A movie doesn't really feel done until you have a home copy that you can slide into your library. That's what Pixar director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) once told Peter Sohn about the sense of completion you get when the filmmaking process is over and your movie is in the world. Now that time has arrived for Sohn's The Good Dinosaur which hits store shelves today after a fairly turbulent and very public journey.
"These movies feel like children," Sohn told us at a recent press junket for the film's Blu-Ray release, explaining, "you're raising them and you're like, 'You're going to be a superstar' or it's like, 'I don't want to be a superstar, I want to be a violin player'... there's the parenting of listening to the film and the film is now at the point where it's like 'Bye! I'll see ya!'" In that statement, Sohn hints at some of the changes and challenges the film went through during production which included him ascending to the role of director midway through. The film actually marks his feature directorial debut (he previously directed the beloved short "Partly Cloudy") following a long career at Pixar animating, helping to develop stories, and lending his voice to some very memorable characters like Squishy from Monsters University or the Pet Collector in this movie.
The decision to name Sohn director came after the film had lost its way and had grown too big. "We had many different story lines going and that was making it very difficult to kind of wrap things up because there were a lot of unanswered questions," he said. "One of the first things I did was I tried to simplify it back to the original core — to Bob [Peterson, the film's previous director]'s original pitch."
When speaking about this process, Sohn goes back to the child analogy, saying, "When I got the project it was very much like a kid that was sick." Later, in our one on one, he further explained the metaphor, saying, "With everyone's help, it was like getting up again and starting to walk and run around and pick up a ball and throw it... it was very emotional." Of course, The Good Dinosaur wasn't Pixar first "sick child," but the studio has been successful in turning troubled film's around and making them classics. So what about the studio's filmmaking process gives them that golden ability?
"The Pixar process is a really interesting one because it's about getting a film up and kind of judging it many times," Sohn said. Although he says the first screenings can be exciting, you can also see some of the problems with the films early on. The real issues come in when those problems persist multiple screenings later. As Sohn explains, "The third screening can sometimes be the one that's just like, 'Boy, this one is really hard'... you're always waiting for the next step — that the film continues to get better — and sometimes they will just kind of get stuck where you're fixing stuff but it doesn't feel like anything's really changing."
Besides the shifts made in the film's leadership, the voice cast also experienced an overhaul that put young teenager Raymond Ochoa in the role of Arlo. When asked about the changes, 15-year-old Ochoa seems wise beyond his years, saying, "People might think of that as a negative, but, if you think about the entertainment business, there are so many changes that happen to a movie, it doesn't matter what movie you're talking about... It's common — it's natural." Obviously he and co-star A.J. Buckley who plays Nash (a character added later on) in the film were excited to join the project with both saying it was a dream come true to work on a Pixar production.
At a certain point, it was clear to Sohn and his crew that The Good Dinosaur's release date couldn't be pushed any further. But that shortened production time and looming deadline may have been a blessing for the first-time feature director. "It absolutely helped me, I can't tell you how incredible that fire was," Sohn said. "It's terrifying because there's all this pressure, but... because everyone was understood, we supported each other." In true Pixar fashion, Sohn says his guiding principal was "Whatever we can do to make the film better."
Now that the film has played its theatrical run, still holds a 76% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is available for home viewing, what's next for the people behind The Good Dinosaur? "I'm going to take a little break and then get back into developing something and helping wherever I can with the other projects," Sohn told me. When I asked if his experience as director would "spoil" him for future project, he firmly said no, explaining that he's just happy to work with his Pixar family. "My same philosophy is whatever it takes the make the film as best as it can be. You're not your title... you are part of this family."
As for the voice talent, Raymond Ochoa has a musical group with his brothers called the Ochoa Boyz and also has some upcoming movie projects in the works. A.J. Buckley also plans on continuing his acting career but is currently working on something a little different — creating a line of diaper bags geared towards fathers called Paperclip Parent which should hit store shelves in May.
In the meantime, The Good Dinosaur is available on Disney Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital HD today!