It had been quite a busy day for Peter Sohn and Denise Ream. Before arriving for the fireside press event at Pixar’s Brooklyn building, they had been busy finalizing the audio mix for The Good Dinosaur, the film they directed and produced respectively. You could tell both of them are excited to see their movie come to theaters on November 25. I jokingly told Denise Ream that she wouldn’t be getting much sleep til then, until she made me realize that after that would come a worldwide promotional tour that wouldn’t allow for much downtime either.
All the hard work Peter Sohn, producer Denise Ream, supervising technical director Sanjay Bashti and director of photography Sharon Calahan (plus an extraordinary team) have put into Arlo’s story, is totally worth it. This movie has taken years to be made because Pixar wanted to make sure it got it right. It meant changing directors (Peter Sohn originally was co-director). It meant changing the story. It meant asking the special effects team for incredible feats.
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It also meant making a city boy get in touch with nature. Peter Sohn traveled for the first time ever to the American Northwest. “Everything was new to him. It was really exciting,” says Denise Ream.
Their adventures ended inspiring so much in the film. The vastness Sohn kept referencing during the entire conversation is present in The Good Dinosaur in such a beautiful way. The whitewater-rafting trip they did down the Snake River was crucial to understanding how to portray the river. They even lost the Go Pro camera but their guide was able to recover it. “The river becomes the character in our film when Arlo is feeling terrible or has just gone through something, the river is boiling and becomes wild” explains Sohn. It also becomes the “yellow brick road” to take Arlo back home.
The team behind The Good Dinosaur managed to create exquisite backgrounds and scenery, thanks in no small part to the amazing artistry of Sharon Calahan. “The footage looks the way it does because of Sharon’s understanding of what that refractions can do and how light bounces off of it which is incredible,” points out the director. Under Sanjay Bashti’s supervision, the level of detail you can see in the leaves, raindrops and even the clouds will stun you.
Director Peter Sohn also experienced what it’s like to live in a ranch and the time he spent with a family in Oregon became crucial to the story, as well. As a boy he grew up with Westerns and the T-Rexes you see in the movie were inspired by the ranch family he met.
I can’t wait to see the finalized movie. The extended preview I was able to watch during my visit to Pixar left me wanting more. However, I can say I was blown away by the realism achieved in the water scenes. The beauty you see in every scene inspired by nature is simply breathtaking, providing the perfect backdrop for Arlo and Spot’s friendship. See it for yourself.
Disclosure: I was invited on an all expenses paid trip as part of a press event for “The Good Dinosaur” but received no compensation for this post.