Disney-Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur is directed by first-timer Peter Sohn, a 15-year-Pixar veteran. The movie tells the story of a young dinosaur named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochao), who disappoints his father Poppa (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) by being too scared to kill the critter who is stealing their family’s food. The ‘critter’ turns out to be a wild human child whom Arlo names Spot, who behaves more like a dog than a little boy.
Arlo and Spot face many adventures together when the young dinosaur gets lost and can’t find his way back home. During their journey they meet many interesting creatures, including a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex named Butch (voiced by Sam Elliott) and his daughter, Ramsey (voiced by Anna Paquin), who are moving longhorn steers across the plains.
I spoke with the actors at the press day for the movie, which opens on November 25th 2015 for the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
Jeffrey, with The Hunger Games Mockingjay 2 and The Good Dinosaur coming out within a five day period do you feel you’re going to entertain everybody on the planet? Have you hit every demographic?
Jeffrey: Yeah, it’s a pretty good stretch. What I think I appreciate about these two pictures, The Good Dinosaur and Mockingjay 2 is that they appeal to a younger audience, which my work hasn’t always appealed to. Now that I have kids, that’s become more of a consideration for me.
Raymond, is it true you were picked from 1,400 boys who auditioned for the role of Arlo?
Jeffrey: How many dinosaurs auditioned?
Raymond: (he laughs) 1,400 dinosaurs auditioned. I don’t really say that a lot.
I only brag about it to my brothers, because you’ve got to make yourself sound cool.
‘I auditioned with 1,400 people.’
You brought a lot of emotion to the character. What did you draw upon?
Raymond: There are a lot of scenes where I have to cry or I’m screaming. I think the hardest thing I had to do was put myself into a moment where I was there.
I was very close to my dog, and he passed away, so whenever I need to bring out a moment where I’m crying, I bring out that moment. I was able to relate my dog Ringles to Spot,
Sam, when you read this script did you think the role of Butch had been written just for you?
Sam: There wasn’t any question that I wanted to do it, for sure. Number one, it’s Pixar. But for me it has always been what’s on the page. I’ve played a lot of cowboys in my life, and it’s kind of an extension of that, I guess.
I know you didn’t do scenes together but did you listen to anybody’s playback to help you know how they were playing their role?
Sam: I didn’t hear anything.
Anna: Sam got to go first, so I got to hear some of his. Not all of it, but enough to get a feeling for what Butch was.
Sam: Peter’s expertise as a director, he’s responsible for this [movie] in terms of the actors. He can take full credit for where it went. They hire us for a reason, they hire each of us because they think we fit whatever these characters are, but Peter’s the one that draws that out.
Were you still working on True Blood while you were voicing this?
Anna: No, that was over.
Sam: It will never be over for some of us!
Anna: I wanna say I went up and met them all at Pixar while we were still shooting, and then didn’t record until a good ways afterwards. I remember because I had green hair at the time, and I know I definitely didn’t have green hair while I was shooting True Blood. So it was on my extended vacation where I got to dye my hair whatever color I wanted, because I am actually 12 years old.
Jeffrey, can you talk about the rhythm for the voice you used for Poppa? It was different than anything I’ve heard from you before.
Jeffrey: Yeah, I went for that dinosaur rhythm! Peter had a very specific idea in mind that he wanted and it was the horse whisperer. He said, ‘I want you to watch this documentary about this horse whisperer.’ So I did. I understood that he wanted my version of a middle-America farm-grounded voice.
When you go into these [animated movies] there has to be a level of trust between us as voice actors and the director, because he knows so much more than you know about what the ultimate universe is being created entails, so I just put my trust in his capable imagination.
Raymond, did you see any similarities between yourself and Arlo?
Raymond: I actually do find there are a lot of similarities. Hopefully, not in a physical trait. When it comes to being how he is, all he wanted to do is be the perfect son. I think that’s his main goal, to make his father and mother proud. I respect my parents a lot, so I try my hardest to be the best son I can.
He’s also very shy sometimes and that was me at one time. He’s not fearless, but at the end of the movie he’s not how he was in the beginning. I’m not saying I’m fearless, but I try my hardest to not be scared.
Jeffrey: A person who has no fear is no use to anybody, particularly himself.
What is your favorite Pixar movie?
Anna: Up. I still cry throughout that movie.
Sam: I’d probably say Up as well. I haven’t seen every Pixar movie that has ever been made. I shouldn’t be saying that.
Anna, being a mom did you do the movie so that your children will be able to see it?
Anna: Yeah. And they don’t have to wait until they’re 18 or Oh My God never, I don’t want to watch my parents doing that!
The Good Dinosaur Soundbytes
Jeffrey and Raymond were asked what was the first movie they ever saw that stayed with them. Listen to their memories below.
I asked Anna if she felt the movie might be a little too scary for younger children like hers? Click below for her answer, with a little help from Sam.
Short Sanjay’s Super Team Clip
As with all Pixar movies, there is a short film that precedes the main feature, and Sanjay’s Super Team is a brilliant.
Directed by Sanjay Patel, the film is based on his own experience and tells the story of a first-generation Indian-American boy whose love for pop-culture conflicts with his father’s traditions.