Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘The Good Dinosaur’

Learn all about the making-of, the research trips and more behind Pixar’s most visually accurate film, The Good Dinosaur.
The Good Dinosaur run through birds

Prepare to be astonished — The Good Dinosaur is set to wow audiences with its heartwarming friendship and expansive landscapes, which appear to be plucked right from a postcard. Over the coming days and weeks, we will dig deeper into the development of the story, production, animation, and lighting (among many more areas) to uncover countless details as we chatted with select crew members while visiting the Studio on October 1 and 2.

This masterfully created film perfectly showcases the detail, commitment, and impact each department and employee left on the film — making The Good Dinosaur one of Pixar’s most beautiful films to date.

The Good Dinosaur Behind-the-scenes

During our visit, we screened various extended clips from The Good Dinosaur which highlighted the stunning effects and lighting techniques used within the film. As a fun fact, the Effects department doubled in size on The Good Dinosaur due to the volume of effects in the film — it has more effects than any other Pixar film to date.

Primarily the Effects team is responsible for natural phenomenons such as rain, fire, smoke, as well as dust and debris in which the characters react with or around. From the white-capped river to the ominous weather elements, the Effects and Lighting departments worked seamlessly to enhance the scene and add a heightened sense of vulnerability to the characters as they battle the land to return home.

If you have traveled to the Northwest region of the United States you may recognize certain terrain as you watch the film. Sets Supervisor, David Munier noted that actual USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) data were used in the creation of the various sets within the film.

Just as the Effects and Lighting departments worked together, the Sets department gave an element of depth to each scene creating peaks and valleys for the other departments to leave their mark on with stunning results. While the beauty of the landscapes is unparalleled (in our opinion), the character design and animation have originality all to their own.

The animators studied various locomotion-type movements from elephants in a local zoo so that they could correctly animate the weight distribution for a dinosaur that weighs several tons.

We also noticed small details that complimented particular scenes, such as the slight vibrating motion on the sides of the T-Rexes mouth as they roared — really selling the power that these characters have. (Notice the shaking in Ramsey’s neck and vibration of the skin connecting the top and bottom jaw in the GIF below.)

The Good Dinosaur Roar GIF
The Good Dinosaur Concept Art

The film wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the dedication of the Story team as well as the numerous research trips attended by each department from the film. Speaking of the story, after screening clips of The Good Dinosaur we were treated to a cowboy-themed picnic complete with s’mores and filmmaker stories by the fireplace in the Brooklyn building.

Peter Sohn (Director), Denise Ream (Producer), Sharon Callahan (Director of Photography-Lighting), and Sanjay Bakshi (Technical Director) shared photos, personal stories, and videos from their adventures researching the land that would become Arlo’s world. Be sure to subscribe to our Podcast as we will be featuring numerous audio clips, stories, and employee interviews from this event in upcoming episodes.

What would a trip to Pixar be without talking about the wonderful architecture and decor promoting the film? Walking through the atrium of the Steve Jobs building (Pixar’s main building) you are greeted by massive black cloth banners featuring many characters from the film: Momma, Poppa, Butch, Nash, and Arlo with Spot.

While the characters appear to be brought to life in actual scale form, it wouldn’t be until day two, during our chat with Production Designer Harley Jessup, that we learned Arlo is the only character that is true to scale (standing 18 feet tall). If Momma and Poppa were to scale they would tower at over 40 feet tall, however, the Steve Jobs building is only 33 feet tall so they were modified just a bit.

This is just the tip of the iceberg — stay tuned to Pixar Post as we’ll be providing in-depth coverage for each of the main areas listed below. And, in addition to wonderful concept artwork, screen captures, and behind-the-scenes looks, we’ll also include our audio interviews with the filmmakers as part of a multi-part Pixar Post Podcast series on the film.

  • PUT YOUR HEART INTO IT: Hear from Screenwriter Meg LaFauve and Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann how the story gets developed and boarded, and learn how to draw your own Arlo! 
  • DESIGNING A BIG WORLD: Hear from Production Designer Harley Jessup how the Art department designed the different dinosaurs in the film and their surrounding environments.
  • EFFECTIVE STORYTELLING: Explore with Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch how the Effects team created different environments using effects to support the storytelling. 
  • “ACTING” LIKE DINOS: Animator Kevin O’Hara will give you an animation demo highlighting the reference used by animators to inform the movement of the dinosaurs. 
  • VIEW FROM ABOVE: Learn about creating the expansive world in the film with Sets Supervisor David Munier, and hear how the team used actual USGS data of the northwest United States to create the sets. 
  • CREATING THE VISUAL DESIGN OF THE GOOD DINOSAUR: Color scripts to final picture progression presentation with Sharon Calahan (Director of Photography – Lighting)
Pixar Post at Pixar Animation Studios
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