Have you seen the trailer for Disney Pixar's next feature The Good Dinosaur yet? Are you ready to have your heart melted into a little puddle? Check it out below:
The Good Dinosaur takes place on an alternate version of Earth in which the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs never hit and so the species never became extinct. It flows a young Apatosaurus called Arlo who, after losing his father, ends up lost far from home and lost. On his journey to find his way home he meets a young caveperson, Spot, who accompanies him on his travels.
The Good Dinosaur has been in production for so many years now (since as far back as 2009) that some doubted it would ever see the light of day. But here it is, and it's due to be released November 25th 2015. Following on from this Pixar will be releasing Finding Dory in June 2016; Coco, in November 22, 2017; Cars 3 and The Incredibles 2 for as-yet unknown release dates and finally - the highly anticipated Toy Story 4, scheduled to be released June 2017.
With the kerfuffle around the production of The Good Dinosaur the anticipation for it's release has been swept under the rug somewhat, but there's every possibility that it could go on to be as defining for Pixar as the likes of Toy Story; the two stories do draw from a similar core.
The Music & Visuals
First things first; The Good Dinosaur looks and sounds gorgeous from what we've seen so far.
The music was composed by Academy Award-winning composer Mychael Danna (famous for Life of Pi and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Danna is also composing the music for the upcoming Deadpool movie). The opening soundtrack in the trailer blends in perfectly with the vocals of Nanna Hilmarsdóttir in Crystals (Of Monsters and Men).
It's visually beautiful too, though some have criticised the way the more cartoony looking Arlo pops from the background. He looks more toy-like and out of place from the background than the rest - probably for reasons of selling merchandise - but I don't think the contrast takes away from it too much. In fact it helps illustrate his separation from the environment, which becomes important when you consider...
The Nature of Conflict
One of the major story reshuffles made during production was introducing the concept of nature as being the main antagonist in The Good Dinosaur.
Arlo is separated from his family through an act of nature; he falls into a river which sweeps him far from home. And it's the journey through the harsh, mysterious and evolving landscape that forms the backdrop of his story and no doubt will provide moments of conflict and beauty.
In a way this mirrors the first two Toy Story films where the main antagonist is arguably time itself; something that the toys are powerless to fight against as they're swept along by it, closer and closer to the day that Andy will no longer want to play with them. Just as nature is as cruel as it is beautiful, so is the intangibility of time as it passes through our fingers.
"It’s a very funny story about a certain way of life that a young dinosaur has trouble fitting into and he ends up going on this quest. He kind of messes up and he has to put everything right by going on this quest and on that quest he meets this character that is an outcast from his society too and so the two of them form this bond and it becomes this unique kind of story..." - John Lasseter [Pixar CCO]
The central facet of The Good Dinosaur is Arlo's journey home. In traditional storytelling the hero's journey is always mirrored by a personal journey of growth. As is typical with films aimed at children and featuring a childish protagonist, the journey is one of growing up - in age, in mindset - overcoming fears and developing as a person.
Toy Story is the same, as mentioned before the toys struggle with the fact that whilst Andy grows they remain the same and Jessie's story in Toy Story 2 illustrates this fear. However, by the conclusion of Toy Story 3 they learn that this is not something to be feared but rather to be embraced as a part of growing up, and they start their new adventure with Bonnie.
The Encapsulation of Childhood
Just as Toy Story captured the childhood fascination with toys that seem alive so does The Good Dinosaur build upon the back of an almost childlike preoccupation with dinosaurs. Bob Peterson, who produced the concept for the film and was attached to direct until 2013, said the inspiration came from a childhood visit to the 1964 New York World's Fair where he was fascinated by some dinosaur animatronics.
In addition to the physical appearance of the childlike Arlo with his wide eyes and round features you have the bond that he creates with the human child - a bond that I think many of us would have loved to have had as children (or even now) with our own pet dinosaurs.
Indeed dinosaurs have been at the forefront of childhood imagination for a long long time now, since their existence first became widely known in the mid-late 1800's. How many of us had dinosaur toys as a child, and watched films about them? (I myself had a brachiosaurus with a well worn neck, and watched the Jurassic Park films from behind the couch).
Tapping into this vein now could serve Pixar well, as it been a while since we've had a popular children's animated feature with the dinosaur as protagonist. Building off the back of the current resurgence in dino-popularity with the Jurassic World franchise reboot it may turn out that the delays in release will help The Good Dinosaur come opening weekend. But will it take the Pixar crown from this years wonderful Inside Out? We'll just have to wait and see.