With the eagerly anticipated Disney Pixar release of The Good Dinosaur on November 25th, the folks at the Mouse House have sent a key player from the production team on the road to promote the movie.
Character Art Director Matt Nolte has been criss-crossing the country speaking to college students about the animation process as well as the new movie which is sure to be a major box office hit at the start of the holiday movie season. Nolte has visited schools in Kentucky, Ohio, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. At each of his meet-and-greet he has talked about the animation process and how they too can pursue their dreams of becoming animators.
And if anyone knows about getting their pencil and sketchbook in the door at Disney Pixar it would be Nolte. After applying for a job with the company while attending Ricks Junior College in Idaho, Nolte was turned down for a position and was advised to work further on his drawings and sharpen his skills before submitting his portfolio again for consideration. Much of that occurred while attending California Institute of Arts in Los Angeles.
But for Nolte it really all began in third grade when he realized he wanted to be an animator. During a recent interview, he recounted how he was influenced by Disney story artist Bill Peet who, as Nolte says, was “super, super influential” in his career. Notle was first introduced to Peet's work in children's books he created following his career at Disney. “In third grade I would go to the library to get his books and just look at the pictures."
Nolte adds that it was a gift from his parents that furthered his interest in art and animation. “My parents bought me The Illusion of Life and I was looking through the book after Christmas and I looked at drawings and said they looked just like those books and then I read the name and said 'What?,'” realizing those pictures were Peet's artwork. “I found out he had a whole career doing Disney stuff and I said that is what I want to do.”
Working as character art director on The Good Dinosaur, Nolte says he was able to blend his love of science with animation. “I am a total science nerd. It was a challenge for me to take creative liberty with the story.” The plot of the movie features an alternate timeline in which planet Earth was never hit by an asteroid and dinosaurs never became extinct. The film features the exploits of a young Apatosaurus named Arlo who befriends a human caveboy named Spot.
As a character art director, Nolte says he essentially listens to the story that is pitched by the director. As an example, Notle uses Arlo. “Pete, the director, pitched to us that Arlo is kind of vulnerable, he has to change and gain confidence.” Nolte adds that the 11-year-old green dinosaur has to “go through a character arc and my job is to encompass all that. I help to see the process from drawing to computer model.”
But make no mistake about it, despite his title, the job of bringing the character drawing to life is a team effort. “We are such a collaborative thing, I have to say. Nobody is responsible for any one thing by themselves, at all.” Nolte admits that art directors are drawing on their own ideas, the concepts of their colleagues, from directors and their drawings and it all goes into the process of bringing the character from sketch pad to 3D animation. “So, at Pixar, you learn to take advice, share ideas and really go with what is better,” Notle claims all for moving the project forward.
As he travels from city-to-city, school-to-school showing clips of The Good Dinosaur, Nolte says he is thrill when audiences delight in the movie. He says while the flick features “a simple story,” movie-goers should be prepared for an adventure. “It is a movie about love, overcoming fears, it is adventurous, emotional and funny.” He cautions that there is not much dialogue and the tone is a bit quieter than other animated movies adding that it offers audiences more time to think and reflect on the themes of the film.
Before packing up and moving onto the next city to talk up Dinosaur, Nolte advises students serious about a career in animation to “draw what you like, what you love. Don't draw characters you think you should draw. Be in love with what you draw. Try to meet people in the industry.” The artist credits his parents for introducing him to animators when he was young. “They gave me advice,” needless to say valuable advice that influenced his career. “Meet them, show them your work. I followed their direction and that is how I got here.”
Nolte has applied his talents as an animator on Cars, as a character designer on Ratatouille, and character art director on Brave.
The Good Dinosaur opens on Wednesday, November 25th, marking the first time that Pixar has released two feature films in the same year following Inside Out's June 19th bow.