One of the chief creative edicts at Pixar is that if it’s not working, scrap it and try something different. Virtually every Disney•Pixar film has had a moment when it looked like it just wasn’t going to work. This started with Toy Story, which, before becoming a groundbreaking classic was very nearly canceled by executives, amidst concerns about the movie’s brash characterizations and wayward narrative. This kind of bold reconceptualization befell nearly every Disney•Pixar film since then, including Ratatouille, a film that swapped out its core creative team 18 months before it was scheduled to hit theaters. Even next week’s Inside Out, which fits squarely into the category of flat-out masterpiece, was a lengthy production fraught with periods of indecisiveness. At this point it’s practically built into the Pixar development process, something Pixar president Ed Catmull admitted in his book Creativity, Inc. And it’s easy to see why, since the proof is in the pudding – there hasn’t been a dud in the bunch.
The Good Dinosaur went through a similar process of readjustment and creative recalibration, with several core creative principles swapped out and the storyline extensively retooled. As the recently released teaser trailer demonstrated, it’s going to be high concept and super adorable. And thanks to the changes, we’re even more excited to see the film, now opening on November 25.
Part of the radical remodel of The Good Dinosaur includes a brand new cast. Raymond Ochoa, a young actor from NBC’s The Night Shift, will now play Arlo, the titular dinosaur (a role originally assigned to Lucas Neff); Jeffrey Wright, a wonderful character who has appeared in everything from Shaft to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, will play Arlo’s father, Poppa (originally played by John Lithgow); Frances McDormand will be Momma, Arlo’s mother (she was cast originally!); and Marcus Scribner from black-ish will play Buck, Arlo’s brother (replacing Inside Out’s Bill Hader, who played a different brother called Forrest). Neil Patrick Harris and Judy Greer once played members of Arlo’s extended family, but those characters been deleted altogether (thank goodness we can get our NPH fix at Disney California Adventure with World of Color and California Screamin’). New characters and cast members include Steve Zahn, from Steven Soderbergh’s brilliant Out of Sight, as a pterodactyl named Thunderclap; AJ Buckley (Justified) as a T-Rex called Nash; Anna Paquin (True Blood) as T-Rex Ramsey, and the velvety voiced Sam Elliott, from cult classic Road House (and a million other amazing movies and TV shows), as a tough T-Rex named Butch. Additionally, Arlo’s human friend, Spot, has been cast, with Jack Bright (Monsters University) essaying the character.
The Good Dinosaur, directed by Peter Sohn, will be out November 25, 2015.