The big idea behind Pixar’s next film, The Good Dinosaur, is a brontosaurus-sized ‘What If?’ situation. In this case, what if the asteroid missed Earth and the dinosaurs ended up sharing the world with primitive humans? It’s the brain-spawn of Pixar veteran Bob Peterson, who co-directed with Partly Cloudy’s Pete Sohn, and the cast includes John Lithgow, Frances McDormand, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer and Lucas Neff.
The Good Dinosaur spins out the logical questions from that initial idea, to find an agrarian society comprised of dinos who work on the land. Arlo (Neff) is a lively 70 foot-tall teenage Apatosaurus with a big heart. After a traumatic event rattles Arlo’s tranquil community, he sets out on a quest to restore peace, gaining an unlikely companion along the way – a young human boy named Spot.
While Lithgow and McDormand will be the parents of this dino-family, Greer, NPH and Hader are playing Neff’s siblings.
Sohn chatted with us after the presentation about where this idea of dino/human co-existence sprang from. “We were sitting around the table drawing and talking about what you love about movies and different characters," he recalled. "Once we found the idea of the dinosaur world, we went all over the place and found one image of a dinosaur ploughing, which triggered this idea.”
Also walking the press line were Neff and Greer. We asked the latter if she'd watched Jurassic Park on repeat to prepare? “No, I didn't watch it," she said, admitting, "I'm not sure I've ever seen it in its entirety in one sitting. I didn't try to be a dinosaur, I just thought of my character. She's a tough, sturdy farm girl, so I tried to dress as though my character was a human girl, go up to Pixar and chuck my shoes off and work.” Despite becoming part of the cast, the role didn’t give Greer an all-access pass to explore the hidden depths of the studio. “There are a lot of signs in the hallways that tell you to keep out, these beautifully made signs reading NO ADMITTANCE. I'm, like, 'But... I'm one of the team.' There's some secret stuff going on there.”
As for Neff, he talked up what we can expect from his heroic character. “Arlo is the good dinosaur. The film's about what that means. As a kid you're told to be good and that has certain connotations", he elaborated, "that this movie's trying to teach is that being a good dinosaur is being yourself. As long as your self is not a homicidal maniac! With that caveat. He's got the soul of an artist and it's about kids who don't necessarily fit in and to celebrate that. Pete wanted to do something very different from what his family wanted, in becoming an animator, and we talked about that making the film.”
The actor has had to keep the role secret for months now, although he was allowed to break it to close family. “I told my parents, but I had to beat them to death to make sure they didn't tell anybody, because they are the worst. It's been tough for me, and I can't wait to tell people now. I'm going to run down the streets yelling about it. And when the toy comes out, I'm going to walk into every single store and squeeze it and say the line so people will know it's me. I will be kicked out of a lot of stores..."
The Good Dinosaur will be out on July 18 next year, with Monsters University-birthed short Party Central.