I love sharing everything I learn on Disney press trips. You might not know it, but I’m anxious to start writing and cranking out information as soon as I have a new tidbit of information.
I’ve been holding onto details about The Good Dinosaur for over a month now, and I finally get to share more with all of you!
Last week I wrote a post about two interactive sessions I had at Pixar Animation Studios with animators and designers who played key parts in the making of The Good Dinosaur.
Today is something of a continuation of that post. I have so many great details about what went into the making of The Good Dinosaur, and it’s all broken down into three categories:
- Color Scripts: Creating the Visual Design of The Good Dinosaur
- Special Effects: Effective Storytelling of The Good Dinosaur
- A View from Above: Creating the Expansive World of The Good Dinosaur
Creating the Visual Design of The Good Dinosaur
I haven’t had the privilege of seeing The Good Dinosaur in its entirety, but I did get to see about 30 minutes of finished footage during my first visit to Pixar Animation Studios.
I often find myself going with my gut about how something feels instead of identifying all the pieces that I like and don’t like. It’s like my brain zooms into the big picture, the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the end, I’ll make a snap decision as to whether I love or hate something, but articulating exactly why I feel that way takes far more time.
So I watched the 30 minute selection of clips from The Good Dinosaur and I knew I loved it. Parts of it had me laughing like a crazy person, and other parts brought tears to my eyes.
But it took me some time to realize that what makes The Good Dinosaur so special and so memorable is that it’s gorgeous. You’re going to need to see it just to take in the beauty and the colors of the landscapes and the scenery.
Sharon Calahan, the Director of Photography, is largely responsible for the memorable and unique beauty of The Good Dinosaur.
We’d had the good fortune to hear share stories of the creative team’s travels when we learned How Peter Sohn and his Team Researched The Good Dinosaur.
As a painter, she’s quite passionate about the Pacific Northwest, and that absolutely carried over to her work on The Good Dinosaur. She stated, “I’m happiest when I’m outdoors painting in the wilderness.”
While that’s a statement that’s completely foreign to me (outdoors? painting?), it was clear that the beauty in The Good Dinosaur was a direct result of her love of the area and her artistic sensibilities.
Calahan spoke about how The Good Dinosaur is set in a pioneering, homesteading environement. The main character, Arlo, lives with his family on a farm at the base of magestic mountains. It’s already an intriguing look into a film about dinosaurs, right?
Then she started speaking right to that part of me that works off of how things feel and she helped me understand what was making me have all those feels!
Calahan said that she didn’t want the landscape in The Good Dinosaur to look too cushy. They wanted it to look harsh. At the same time, the director, Peter Sohn, wanted a world that could feel familiar and timeless.
“The Good Dinosaur is very emotional, and a large part of my job is creating the emotional highs and lows. [I do that with the] time of day, the season and the weather.”
Calahan explained that she attempts to “instill visual poetry” wherever she is, and she wants to create different feelings for different scenes.
For example, there’s a magic hour with gorgeous shadows and light on the earth. She wanted to associate a nostalgic feeling with that time of day.
There was so much beauty in this presentation, and I absolutely loved learning about how Sharon Calahan’s thoughts and love for the Pacific Northwest transformed the movie into a work of art. It was also incredibly inspiring to hear from someone who has a personal passion that’s so connected with her choice of career!
Special Effects: Effective Storytelling in The Good Dinosaur
Another part of the day was spent talking to Jon Reisch, the Effects Supervisor on The Good Dinosaur.
Reisch explained that special effects is believable interaction between characters and theri world. It helps the audience connect with the movie and it hightens mood, atmosphere and drama.
He also said that a lot of special effects is about what’s going on in a character’s head and how its externalized.
Finally, Reisch stated that special effects are the best when they’re used aas a storytelling tool to add “wow” and visual complexity to the production.
What I love most about special effects is that they’re one of those areas that add so much to an animated movie, yet the thought of special effects has never even crossed my mind! It’s like an unknown force that adds so much power to a movie. Learning about Pixar’s special effects felt like getting a glimpse into a secret world.
There was a lot of technical information in the presentation, but I really zeroed in on the details that showed me how special effects helps make a movie extraordinary.
I loved that Reisch explained his role as the Special Forces department. They tackle tough problems with technology and vision. They ask others, What are the storytelling challenges special effects can help solve?
For example, water plays a huge role in The Good Dinosaur. The river is considered an antagonist in the movie!
The Effects team covered getting the water in the river just right. They moved the foam along the rapids at a speed that paralleled the speed of the light moving along the water.
Special Effects is also responsible for the appearance of rain on surfaces.
They used their magic to show rain splats on the earth, the refractions of light from the rain drops on leaves, the sheen of the wet rocks and the way the terrain darkens from the moisture.
I really love that I rarely think about that level of detail when I watch a movie, but I know I appreciate it when I think of the film as a whole! Now that I know Special Effects is responsible for so much of it, I’ll definitely be paying more attention when I watch The Good Dinosaur in the theater.
A View from Above: Creating the Expansive World of The Good Dinosaur
I have to say, one of the coolest things about all these presentations I attended is feeling the love the presenters have for their jobs.
This is especially true for David Munier, the Sets Supervisor who talked to us about how the landscapes in The Good Dinosaur were created.
Scale was literally a huge topic of consideration for so much of the filmmaking process in The Good Dinosaur. It was very important to the filmmakers that the dinosaurs in the movie were proportional to the landscape.
At the same time, the team wanted the landscape to be realistic. So realistic, in fact, that actual data from the US Geological Survey was used to create various sets within the film.
Using the real information about actual altitude of mountains and how the rivers fit into the rocky terrain adds a level of realism that I don’t think we’ve seen in animation in the past!
Even more impressive was that Munier’s team didn’t settle for just the data in the geological surveys. they also looked to Google Earth for better, wider views of the area, including the terrain and the vegetation.
All of that information allowed them to stay true to geography of the Pacific Northwest while proportionally drawing the prehistoric characters into the setting.
They also worked to make sure the character’s perspectives were spot on when they were viewing the world around them.
There’s a point in the movie where Arlo sees 50 miles into the distance. The place where Arlo stands is the right place, meaning he’s in a spot where he realistically could see that far. His point of view also shows what he would be able to see at the correct heights and distances.
Let me tell you, the amount of research Munier and his team did to get things just right for The Good Dinosaur blew my mind! I’m clearly not an artist, because thoughts of scale, heights and proportions are not things I consider when I think about making animated films.
I absolutely love how much I learned during these The Good Dinosaur filmmaker sessions, and I can’t wait to share more next week!
The Good Dinosaur opens in theaters everywhere on November 25th!
Check out the newest trailer for The Good Dinosaur:
Follow the movie on these social media channels to stay on top of all The Good Dinosaur news:
- Like THE GOOD DINOSAUR on Facebook
- Follow THE GOOD DINOSAUR on Twitter
- Follow Disney-Pixar and THE GOOD DINOSAUR on Instagram
- Follow Disney Studios and THE GOOD DINOSAUR on Pinterest
- Visit Disney-Pixar and THE GOOD DINOSAUR on Tumblr
- Follow Disney-Pixar on YouTube
Check out the other posts about my recent trip to San Francisco for the #GoodDinoEvent, #InsideOutBloggers and #MilesEvent:
- Exclusive: Designing The Good Dinosaur at Pixar Animation Studios
- An Exclusive Pixar Animation Studios Tour
- Exclusive: How Peter Sohn and Pixar Researched The Good Dinosaur in the USA
- The Walt Disney Family Museum: A Unique San Francisco Experience
- World Space Week, Google, Stem & Miles From Tomorrowland
- See a New, Exclusive Inside Out Deleted Scene!
- Exclusive: Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind on Why SADNESS and BING BONG are Everything in Inside Out!
- Will There Be an Inside Out Sequel? An Interview with Pete Docter & Jonas Rivera
- Watch Riley’s First Date: It’s Like a Little Inside Out Sequel!
- The Hottest Disney Dad? Interviewing Kyle MacLachlan and Kaitlyn Dias of Inside Out
- Josh Cooley and Mark Nielsen on Riley’s First Date, Inside Out and Toy Story 4
Disclosure: Disney and Pixar flew me to San Francisco to participate in The Good Dinosaur press event and other PR activities. All opinions are my own. See my disclosure policy for more information.
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