I believe I can speak for the hardcore film-appreciating audience by saying Pixar has won us back with Inside Out. Pete Doctor took the questionable premise of exploring personified emotions in a young girl and delivered a breakthrough, tear-jerking product that represented what the studio can do at peak form. After the maligned, mishandled trilogy of Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University, we’ve been wondering if the studio had run out of great ideas from the initial Brain Trust. The doubt is certainly justified with the slate of unexpected sequels.
The Good Dinosaur has had very little coverage despite being in production for about 6 years. There have been some notable behind-the-scenes conflicts as well, with nearly the entire voice cast re-dubbed by a new cast and co-director Bob Peterson dropping from the project leaving Peter Sohn to take over (both originally served as the directors for Up). As the first teaser showed off some neat concepts, we’re finally shown what kind of plot and dinosaurs we’ll be following throughout the film. Will The Good Dinosaur keep our love for the studio alive or will we being asking to get off the Pixar train (of thought)?
What you can immediately see in the new trailer are the strong story beats similar to Finding Nemo. Peter Sohn co-wrote Finding Nemo with director Andrew Staunton and you can see those similar notes with the story centered on a lost child and an unexpected friend coming in the form of an unusual predator.
I really love the photorealistic visuals used for the movie. Although some people say the cartoonish look of the dinosaurs is off-putting with against lush, detailed backgrounds, I believe Pixar is using their best artists to give each individual setting that sense of danger. Just looking at the physics captured in the waterfall and rain scenes shows that they wanted to capture the intensity of nature. The Prehistoric Age is filled with shifting environments and devastating weather, so getting every element on this level of quality is quite stunning.
The problem I feel here is that there’s a lack of story with very barebones characters. Arlo, our green protagonist, is drawn more exaggerated than the other dinosaurs with his knobby knees and his only dialogue in the trailer is limited to freak outs and exclamations. I was unhappy that the human character is essentially just a dog complete with panting, scratching his ear with his foot, and howling at the moon. There’s so much room to build up moral questions with a human involved, but as a silent companion to our child character, it leaves a lot to be desired.
What makes Finding Nemo a beautiful movie is how we get to see the two sides of separation between Nemo in the fish tank and Marlin and Dory’s search. Nemo is frightened, but he has this amazing set of growth thanks to his friends in the tank as the tension ratches up at the dentist’s office. On the other hand, you get the intensely relatable Marlin who is willing to do anything to reunite with his son. We aren’t shown much here other than Arlo and Spot moving across the terrain and intriguing subplot shown off with a pack of Tyrannosauruses.
The trailer makes me wish we could follow the leader of the T-Rex as our center point, who is voiced so wonderfully by Sam Eliot. He is the character grabbing the attention of everyone who’s watched the trailer already. Eliot already has that distinct, cowboy voice that everyone loves, but really sells the movie with that line: “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t alive.” I couldn’t but also that the T-Rex has a much more intricate design and striking model compared to how generic Arlo is.
I’m pretty positive we’ll get a good movie from The Good Dinosaur but unsure if it will be great. Brave was racked with similar production issues, ending in a fractured product. There’s a similar worry here, as early interviews said that this movie was originally “kind of like a Billy Elliot story” but we certainly don’t get that in the trailer. I really want this to be good because there is no new Pixar IP until Coco in 2017, but at this point we can only hope. At least the ticket will be worth watching for the amazing short alone.