Both Pete Sohn and Denise Ream are brilliant. I’ve interviewed the lovely Pete Sohn enough times now that he semi recognizes me and of course to me that means we are besties. While out in LA for the World Premiere of The Good Dinosaur we had a chance to chat with both Director and Producer and as always they were both lovely. You can check out my previous interviews HERE. So now let’s get on to the interview:
Q: You have done lots of jobs at Pixar: storyboarding, voice acting, and now director. What led you into becoming the director this time?
Pete: You know, what’s interesting was this show was pitched by original director Bob Peterson in 2009 and then he asked me to come help develop the project. During the development I was doing story and designs for him and then he asked me to be his co-director. From that we were trying to wrestle the story and it was tough. A lot of these Pixar films go through that kind of place where you put every answer and you go in every direction. We had like the boy and dog story. We had a father-son story. We had like a trying to change community story and then just got — it was hard to kind of end it all.
They asked me to become the director from there because I had known all the paths that we have gone through and so I went basically, simplified it to Bob’s original pitch. I love Bob and he’s a great friend and so I just loved that original idea. It was really Bob who got me kind of developing into that co-director position so overseeing a lot of that. But, to your point, I learned a lot from working with the other departments too, but that’s nothing like the directing job. There’s so much I didn’t know. I was scared and Denise Ream, our producer, I’m surrounded with a lot of experienced people to help out with that. Everyone was just like here’s our hearts. Let’s do it. I’m like, oh, okay. Let’s do it, you know.
Q: The realism in the animation is mind blowing is there any special technology or animation advancement that was used to put that into place?
Denise: 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. So we started with that and that got us a long ways to kind of getting the big scope that we wanted and then the trick was populating that terrain with the trees that we had modeled, the leaves, the mulch, the rocks, sort of all of the vegetation.
So 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 did a lot of water shots. I mean back, again, it’s not new technology but we did many, many more water shots then we’ve typically done in a Pixar movie. Then just in terms of the actual process we just had a slightly different workflow process for the animators. When you’re under the gun to get the show done you sort of dole out shots individually and instead we gave each animator sort of a run of shots that we felt would kind of make a more consistent performance. So that was a very different workflow for the animation department and they actually really, really loved it.
Pete: But all of it was in service to the story you know. Like, we did a lot of research. Denise, when we restarted this project, she took us out. She said let’s go get lost. I’m from New York where we would go into the wilderness and the Rockies and I had never been before. And so going out there it was just so dang gorgeous you know, like for me, horizon lines in New York was like McDonald’s to Subway you know and then going out there it was just like so awe inspiring that you could go from there and see 500 miles down that way and see the other 500 miles down that way. It was just full of clouds and it went forever and it was so soul enriching it is something we wanted to capture. So that’s why all this technology was just like okay, if we want to do that we have to do this.
Q: You’ve done a lot of voice work yourself and in this film you got to be the collector which is hilarious. Give us a little bit of background on doing your voice work and why did you choose that character?
Pete: I didn’t choose it really.
Denise: It was funny, first when we were developing that sequence of you know, like Pete said, we end up using a lot of people at Pixar to do the scratch voices that we used to cut the scenes against. I was like Pete, we don’t have time to go audition for this so you’re going to have to do it.
Pete: I was like, we’ll find an actor. We’re going to find a real actor.
Denise: Yeah, well, no you didn’t even want to do scratch. Right, you were really reluctant to that. I was like Pete, please we don’t have time. You did the scratch and then we were just working on the scene. When Pete pitched the scene to John, John was like you’re going to be the pet collector. He was like no, no, no I really want to go and get an actor. You’re going to be the pet collector. There is no–. John actually ended up directing the scene you know, which I thought was really fun.
Pete: Yeah, and he would push because he’s just like lower your voice. And you’re like okay, lower [LAUGHTER]. Lower it here. Okay. And then just keep low. Okay, now say that. You would say that word you know and then he would go lower, lower. I’m like I can’t you know, I can’t get lower than that. But yeah, yeah it was really fun. I had never been directed by John.
Check out Pete playing the Pet Collector below:
The Good Dinosaur
“The Good Dinosaur” asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo
(voice of Raymond Ochoa) makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of. Opens Nov. 25 2015
***Disclosure: I attended the #GoodDinoEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***