The Good Dinosaur concept art

T-Rex Movement Was Based on Humans?

The animators initially studied ostriches and other birds for the T-Rex characters in the films. They went back and looked at The Jungle Book and Jurassic Park for reference, for good and bad. And they came out of it all with a working model of how the T-Rex would move. But director Pete Sohn was not happy with the results. They looked too realistic and not character-like.

Instead, he wanted their movement to look more like the movement of a cowboy on a horse, to better reflect their personalities and jobs as ranchers. When they’re running, their lower bodies mimic that of galloping horses, while their upper bodies have the feel of the riding cowboy.

Butch, the tough T-Rex Arlo encounters on his journey, has a fun easter egg. According to supervising animator Mike Venturini, when Butch grins, his big white teeth resemble the actor who provides his voice, Sam Elliott’s signature moustache. Filmmakers looked at classic movie cowboys like characters portrayed by Clint Eastwood and Jack Palance to help inspire Butch’s physical look and performance.

Spot’s Movements Were Not…

For Spot, the human character that is befriended by Arlo and comes along on his journey, the animation team studied a lot of wolves, dogs, critters and raccoons. The character of Spot is more of a dog than a human in the function of the story, so it just made sense to model his movements off of creatures of that kind.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR - Color script by Sharon Calahan. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

More Than Twice as Many Effects Were Created Than in Any Other Pixar Movie

Over 900 effects shots were created for The Good Dinosaur, twice as many as Pixar has ever done in a feature. And the effects run a very wide range from big to subtle. For those of you who don’t know, the effects department is responsible for providing many of the natural phenomena you see onscreen: smoke, fire, fog, water, etc. Motion is important to the effects department to give you a sense of scale, timing and weight. For instance, the way snow mists in the wind off the top of mountain might reflect the mood of the scene.

They use physics simulation software, using different toolsets for different problems. The software solves equations of motion for every frame of an effect, as it understands the physics of how things are supposed to move and behave.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR - Lighting study by Sharon Calahan.  ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

How Spielberg’s Duel Influenced The Good Dinosaur

Brave had a couple dozen shots of a river, and it was one location, one small river. The Good Dinosaur has over 200 shots of water in the film, and it’s a long river so there is more than 125 shots of the river alone. And to make matters worse, water is by far the hardest thing for the effects department to create.

Everyone knows what water is supposed to look like, so if they get it even a little wrong, everyone will notice. The effects team took a research trip with the crew and went whitewater rafting, capturing video footage to use as reference for a big sequence where Arlo gets carried downriver. Software simulations of a river can be very expensive and time-consuming and take up a lot of render time.

The river needs to parallel the emotional relationship between Arlo and Spot. You will notice that the water has a more angry, foamy whitewater appearance early on, and later after the characters have developed a friendship, the water appears a lot calmer.

To accomplish the task of creating over 200 shots of a running river, the effects team created seven or eight different river pieces that they could combine like LEGO building blocks to fit any scene of the film. When properly combined, no one will notice they are seeing the same sections of river over and over again. Director Pete Sohn referenced Steven Spielberg’s Duel, which was filmed using one small section of highway over and over again.

The Good Dinosaur water

One Water Sequence in The Good Dinosaur Is Larger Than the Data for Cars 2

The Good Dinosaur had over 300 terabytes just for the effects data alone. For comparison, that’s ten times more than the effects data for Monsters University. Just the big sequence of Arlo being swept away took up 17 terabytes, or more than the data for the entire production of Cars 2 including all the characters, environments, and effects. Pixar’s storage and network had to be significantly upgraded to handle the effects workflow of The Good Dinosaur.

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