Not only is Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur an incredible film, but it’s also a very important film.
The Good Dinosaur is a unique, emotional, and exciting journey that communicates ideas of family and aspects of interpersonal understanding that I have yet to see at the movies. The film is so heartfelt, honest, wildly funny and, thanks again Pixar, a total tear-jerker but, in the best possible way.
The Good Dinosaur was directed by Peter Sohn. The screenplay was written by Meg LeFauve with story by Sohn, LeFauve, Erik Benson, Kelsey Mann, and Bob Peterson.
The film stars Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I & Part II) as Poppa, Frances McDormand (HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, Fargo) as Momma, Raymond Ochoa (NBC’s The Night Shift, TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles) as Arlo, Jack Bright (Monsters University) as Spot, Steve Zahn (Rescue Dawn, Mad Dogs) as Thunderclap, A.J. Buckley (TNT’s Murder in the First, FX’s Justified) as Nash, Anna Paquin (HBO’s True Blood) as Ramsey, and Sam Elliott (Tombstone, The Big Lebowski, FX’s Justified, Grandma) as Butch. Needless to say, the cast is freaking awesome.
Furthermore, the heart of this film is tremendous. The cast and crew are so proud of this film and so grateful to have been a part of it. It’s really a beautiful thing to see and it reminds you what filmmaking is all about!
And now on to the most important aspect of the film: The story!
As director Peter Sohn said, “[The Good Dinosaur] is the story of a boy and his dog—only, in our story, the boy is a dinosaur and the dog is a boy.”
The film follows Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a young dinosaur just trying to “make his mark” within his family.
Arlo’s family consists of Poppa (Jeffrey Wright), Momma (Frances McDormand), his brother Buck and his sister Libby.
As the family works together to gather food for winter, we see Arlo really struggling with his fear of the great big world around him, and, as the smallest child, his role among his family members.
In The Good Dinosaur universe, the theoretical asteroid (which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs) never hit Earth! So, dinosaurs now live together, among humans and other creatures, and have created a nice little society for themselves; the herbivores (like Arlo’s family) are farmers and the carnivores are ranchers.
(Pretty adorable and insanely clever concept, am I right?! When you see the film, pay attention to the ingenious way they utilize the bodies of the dinosaurs to make the farming and ranching believable! I really thought that was such a great and creative part of the film!)
So, moving right along, as Arlo works to prove himself to his family, and, specifically, his Poppa, tensions quickly rise. Arlo’s fear and sweet nature create more and more challenges for him and he soon finds himself alone in this giant world that he is so frightened of.
Along his tumultuous journey, as he fights to get back home to his family, Arlo meets some incredibly important and influential friends and enemies, including Thunderclap (Steve Zahn), Cowboy T-Rex, Butch (Sam Elliott) and his two children Ramsey (Anna Paquin) and Nash (A.J. Buckley) and, most importantly, Spot (Jack Bright), who challenge and push him to face his fears, discover his individuality, and grow as a young man.
The Good Dinosaur explores many powerful and important themes such as friendship, self-discovery, loss, over-coming fears and the fear of the unknown, feeling small, loyalty, and unconditional love.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful film.
Also, the look of the film and the scenery is seeeerrrriously breathtaking.
Sohn and his team actually went so far as to visit the American Northwest so they would be able to honestly capture the landscape that Arlo would be traveling in the film. So cool.
And their travels absolutely paid off; the film has a great Western-genre feel to it that is a lot of fun and incredibly refreshing! It’s really lovely.
“We didn’t want it to feel like a walk in the park. This world feels big—even to a dinosaur.” – Peter Sohn, Director.
And it does feel big! The scenery that surrounds Arlo is gorgeous and, at times, terrifying. Aesthetically speaking, it’s a truly stunning film. The animation will completely blow your mind.
Here are a few fun things to pay attention to as you watch the film:
1.) Arlo’s introduction to the audience (a.k.a. The egg scene): It’s freaking adorable and so well done. The second you see Arlo, you understand who he is, what his motivations will be, and what personal issues he will have to overcome in the film. Such great storytelling!
2.) The honest portrayal of what it means to be a parent: From the unwavering love to the incredible frustration to the unbelievable strength, Poppa and Momma are beautifully strong yet flawed illustrations of wonderful parents and how difficult parenting really is.
(Also, check out my interview with Jeffrey Wright for more on this! He’s amazing and, as a father himself, he had some really remarkable things to say about this aspect of the film!)
3.) The fear of the unknown: “Sometimes you’ve gotta get passed your fear to see the beauty on the other side.” – Poppa (Jeffrey Wright)
Pay attention to that theme of fear as you watch the film! So amazing and relevant to people of all ages.
(Sam Elliott, King of Everything & most kind man you’ll ever meet, had some enlightening and genuinely wonderful things to say about fear and the way that we, as humans, all struggle with it our entire lives. You definitely don’t want to miss my interview with him!)
4.) The lack of dialogue: Thanks to the magic of great, visual storytelling and remarkable animation, the film, very clearly, lacks the traditional amount of dialogue that most animated features have.
The characters often times communicate without any dialogue and there are many silent, emotional moments that touch your heart.
And you never miss the dialogue. Not one bit.
When I saw the film, there were kids all over the theater, and they didn’t make a peep. With the lack of dialogue, you might assume that kids would become disinterested, but I actually think those quiet moments in the film connected with all of us, adults and children alike, in a very intimate and powerful way. It was really remarkable.
I, whole-heartedly, give this film a solid 10 out of 10.
There is usually always something about a film that I feel could be slightly better or done differently; but not with The Good Dinosaur.
The concept and execution of this film was brilliant. And the balance of raw emotion and humor was fantastic!
It’s a wonderful and unique story that needed to be told. I am so grateful that the world has this movie.
The Good Dinosaur will be released into theaters everywhere on November 25th!
Psst! Stay tuned for my interviews with cast members Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, Raymond Ochoa and director Peter Sohn and producer Denise Ream! My interviews with these amazingly rad people will be posted on Legion of Leia throughout the week! And, spoiler alert, they’re a ton of fun!!!
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