Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Looking into the world of The Good Dinosaur with Animators Kevin O’Hara & Rob Thompson and Production Designer Harley Jessup #GoodDinoEvent

How do you make a movie about dinosaurs without ever seeing an actual dinosaur in the flesh, as a living breathing creature? On my recent press trip visiting Pixar for The Good Dinosaur, we met with Animators Kevin O’Hara & Rob Thompson and they gave us an animation demo that highlighted the reference used by animators to inform the movement of the dinosaurs. The animation of a human is easy for an animator, this is something they do every day without too much study. But a dinosaur? How do they do it? 

According to Rob Thompson, “When we started working on The Good Dinosaur, the challenge was, how can you be a dinosaur? It is not like you can go outside and watch a dinosaur, you can’t go to the zoo and observe them with your own eyes. But you can go see elephants. We did research trip down to the zoo to observe the elephants, to get the scale of these dinosaurs, to pull what we could from the elephants. To get the walk correct. How does an elephant walk? What is the gait of an elephant walk? Kevin broke down what it is to be an elephant, and to walk like one. ” 
I find the fact that they used elephants as the “dinosaur” movement fascinating. I would have never have thought of studying an elephant. According to Kevin O’Hara “The elephants were massive and roughly the same size as Arlo the young dinosaur, that came in handy.” But…Kevin O’Hara said that  “One of the most scariest things to an animator is a quadruped. Because of the four legs. There is so much going on you could easily get lost. There is nothing simple about a quadruped walk.”

Some believed that because this animal was so heavy you would want it to slam the feet because it was so heavy, but this was not the case, when they were studying the elephants they saw how graceful the elephants were they could walk up right behind you and you would not be able to hear a thing.
Once you get the studying of the movement down, the animators used 4 easy poses to break down the locomotion of the elephant,  opposed to hundreds this made it so much easier for the crew to animate. A shot begins with Blocking, a four day process, then an In Process section that takes one and a half weeks, and finishes up with Polishing, and this takes one week. As you can tell each shot takes a good while to do. Hopefully no changes will have to be made after the final version, but it is possible. 
Rob Thompson told us an interesting fact about the movie The Good Dinosaur,  “In the original version of the boy “Spot” was not on all fours, he could kind of walk on two legs. When we went to the boy on all fours, the boy and dog story really solidified.”
With animators humans are easy and quadrupeds are difficult to animate. In this movie you have a human who is a quadruped how did you handle that? Kevin O’Hara answered,  That was a challenge, we looked at dog, wolves and a raccoon. A raccoon because it has fingers, we wanted to see if we could pick up some animal qualities, that were just specific to a dog. Something that would be familiar but still give us that animal feeling to him. It was definitely a challenge”.
I am sure it was a challenge, but it seems like they were very successful and did an amazing job. After you get the movement down for the characters, that is great, but the movie is so much more than just the characters movement there is the characters look itself and a whole world out there that the dinosaurs need to live and interact in and that is where Production Designer Harley Jessup and his team come in. He was here to tell us how the Art Department designed the different dinosaurs in the film and their surrounding environments. 
You may wonder what being a production designer entails leading a team of artists, art directors, set designers, character designers and sculptors, they all create the set and design the characters in the film. Wow that is a big responsibility! This is the real heart of the film.  For The Good Dinosaur this production team made the dinosaur world their version of Jackson Valley in Wyoming. According to Harley Jessup, “We are never trying to create perfectly realistic sets, but they have to be believable”.
As I shared with you all, there was an intense research trip for The Good Dinosaur. Even though they went on this great trip, and wanted to learn about the surroundings for the film it was not necessary to make everything life like. "We have to create everything you see on the screen from scratch, on these  research trips we have to bring back, leaves, grass, bark all of this folds into the final look of the film".
For the dinosaurs Harvey told us the “Posture would be pulled up and the animated dinosaurs would look like cowboys on horses”. That is a pretty neat idea, and I can see what they mean, especially in the campfire scenes with the dinosaurs.“We were trying for an idealized almost landscape painting approach for the backgrounds.  For this film it was important for nature to feel awesome, and sometimes threatening to Arlo”. 

All of the designs start with pencil and paper, then onto the clay sculptures. During this session we were able to hold and touch an actual sculpture of Spot, that was made for the film. I was surprised at the likeness of the character, even down to the leaves in the hair which was messy and life like (and having a kid at home with similar hair to Spot's, I'm somewhat of an expert!) It was pretty cool to be able to hold this sculpture. Here is a photo of a similar Dinosaur sculpture, the sculptures help the designers get a real feel for the look of the characters. 
It was a great experience to get to hear about this movie from the people who helped make it. Be sure to stay tuned I have a lot more exclusive interviews, and sneak peeks for The Good Dinosaur is in theaters on 11/25/15. Are you looking forward to seeing this film with your families as much as we are? 
Visit the official The Good Dinosaur site
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The Good Dinosaur is in Theaters on 11/25/15

   ****Disney provided me with an all-expense paid trip for me to cover this great event **** 

Disclosure: The reviews and or opinions on this blog are my own opinions . No monitory compensation was received. I was not required to write a positive review. Your experience may differ. The opinions I have expressed are my own I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsement and Testimonials in Advertising .


  1. The Good Dinosaur is going to be fantastic. I've always loved Pixar's brand of animation, so getting to see the people behind it is fantastic.

  2. Oh my lanta, this looks like a fabulous movie. My kids would absolutely love this. I can't wait to see it.

  3. My kids and I are so excited to see this movie. It looks so cute.

  4. Wow! What a great behind the scenes interview. My son wants to see this movie bad and I can't wait to take him to it. I never thought about how would they figure out how the dinosaurs walked great idea to check out elephants.

  5. It's actually quite genius to look towards a racoon for a quadrupled human reference. I can't wait for this film to come out, I'm sure it's going to be another Pixar classic!

  6. Thank you for sharing about your behind the scenes experience. There is so much that goes into creating a Pixar movie. It's sure to be a great movie.

  7. The animation on this movie looks just so beautiful! I love the imagery! adn the story sounds super cute. I can't wait to see it.

  8. This movie looks so cute. I can't wait to see it.

  9. My kids can't wait to see this. 2 of my boys are OBSESSED with dinos so this will be a really great one for them I think! - jeanine

  10. I can't wait to see this movie. I want to take my daughters out when it comes to theaters. I think it's going to be a wonderful movie.

  11. Good Dinosaur looks adorable! My son loves Pixar movies, I'm sure he will love this one!

  12. This is a great interview. I am excited to go see The Good Dinosaur with my friends kids. It is always fun to see the excitement on their faces.

  13. I bet they had to do a ton of research while making this film. It's amazing how much detail they put into everything.

  14. Thanks for the behind the scenes look! My boys are so excited to go see this when it hits theaters.

  15. How cool that you got to meet the brilliant talents who made this movie. The Good Dino looks like it's going to be a fabulous film for kids

  16. It's so interesting seeing how these animated movies are made! There's so much work that goes into making these movies look the way they do!

  17. This is awesome! I can;t wait to see this one with my kids, I would love to learn more behind the scenes info!

  18. Wow, that is so cool that you got to see and learn about all of this. I know we are excited about the movie :) Thanks for sharing

  19. We are looking forward to seeing this movie. The kids love dinosaurs!

  20. We are counting down the days until this is out! We love Disney movies.


Disclosure: The reviews and or opinions on this blog are my own opinions, . No compensation was received. All opinions are my own. This is a unofficial fan site that is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or Disney theme parks.

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