The Good Dinosaur ~ Peter Sohn & Denise Ream #GoodDinoEvent

by Heather

12243340_10107506637385324_8976048303447228676_nRSSPhoto credit: Louise Bishop /

I was sent on an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles, California courtesy of Disney to experience The Good Dinosaur and a series of other adventures. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own. Please note that some images are courtesy of Disney.

Have you ever sat down to watch a movie and been so drawn in that you couldn’t tell the difference between reality and animation? You are so drawn in, paying attention to the details that it takes you a moment to realize that you aren’t paying attention to the movie. It is just so lifelike that you can’t help but be sucked in. That’s exactly what happened to me when I sat down last week for a pre-screening of The Good Dinosaur while visiting Los Angeles for the Red Carpet Premiere. I was able to draw myself back in but I had a million questions about the film, questions that needed answers and thankfully, today, I am able to share those answers with you!

How is that possible, you ask? Simple! We sat down for a fun Q&A session with The Good Dinosaur Director Peter Sohn and Producer Denise Ream for some insider information on the making of the film. Here is what we learned!

Question: The realism in the animation is mind blowing. It’s amazing. Was there any special technology or animation advancement that was used to put that into place?

Denise Ream: Yes, well it’s not new technology but we ended up using basically Google maps to create a lot of the locations. It’s called USGS topological survey maps. That got us a long way to getting the big scope that we wanted and then the trick was populating the terrain with the trees that we had modeled, the leaves, the mulch, the rocks, sort of all of the vegetation.

That was a special tool that we wrote. This was the first time we used 3-D clouds, what we call volumetric clouds, throughout the entire film. Usually we map paint our clouds. We also did a lot of water shots. Then, in terms of the actual process, we had a slightly different workflow process for the animators.

We gave each animator sort of a run of shots that we felt would make a more consistent performance. That was a very different workflow for the animation department and they actually really, really liked loved it.

Peter Sohn: It was in service to the story. We did a lot of research. When we restarted this project, Denise said, “Let’s go get lost.” I’m from New York and we would go into the wilderness and the Rockies and places that I had never been before. It was so gorgeous!

It was so awe inspiring that you could see 500 miles down that way and see the other 500 miles down that way. The area was full of clouds and it went forever and it was so soul enriching; it is something that we wanted to capture. That’s why with all of this technology, if we wanted to do this, we really had to do this.

This picture doesn’t even do the film justice, you have to see it; things just look so real! The leaves, the rain, the terrain! OH MY GOSH!


Are you wondering what it is like to work with young talent? What it takes to get them into character? How the handle emotional scenes? We wanted to know as well. Peter Sohn was more than happy to explain the process!

Question: We have had an opportunity to meet with the young men who voiced the characters. They were very complementary of the direction you provided them. They said you were very inspiring to them.

Peter Sohn: That is very nice. I love those guys. What’s funny is that I do scratch voice at work. I do a lot of temporary voices and I’d been through the directors at Pixar and how they direct you. Sometimes it can be tough because you’re just like, elbow macaroni. Elbow macaroni. Do it again like this. Elbow macaroni. And then you go elbow macaroni. No, no, like this, elbow macaroni. Okay, elbow macaroni. No, no, you’re not listening to me. Elbow macaroni. And then like on the 15th take you’re like I don’t know what you’re looking for.

Some other directors are like, imagine that you have cereal and the milk is all the way up to the top of the bowl and you have to carry it like this and make the noises that you would make. And you’re like oh, I don’t want to spill you know, and so every director has their tools. And I learned a lot from that. So, when I got to work with these kids, I’ve let them know that I’ve been in those shoes. This is all going to be about trust. If we don’t get through the lines don’t worry about it. We’ll have some fun and whatever– and be very observant.

Sometimes you have to be very emotional and I would get uncomfortable. I would be standing in front of these guys and tell them, “Okay, you have to cry now in this scene.” It’s always about trying to find a secure place where you can be vulnerable. The kids are such pros. They were so amazing, all of them.

12003863_10107506639436214_7641647026893676045_nRSPhoto credit: Louise Bishop /

Question: You use the word trust a lot. You gave them a lot of trust. What type of direction did you give them specifically with Spot? He didn’t say a lot and with Arlo?

Peter Sohn: Yeah, there were two different things. Spot was mainly like painting the situation for him and explaining there were rules to Spot’s world where he didn’t want to go into kind of like a primate world because there was Tarzan. We really wanted to stay in this kind of canine world. I wouldn’t explain it like that though, I would just say, you come as a character that’s brave, strong, and tenacious, Jack (voice of “Spot”), I already know you are like that. But, as we grow, we’re going to take some of the layers away and find the little boy that Spot is and then he would understand that.

Then, it was basically like, okay, we’re in the woods. It’s raining. You’ve just pulled some animal out of the woods and I need some breathing down so let’s get into it. It’s just about painting a picture with Spot until we got to the emotional places.

With Jack, he was always willing to get started! We would talk about the howl and if he could give me mourning or howl like that. Then, we’d p and experiment with that.

With Raymond, Raymond, he, it’s so funny; he can get into emotions so fast. You paint the pictures that you sit with him and you go okay, Raymond –- and you would save some of the emotional stuff for in the middle because if you save it for the end, his voice would be tired but if you went into it too early then you may not be able to get to the emotion real quick. We would do some fun stuff in the beginning and then let the story play out until we got to the mid part.

But, once we got to the sequence, after we had been doing a lot of stuff, I would start painting the picture and feel where Raymond was at. Raymond would just go okay, I’ve got it. Let’s do it. I would say okay, are you sure you’re in this thing right now? You know, you’re talking about loss here you know, your father – I mean your gather just appeared in front of you. You’re sure you’re okay? Yeah, let’s do it. Come on. Then he would go and he immediately would just jump into this performance and you’re like, oh my goodness. Then he would ask okay, was that good? And you’re like YES, you were incredible! How did you do that?

Each performance is different and you just listen to what they liked or jump around.


Photo credit: Louise Bishop /

Question: Is there talk at all about another Good Dinosaur film? We never really saw what happened to the Poppa.

Peter Sohn: We have, we have been talking about it.

Denise Ream: We keep joking.

Peter Sohn: We literally finished this film two weeks ago. When we started we only had just under two years to make this and most animated films take from 4 to 5. Our schedule was really jammed and there was so much going on, I had two kids that were born through the production from 2009. My daughter is five and my son, Sam was three and the last two years my wife has been a superhero because I haven’t been around. More than any other project, after this is done, I owe my wife huge!

I can’t even begin to understand or fathom what it takes to direct or produce a film. Such a huge undertaking but in this case, the payoff will be huge, they created an amazing film!


What I loved most about sitting down and talking with Peter and Denise is that they are very real people that are down to earth and just as excited about being a part of this production and seeing the film as we are. You could see their passion for the film all over their face as they spoke. Their eyes lit up, their smile was just a bit bigger, and they were soaking up every ounce of what is going on around them. We are talking about two huge names in the film business and they were still like two kids in a candy store. They were both extremely laid back and eager to talk to us about their experiences, the crew, and how The Good Dinosaur came to be; their excitement and passion made the film that much more for me.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR opens in theaters everywhere on November 25th!

There is so much more that I could share but I just wanted to share a taste of what we learned from Director Peter Sohn and Producer Denise Ream. This was a great experience with two people that have created a team and family. See the film and you’ll feel their passion, love, and excitement as you watch!




I was sent on an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles, California courtesy of Disney to experience The Good Dinosaur and a series of other adventures. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own. Please note that some images are courtesy of Disney.

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1 comment

M.Clark November 27, 2015 - 9:10 pm
It's always nice to get some insight from the director and/or producer of a film that you like. Thank you for sharing this post.

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