing these books, and that led to there being several shows of his work at the Asian Art Museum.

"And eventually some folks at Pixar sort of figured he was doing all of this cool stuff. And they said, 'oh. Let's bring your artwork in-house. Let's do a show at Pixar.' We do that every now and then. And when we did that, John Lassiter saw this show, this beautiful artwork, and said, 'Sanjay, you have to make a short film.' That's not usually how short films are chosen at Pixar. People don't usually get invited. So, Sanjay was invited to do this and he said, 'no,' at first. He didn't want to do it, it wasn't what he had set out to do. And he was eventually persuaded to do it."

Sanjay Patel: [On the emptiness of the portrayed home environment.] "This is an immigrant that left all of that ethno-stuff back in the home country, and they got nothing here in some part of Southern California...that choice was really, really important to me and the artists that we were explaining this to, they got it instantly. Especially the immigrants. They were like, 'oh, I had apartment like that, we got it.' And, you know, story-wise, there's other reasons why we did's incredibly important that that room have--it's kind of like this room. There is...nothing in here. And it really creates a vacuum. So, imagine if there's a big-screen TV in here, playing awesome cartoons. Of course this kid's gonna escape into that world, because his home is just this beige-on-beige box, without detail, without color, without any kind of interest. We save all of that for when he wakes up in his daydream--that's the payoff. And that's also the truth of most immigrants. The truth of my parents' experience as well."


Sanjay Patel: [On the importance of representation.] "When you don't see any reflection of you, or your community, or your parents on TV, or in pop culture, other than a show, you just kind of figure out a way to exclude yourself. You figure out a way to...not be included, or you're suddenly told that you're...not important. You don't matter.

"This is the number one reason I wanted to make this short. This is the number one reason, that I have nieces and nephews, and...I make all this great stuff for Pixar, but they were never going to get stuff that had any reflection from--that looked like their families, and so the second I had this opportunity, that was the purpose for me."

Return to Blog Central

About The Good Dinosaur

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the The Good Dinosaur category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

The BFG is the previous category.

The Jungle Book is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.