‘The Good Dinosaur’ Pulls at the ‘Old Dinosaurian Heart Strings,’ Says Jeffrey Wright

The Good Dinosaur Peter Sohn, Jeffrey
Michael Buckner/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

Disney-Pixar celebrated “The Good Dinosaur,” Pixar’s second release this year and its first Western of a sort, with a green carpet and rustic features at El Capitan in Hollywood on Wednesday.

The premiere is the culmination of a long journey for first-time feature helmer Peter Sohn, who took over sole directing duties when Pixar decided to shift the story away from its original concept. “It’s been quite an adventure getting here,” he said. “Everyone put their heart into it and getting to see it with an audience like this blew me away.”

A number of cast members praised Sohn’s work with them and his ability to voice other characters when they were recording their scenes.

“When you get a job like this, you don’t get the entire script,” explained Sam Elliott, who plays T-rex cattle wrangler Butch in the film. “You just get what you’re responsible for. And you get a rendering of your character to see what he looks like. So you go to work really not knowing much more than than. But then there’s Peter Sohn, there waiting for you. He just paints this incredible picture for you. He has this enthusiasm and this fantastic way that he has about him. He’s the kind of guy you just want to give him what he wants.”

Jeffrey Wright said Sohn’s enthusiasm in the recording booth helped him a great deal with his role as the fearful young Arlo’s dad. “You know, our director is quite a character, and he was playing all the other roles (during the recording session) that you would interact with. He’s got such vibrancy and enthusiasm about him that’s it’s easy to get into the scene. And the story itself pulls at the old dinosaurian heart strings.”

Sohn voices a character in the film himself, a strange creature named Forrest Woodbush that was somewhat based on a voice he did as a prank in college. When they were pitching the character, “I kept thinking about this voice I used to do in school,” Sohn explained. “We had this kind of moose head that we built in our animation area. I had a tape recorder and every 15 minutes at my desk I would just say something funny in that (low-pitched, slow-paced) voice, and it would play in a loop whenever anyone was in that room. When I was pitching the character to John (Lasseter) and everyone, I would use that voice. They were all laughing at it and John said, ‘Hey, that should be in the movie.'”

Pixar g.m. and president Jim Morris acknowledged the difficulty of having two films out in one year. “It was hard,” he said. “But we’re excited about both (‘Inside Out’ and ‘Dinosaur’). They are both such different movies and each have their own vibrancy to them.”

He pointed out that the studio won’t make two movies every year, but will try to do two every other year.

“The Good Dinosaur” is also the second Pixar film of the year for screenwriter Meg LaFauve, who is just getting started on her next project, writing “Captain Marvel” with “Guardians of the Galaxy” scribe Nicole Perlman.

“How lucky am I? It’s amazing,” she said. “I was working on ‘Inside Out.’ We were just finishing when I got moved over to ‘Dinosaur’ when Pete came on as the director to recalibrate and rework the story into his vision. So I worked with two Petes (‘Dinosaur’s’ Sohn and ‘Inside Out’ helmer Docter).”

Brothers Mychael and Jeff Danna scored the film. “There are a lot of these adventure elements in it along with these giant vistas, but there’s also a lot of fun going on,” explained Jeff Danna. “We had a lot of fun with banjos, some mandolins and fiddles.”

“We had a lot of percussion using stone, wood and glass, and then my brother Jeff plays strummy instruments from all over the world,” added Mychael Danna.

The evening was also the premiere of the short film “Sanjay’s Super Team,” the story of a young boy, his father and a trio of Hindu deities. It was an extremely personal film for director Sanjay Patel, whose father, who doesn’t watch a lot films, recently came to Pixar to see it.

“He’s such a hard-working guy. A lot of immigrants don’t have the luxury to stop and enjoy the culture. It was really sweet that we got him to stop and come up and look at the film. He was just so proud of how far I’ve sort of come,” said Patel of his father’s reaction to the film.

Added producer Nicole Paradis Grindle: “He was proud of Sanjay, but I think he was also moved that Sanjay was representing what had sustained his father through a really tough life: coming to this country and raising his two children and working so hard. Sanjay pays tribute to that in this film.”

Joining in the premiere celebration and after-party at OHM at Hollywood & Highland were Disney-Pixar’s John Lasseter, Disney chairman Alan Horn, “Dinosaur” producer Denise Ream, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, cast members Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, Raymond Ochoa, Marcus Scribner and Jack Bright; and guests Stephen Moyer, Katharine Ross and Al Yankovic.

(Pictured: Director Peter Sohn and Jeffrey Wright at “The Good Dinosaur” premiere)

John Lasseter, Denise Ream and Peter Sohn at “The Good Dinosaur” premiere
Michael Buckner/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

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