As you may know by now, Disney and Pixar surprised the entire online film community yesterday morning with the debut of the full length theatrical trailer for their November 25th release of The Good Dinosaur. My post from yesterday covered just a little of how much I loved the trailer, but I wanted to take the opportunity today to go back, look at still images from the trailer, and really take a close look at not only the meticulous attention to detail that is being put into this film, but also some criticisms that audiences have voiced online regarding the stark contrast between the photo-realistic scenery and the stylized character designs; all after the break!
Im going to go through the trailer in sequential order and point out some of the key frames that I believe can tell us a lot more information that one might have thought previously. First off:
This is one of the very first shots of the trailer, showcasing the gorgeous scenery, photo-realistic plants and brush, and even the realistic stylization of the camera work. The camera seems to be blurring out the background as you can see with light sources in the background appearing as translucent circles, bringing out the rain falling onto the leaves from a tree or bush in the foreground. This is some absolutely stunning work done by not just the effects team, but also lighting, shading, and camera work.
This shot is used again from the teaser trailer. However, the one thing that I did want to mention is the difference between the plant life in this shot compared to that of the leaves from the shot taken above. This is pure speculation, but I believe that this sequence of the meteor comically missing Earth may have been produced several years ago, perhaps in 2013, and is being used as stock footage to merely set up the premise. I think this may be the case because of how we keep on hearing of the photorealism that the TGD team has been using to flesh out the prehistoric world. The plant on our far right, for instance, seems to be too whimsical in nature to give the audience a feeling of photorealism, so I believe this may have been a shot from several years ago and won't be used in the final film. It's just a thought.
Both of these shots showcase the amazing attention to detail that is being put into not just the ground, or even the beautiful scales on both the lizard (which may be a slight shout-out to Pixar's canceled film, Newt) and Arlo's feet, but also the way that the rain permeates the soil and leaves a bit of a damp mark, not to mention the splay of Arlo's feet as he shifts his weight, much like that of Elephants.
This is a compilation of the rest of the amazing shots that stand out to me in their visual complexity, either in lighting, camera angle, or in world building. One really quick thing that I especially want to point out is the amazing character design work that has been done with Spot in comparison to Arlo; Spot has a relatively brown body with green eyes whereas Arlo has a bright green body with brown eyes- I just noticed it watching the trailer and I love the subtlety in design like that. The Good Dinosaur is looking to be truly a special film. I know it may seem like I say that a lot, but considering the production troubles that Good Dino has gone through, and the short amount of time that most, if not all of this footage has been created in is just mind blowing to me. The team behind this film has had a long, hard road getting to this point, but I see especially in the months ahead all of their work coming to fruition and producing truly incredible results.
Now I want to take some time exploring the criticism that the trailer has faced:
The images that I have compiled all showcase Arlo up against the world that he faces. Several people have voiced criticism that Arlo looks too cartoony compared to the photo-realistic world that he inhabits. We have heard several times now, not just from interviews with director Peter Sohn but also Pixar head honcho John Lasseter regarding the contrast between the characters and the environment. The contrast is no mistake. The characters are supposed to look more "gummy" or cartoony than Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park for instance. But Arlo in particular looks very cartoony. I'll give you my reasons why I love the contrast so much.
The first reason is that it's something new. We have never seen anything like the amazingly realistic world with such stylized and eccentric characters as we have seen form the Good Dinosaur. It promises to look like nothing we have ever seen before, both from Pixar and from any other film/studio in the business. But the main reason why I love the contrast so much is because of what is says about Arlo as a character. Through the many production stumbles that this film has gone through, one of the most noticeable has been the change in age of our main character. Arco used to be a much older young adult-like character, while now Arlo seems to be much younger than anticipated, possibly 7-9 years old. The creative choice of having Arlo be a younger character isn't just a scripting choice, its also (obviously) a visual change. Having Arlo look even more stylized than other characters, and more "gummy" if you will, subliminally makes audiences see Arlo as more of a young, naive, and even vulnerable character. With younger age comes more vulnerability, and especially in a coming of age odyssey like The Good Dinosaur, vulnerability for a young character like Arlo can be stylized in his physical presence. Arco wouldn't seem so uncomfortable, scared, and well vulnerable in the greater world that he is thrust upon if he looked like an Apatosaurus from Jurassic Park. A photo-realistic world and photo-realistic character together onscreen look too comfortable together, and clearly Peter Sohn wants the exact opposite situation for telling Arlo's story.
I not only think that the stark contrast between Arlo and the environment is a good choice for storytelling, I applaud the team behind the film for taking a fairly risky visual aesthetic in character design. I believe that the criticism following this choice is just from pure shock and curiosity about where the film will go visually, and I see nothing wrong with questioning creative decisions like this. However, I also find them very exciting decisions and I can't wait to see more!
"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life."