Tuesday, November 10, 2015

*Exclusive* a behind the scenes look at of the making of the Pixar movie The Good Dinosaur #GoodDinoEvent

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

Have you ever wondered what goes into making an animated movie? This is something I was always curious about, I knew it took a lot of people power and a lot of work, but I never imagined all that went into the making of a Pixar animated movie. On my recent press trip to the Pixar Studios, I was able to sit down and get the backstage look at how an animated feature is made with some of the talented, The Good Dinosaur crew including Sharon Calahan, Director of Photography/Lighting, Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch and Sets Supervisor David Munier, each gave us a look into how they were a part of making The Good Dinosaur come to life!
So how do you start to plan a movie like this? With all of the amazing landscapes and shots of the movie, where do you get your ideas? Well first and foremost for Pixar you get to go on an actual adventure!  We were treated to a color scripts final picture progression presentation hosted by The Good Dinosaur’s, Director of Photography/Lighting, Sharon Calahan. Sharon was excited to share some more stories about the research trips for The Good Dinosaur.
The research trip was to immerse the staff into the world of the west.  They spent the day floating down the river just taking it all in. They wanted to hear the sounds of the wilderness and feel what it is like. The trip was about the setting and the weather and how that can influence the film. Sure going to an actual location can bring out the creative juices, but did you know that Sharon also used some movies to get an idea of what she wanted for this movie? 
According to Sharon Calahan, “I watched every frontier and western film I could find, and any film that was shot in the Rocky Mountain west.” “We started the process by Pete (Sohn) and I taking about the kinds of films that were memorable to us. The ones that stood out to us were the ones that had a lot of heart and were rich in visual storytelling, The Black Stallion, movie brought out strong emotions of loss, and isolation, survival and friendship.  This inspired us to be bold and minimalize the dialogue and visually show the connection to the characters". 
Dances With Wolves (another movie they referenced), was a good example for the films look of the west. The folks at Pixar wanted the setting of the movie to become a character itself. Sharon painted up some of the landmarks of the greater Wyoming area to help inspire the general look and feel for the story artist doing the internal boarding for the story.“The film is very emotional and the job of the color script, a large part of my job is to figure out how to support the film in an emotional and visual way.”
Your favorite action packed blockbusters are full of dazzling special effects... Did you know that animations are also filled with just as many special effects? We were able to explore with Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch to see how effects team created different environments using effects to support the storytelling. I learned a lot for John Reisch, I never knew that animations had this many layers it's like an onion, you keep finding more and more with the more layers you peel away, and effects was one I was not really familiar with.
In effects, they are responsible for all of the natural phenomenon you see in the world, rain, fire, debris, mist fog, and water. Expressing through effects, what is going on in the characters head. Effects are also used to heighten the mood in a scene.
To tell the story the effects team provides a connection to the CG world and the CG characters. They make all of the dust debris & more. This is the work of the  effects department. From the story telling view, it gives us the sense of tangibility; there is physical action in the world. You as the audience member can connect when you feel that there is a believable world here. For an example with effects mist gives the sense of foreboding, it shows how scared Arlo is. Effects like rain and lightning flashing heighten visual tension in the scene. How are the effects made? The team uses a lot of physical stimulation software to get the true look of the of the world they have made.
There were 31 effects artists on The Good Dinosaur team, which is about twice as many as they usually have for a Pixar film. Effects were in 900 shots in the film, this was twice as much as they usually work on. With The Good Dinosaur, the effects crew ran more data than they ever had in the past. They used 300 terabits in a disk this was a 10X increase from the last film he Jon supervised, Monsters University, was only 30 terabits. 300 terabits!? To put that into perspective your average computer now comes equipped with one terabyte hard drives (1 terabyte equals 8 terabits), it was like they had the minds of 38 computers just to come up with the effects for one movie, that is astonishing! You know how many pictures we could store with that much memory?!
Jon Reisch was very proud of the sequence in the film called “Swept Away” in the scene the water churns , splashes, and bubbles his team was responsible for it all. Swept Away scene took 8 months to work on the river alone, and another 8 months for the final shots in the scene, yes just that SCENE!!! I can see now why it takes 4-5 years to complete a Pixar film. According to Jon Reisch “We are at our best when we are able to support the story” 
Water is easily the hardest thing we do in effects, the simulation is very expensive and very difficult to iterate on, if you get the look of the water wrong everybody knows”. The effects crew worked with water shots in the past with the Pixar movie Brave, that movie had a sequence that involved a river there were about 30 shots to do that scene. With The Good Dinosaur, they had about 200 plus shots. The water played such a big part in the film, it was so important to director Pete Sohn, to use the water as a storytelling device, water was seen as “the yellow brick road, that can bring Arlo home”.
How does Pixar create this expansive world that the dinosaurs live in?  Sets Supervisor David Munier, chatted with us to tell us how his team used actual USGS data of the northwest United States to create the sets and what a set team does. The set team built all the environments for the film, they are in charge of creating everything you see on the screen that is not a character or a special effect.  
The director and producer loved the look of Wyoming and instead of trying to do a compete production design from scratch, and try to create a mountain range like that they tried to actually create the mountain range that is there, by using the United States Geological Survey. This is data online that has height data, height above sea level the terrain across the United States, satellite photos and forest tree data, a lot of information they can pull from.

According to David Munier “This data dives us a perfect foundation to build our movie; a quick short cut to get the terrain Pete wanted for the film” “Pete wanted to capture, beautiful environment cinematography, he wanted to look off in the distance and see 50 miles at any given time”. In most films you do this once but the director Pete Sohn wanted to do this all the time.  A cool fact, this data was also used in the Pixar movie Cars 2, for the scene with Mt Fuji!
This was not the only resource to get an idea of how the set should look like, David also used an Ansel Addams photo from the area for reference, to see how much they could create from height data from the US Geological Survey and they came pretty close. We asked David, Do you think using this USGS technology data will change how Pixar will design any landscape? David Munier answered:
If we wanted to get a particular area, and area that we like, that we want as a foundation, this is a great way to get that foundation down, and then we can say we want something like this and then the production design can draw on to of that we can take this data as a starting place, our modelers can sculpt on top of it they can change the terrain however they want they have the ability to change it. In future films, whenever we have areas that have  lots of terrain, or even a single shot, we can easily use this technology." This to me is fascinating, a new way to make films that will chance the look of animation forever! That's why Pixar is the best at what they do. Never rest on your laurels and keep innovating!
The director Pete Sohn wanted these guys to help him get a film that would feel familiar and timeless, authentic to a real location to the audiences rather than a fantasy. These folks did a great job, and I am sure the director was pleased and got exactly what he wanted from this film. I will never look at another animated film the same way after this trip. I have learned how extensive the research and animation process is from start to finish. I will look at Pixar animations in a new light with a new admiration for the hard work that goes into these classic movies.  Be sure to check out The Good Dinosaur, in theaters 11/25/15!

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 .


Jennifer said...

I cannot wait to see this movie! I might even sneak my kids out of school to see it!

valmg @ Mom Knows It All said...

Disney Pixar movies always have great color, animation and graphics. I'm looking forward to this one, hopefully sooner than later.

Scott said...

I am constantly amazed at what computers and animation can do these days. We've come so far from Steamboat Willy!

krystal said...

We are counting down the days until this movie is out, My son is ALL About it!

VickieC said...

how interesting! you go to some of the most wonderful places

Mama to 5 said...

Wow what a cool experience you had! I cannot wait to take the kids to see this movie, looks cute!

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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.