I don’t think there’s ever been a company, in as unique a position, as Pixar found itself in for the longest time. Not only were they very much the pioneers of computer-generated graphics used in future animated movies, and the first to ever release one entirely produced as such; they’ve also had an astonishing track record of releasing movies, that were exclusively beloved by anyone, that went out to see them, for a solid decade or so. These were films appraised for their revolutionary storytelling in this medium, that continued to fascinate audiences, both young and old, years after they had come out. They hit a stride not even their very own parent company, Disney, would be able to imitate in this field. And for the longest time, it really seemed like they could do no wrong. But – I don’t need to tell you that – in recent years,
the tide has very much shifted in Pixar’s disfavour. While their widely accepted to be mediocre and unnecessary sequels have been plaguing their library for quite some time now, and though there may be the occasional outlier,
it is clear that when it comes to these films, Pixar cannot be considered infallible anymore. One truth that would usually prevail with every other mediocre Pixar film in my book, however, was that any time they take a stab at a unique story, a completely fresh tale from the studio known for its iconic concepts an stellar writing, it would be bound to result in greatness. I’ll gladly trade a somewhat forgettable sequel every other year or so, if it means getting treated to another masterpiece the one following after that. And yet, in 2015, something unique had happened. After 8 years in a row of standalone films,
that were beloved by critics across the board, we would take a break for a year or so,
to be greeted by another 2 of them in a row. One – a beautiful coming of age story, about the emotions, that make up each of our minds, that would go down in history as one of the highest-grossing, and most critically acclaimed movies of all time; and… “The Good Dinosaur”. The first Pixar film neither to get a nomination for Best Animated Movie of the year, nor turn a profit. This movie was a complete failure,
and that’s not me being cynical. This was the lowest-rated standalone Pixar film up until this point, and whenever I asked my Twitter followers, what their least favorite Pixar film was, the majority of them picked “The Good Dinosaur”,
as far as the standalone stories are concerned. Immediately after the movie came out, it seemed to have already faded into obscurity, only to be brought up by the most die-hard of Pixar fans, even though it actually stuck around the studio for a long time. And remains the one, that had to endure the most re-writes of any of their projects. At multiple points in production,
a complete restart was in order, replacing not only the entire main cast, but also its initial director. While this is nothing new for the company, nothing has ever come quite to the extent this film has, with a total of 18 months of delay prior to the film’s release. Which begs the question: how did this happen? Believe it or not, the concept of what would eventually become The Good Dinosaur, was first guessed as far back as 2009 already. When, in a bureau for Pixar’s latest film Up, in the background of one of the sculptors on the cast, you can see an inconspicuous drawing of a dinosaur, hiding behind the bust of the film’s main character Carl. The film wouldn’t be formally chosen until 2011, but ideas for a potential story about the prehistoric creatures were probably being thrown around since the company’s inception. And their reputation for making stories about literally any kind of inanimate object or animal coming to live on screen, started to precede them. Then, only known as “The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs”, the project was being discussed by the two figures most central to this entire story: Bob Peterson and Peter Sohn, who, aside from coincidentally making up two full names, that seemed like ripped straight from a Disney buddy comedy film in and of themselves, have also been no strangers to either major Pixar productions, or collaborating on a project. The both had just finished work on aforementioned the “Up”, Sohn as a storyboard artist, and Peterson as co-director to Pete Docter. While the key story components of the movie were still in development at this stage, the core plot of an alternate reality, in which the comet,
that was supposed to wipe out the dinosaurs missed the Earth, and caused them to develop into a functioning society, was one, that would be the very foundation of everything that would follow, with Peterson at the helm, and Sohn as the lead writer. According to them, the film would play with the idea of what our idea of a dinosaur was, and pretty much twist it on its head. With the deceptively simple title, that would ultimately turn out to not be as black and white, as it may have seemed. The story was to center around a Midwestern agricultural dinosaur society, similar to those seen in the 1930s, with each of the dinosaurs cast for a specific task: the triceratopses were acting as bulldozers to clear the land, the apatosauruses were plowing it and planting seeds, and so on, with the paracelofuses gathering the harvest by the end. And as this simple farm life would have continued on, the young apatosaurus Arlo encountered a strange, disfigured bug in one of his trips. Which would turn out to be the human boy Spot, named after the three little dots he had painted on his forehead. At the core of it would have been this relationship between dinosaur and human, as these two species would be able to coexist, now that there was no meteor to wipe out the dinosaurs. And after a bit of misunderstanding,
and initial discontent from one another, the two quickly would have adopted a fond, owner-dog relationship, that was supposed to carry on throughout the movie. Probably involving some form of evil dinosaur, threatening to cause an imbalance in the simple society. It was supposed to come out November 27, 2013, but it quickly became apparent, that Pixar was not going to hit that deadline. Not just ’cause “The Untitled Movie About Dinosaurs” all of a sudden had turned into what was very clearly not a movie about dinosaurs. Guess they took that idea and let it go, hehehe… It was at this point, that Peterson and his producer John Walker had run into some severe story problems. By the end of it, they had 3 plot lines going on, none of which they really knew what to do with – especially in its third act. And so in, the same year, the film was delayed for the first time. And Peterson was replaced, by none other than Sohn as the main director, with Denise Ream taking on the role of producer.
As she told Huff Post at the time: So, what did the two of them ultimately end up changing? Well, quite a lot, as it would turn out. Aside from the film being about a dinosaur called Arlo and a human child named Spot, not much from the initial concept was carried over to this revised draft. That farming concept from before took on a very minor role, only seen at two points in the film, once Nature itself took on a far more important role, as the “quasi-main villain of the film”, as they put it. Many of the initial characters were removed, including one of Arlo’s brothers, and Arlo’s potential friends, and Arlo himself was aged on drastically, from 17 to 11. And as you can imagine, his original VA [voice actor] wasn’t quite able to replicate the voice of a preteen, and made way for Arlo’s new voice actor, Raymond Ochoa. In fact, the entire voice cast, except for Frances McDormand, Arlo’s mom, has been replaced, as John Lithgow as his dad, was replaced by Jeffrey Wright, for instance. Though we may not know to what extent exactly the initial draft had changed, replacing most of your entire staff makes it seem, like there was some glaring problems, that could not be ignored. Like how the movie started vilifying a certain group of people, or in this case dinosaurs, and I’m assuming probably could have resulted in sending the wrong message, about making assumptions based on your first impressions of someone. Which, [?], going through some rewrites at the time of struggling with. They wanted to streamline and simplify the story, making it about a young dinosaur and his struggle with finding his place in the world. Proving his worth to his family, and making it more personal than the initial draft. This time, Arlo and Spot really don’t start off from the best foot, as he is tasked with protecting the family’s silo,
in order for them to survive the drought. His father Henry wants Arlo to make his mark on the world, like his siblings Libby and Buck have done before him, symbolized by the footprints on the silo, that can be seen in most of the movie’s promotional art as well. But his cowardly nature ultimately results in him getting lost in the wilderness, and alongside, his unlikely companion trying to find his way back, as they discover the true meaning of friendship along the way. And so, yet another delay later, Pixar was proud to announce, that movie was finally going to come out November 25th, 2015. It would be the first time two Pixar films are released in the same year, and two original stories at that. Leading up to the release, it looked very promising. All the promotional art give off the impression of a unique take on a classic [?] story, with a surreal setting of a world, in which dinosaurs and humans can coexist. It seemed like classic Pixar material through and through, and gorgeous one at that. Why should two films coming out the same year be a bad sign? A one that shows, they’re shredding themselves to fin. They’re Pixar, after all. When “Inside Out” came out a few months earlier, it very quickly turned into one of my favorite films in their entire library. And I was extremely curious to see, what lay beyond the trailers. What the unique twist of the story would be. What’s this film’s “mother turning into a bear”, “Wally flying to outer space”… literal rat controlling a French chef’s apprentice, by pulling on his hair? But as I left the cinema that day, there was a constant thought lingering through my head. And I was never quite able to shake it off for the rest of the week. It was eating me up inside, and I just wanted to know… Was that it?? No, for real though. Was that it? Was a predictable, Lion King-style death scene supposed to resonate with me? Were these 50 minutes of Arlo’s wandering around, supposed to be profound? Am I supposed to relate to these characters?
Was there anything I was missing? So I sat on the film for a bit, wanting to reflect, and more probably, not let initial judgement cloud my enjoyment for this film. So I went back to re-watch it, and…
oh my god, this film is so BORING! Not boring, like “Oh, yawn, I can smell what’s happening a mile away, been here, done that”. There’s some of that in here, yes, but mostly just scenes going by without any rhyme or reason. And all the characters just going through the motion,
and the story moving from point A to point B, with no in-between – there’s no charming side plot, like in “Finding Nemo”, there’s no unique side characters, like in “Monsters Inc.”,
there’s no plot for us to mix things up, like in “Coco”, this film played itself so safe, it makes it hard to believe, how many rewrites it went through! It’s not a good sign, when the 7-minute show, that aired before the film, managed to entertain this entire cinema of young kids, more than anything that came right after it. I saw families leave the theater like halfway through, I swear! And I know, I know! With things like this, it’s often easy to assume, I’m judging this too harshly, based on my expectations for this company. Which have been shattered in the past just a bit before, and ignore the fact these movies are made for kids as well. And the majority of them probably would have enjoyed this film just fine, however: 1) I don’t think Brave was anywhere near this much of a predictable snooze fest, and 2)… yes, but when were Pixar films ever “just for kids”? Wasn’t part of the magic, being able to enjoy these films to some extent, as you’re young, and getting a deeper appreciation for it, as you grow older? That’s why I didn’t quite grasp “Up” that much, when it first came out, but get to enjoy it more and more these days, for instance. But this one, might be the closest Pixar has ever gotten to releasing something, that has almost exclusively [?] the kids,
that didn’t grow up with either the “Lion King”, “The Land Before Time”, “Homeward Bound”, or “Dinosaur”, or Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs”, or “We’re Back! A Dinosaur Story”, which… didn’t- didn’t miss much. That was my only gripe with the film at first, since, obviously, this is a Pixar film,
it was gonna look stunning. That’s a given. You can hate on “Cars 2” all you want, it’s still a great looking movie. And this one simply blew it out of the water, with one scene from “The Good Dinosaur” using as much data, as the entirety of “Cars 2”. And it also took up a total of 300 terabytes of service space, 10 times as much as “Monsters University”. In typical Pixar fashion, they also had a major development under technical departament to show for themselves, as like for Merida from Brave, or Sally from Monsters Inc., the studio developed a whole new software, just to turn the clouds on the movie into what are essentially geometric shapes. And therefore, allow for light to kinda pass through in the most believable fashion, making for absolutely stunning visuals, with backgrounds so lush, they seem photorealistic. Which makes it a shame you had this giant green blob, sort of awkwardly making his way through these gorgeous metals, without a real sense od direction. Like the world’s most boring nature documentary, which funnily enough, is one of the main complaints I keep seeing brought up. Aside from it looking a little too much like Les Croods above. And I think the reason for that, it that it was trying to play itself too safe. The crew realized some time into production, that they’ve written themselves into a corner, with their initial draft for the script. Wanted their way out of there, but due to the budget already starting to balloon, also didn’t want to take too big a risk. And, potentially stray away from the initial premise they had conceived. This whole film is essentially just a road trip story with Pixar’s name on it, visually impressive one at that, like I said, but… not one, that is trying anything new to set itself apart from the rest. According to Sohn: And while I agree with this argument about the heart,
that potentially could’ve been lost due to that, simplistic approach like this is exactly why the story doesn’t work. Pixar stories have always had a simple idea at their core. Like, if you told someone 40 years ago, a franchise about talking cars, or toys, would be two of the highest grossing properties of all time, but also managed to be entertaining movies for all ages, they probably wouldn’t have believed me. As it seems too easy, to make a dumb concept like this fall flat on its face, with playing itself off as too zany, or not believable enough. But as you’re watching a movie like Cars, the suspension of disbelief always allows yourself to resonate with characters you obviously physically can’t, at the end of the day. Because, you know… they’re CARS. And that’s because, even at its simplest, Pixar still has a major conflict going on, that keeps the story interesting. In this case, the Piston Cup. Wall-E’s first half lived off of nothing, but visual comedy alone, and switched it up, right when there was the need for,
making for a great blend between the two, and not shying away from having insane ideas, like incorporating live action into this animated feature, which they had never done before. People like to rag on Brave a lot as well, but, while it may not be the most original story in the world, it is still unique for Pixar, in that they have never set a story in the past up until that point, and also, never had a fairytale centered on a female protagonist at that. It’s a Disney story, but with a twist to it, and some very charming characters to go along with it. The Good Dinosaur, on the other hand, feels too much like a movie I’ve already seen before. Like, all the symbolism and characters he encounters,
are not very well incorporated into the story naturally, but because they saw it work on another project,
and tried to insert it in such a way, that they knew would somewhat resonate with viewers, because it had worked before. The dad for instance, was not supposed to die, until Sohn stepped in for Peterson as director for this film, which, alongside aging Don Arlo, was the biggest changed that were made. But neither have to be a bad thing. If anything, because the other films have been told primarily through the perspective of adults, like Marlin, Bob and Carl, it’s a unique viewpoint for the story, as kid characters have always been around, but it’s never been such a clear-cut narrative, as this one told from the perspective of one. Sohn wanted this to be more of a survival story. It makes sense to not have Arlo be an already somewhat independent, young lad for this to work. And Arlo’s dad getting swepped away by the current feels necessary for this version to work, but honestly, should not be the final draft to end up with, for the main conflict in this film. As what is supposed to be this emotionally resonating story, should not be based in a twist, the average viewer will be able to smell happening a mile away. Not just because the twist itself is obvious, but also because it ultimately is not emotionally resonating enough, with how little screen time Arlo’s dad is being given. And the retrospective moments for Arlo to remember his dad are undermined by the film’s veil attempts at sprinkling comedy in-between. – What do you call a velociraptor, who really likes clapping? – What do you call it? – A veloci-CLAP-tor! [cue in the canned laughter] – YEEEAH! In a weird turn of events, streamlining the story has also caused the creative team to make this film feel not at all like a Pixar film. And yet, in all other ways, it is trying to be fall flat, as other side characters they meet are greatly undermined by both their traits, and the fact they only appear on screen for like, what, a split second each? Making any reasonable impact impossible. That’s probably an issue, that was a bit harder to fix, seeing as how you can’t exactly have these two things at once. But you also can’t just have your best character appear on screen for like three lines, and expect kids to buy his merchandise! THIS ISN’T CARS! To put into perspective, just how little Pixar ultimately ended up caring for this film: for the longest time, you were still able to purchase merchandise of unused characters from the movie on Amazon. Which as I might add, all look a lot better,
than any of the official stuff we ended up with. “They’re like Hulk hands, but for your feet!” “It’s like that one character, but terrifying”, and uh… bug?? [Spot bites bug’s head off] Okayy… maybe- maybe not a kid’s film. The marketing chaos of this movie does not stop with the toys, however. The final release day Pixar settled on, was unpromising as is, with how little a gap between it and Inside Out there ended up being; but, as it was still a Thanksgiving release,it’s not unreasonable to think the movie could’ve ended up doing well, at least during the first week – that worked well for Coco a few years later. The good times, where it only had to compete with “Creed” and “The Hunger Games Part II” in its second week, which it almost beat out! What was curious, however, was just how long this movie ended up staying in theaters, despite not doing that well. This makes more sense, however, when you see, that it was supposed to compete with a certain sci-fi series, making a big comeback under Disney’s helms,
mere weeks after The Good Dinosaur launched, which was when it started to lose all potential traffic. This is a common deal Disney strikes, with theater change, where they have a lesser movie come out right before a big one, and while they knew nothing could compete with Star Wars regardless, it comes off a bit shady, considering how much was going on behind the scenes. Like, they really just wanted to get rid of it at this point. They were trying to cut costs, HARD, as this film was entering its finish line, but it was to no avail. The Good Dinosaur was never a film too many people cared for, and will likely go down in history, as another one of “those” animated movies no one ever seems to bring up, until some random on the internet makes a video on it, and flocks the comment section of a random track from the game’s soundtrack decades after. HAH! Losers. But again: I think this film could’ve worked. And I can still see, why you might have found enjoyment in it. Even Ratatouille, which ended up one of Pixar’s most acclaimed movies, had a switch in directors. The movie screenplay was written by Meg LeFauve, who had previously been one of the writers on what is now my second favorite Pixar film, Inside Out. Like, all the makings of a great film are there, so how knows? Maybe if they had given it more time,
this could’ve ended up a masterpiece. I could go on, ranting about how much I dislike this film for a bit, but that isn’t the point of this video. I’m not trying to condemn anything this movie stands for. I’m not in the position to do so, and all I’m trying to achieve, is wrap my head around how it could’ve come to this, and what Pixar should learn from it. Because believe it or not – at the turn of a century,
there was another animated movie, that was going through some similar, if not
far deeper-rooted troubles, as this one did: A little film called “Emperor’s New Groove”. – Oh yeah! Then still known as “The Kingdom Of The Sun”, the movie in its first draft was supposed to star Pacha, an Aztec llama hoarder,
that decides to switch places with the emperor Manco, who he looks almost identical to, in order for the king to get a break from his royal duties. The loose adaptation of Mark Twain’s “Prince and the Pauper” was to feature a soundtrack by British singer-songwriter Sting of the Police fame, and initially, featured a lot more characters, that didn’t make it into the finished film, while others (such as Kronk) didn’t exist yet. It was ultimately decided, that the movie didn’t work in the state it was in at the time, causing the staff to start from scratch,
and retool the serious musical drama, to be the most comedy-heavy animated Disney feature to date. This all explained in much more detail, on the bad Disney documentary “The Sweatbox”. Directed by Sting’s wife, of all people. It’s up for free on YouTube, I highly recommend you check it out. David Spade: I liked it when I was… what was my old one? Interviewer: Manco.
D. Spade: Manco! Interviewer: Yeah, why did they change Manco? D. Spade: I think, um… it means, um… “pussy” in Japanese. And that’s not what bothered them.
Um, it means “bad movie” in Turkish. And they didn’t want that. What struck me as odd, when I at first watched The Sweatbox, and compared it to my recollection of The Emperor’s New Groove… was that I never got any impression of there being ANY rewrites involved in it. The story seemed like such a refined product, from beginning to end, that I never would have questioned, whether it was ever centering around anything other than an egotistical emperor, on an unlikely adventure with a common shepherd, and everything that came with it. As viewers, we shouldn’t be supposed to think about this stuff. But rather, it’s the severe lack of any likable or unique side characters, repetition of its own plot points, mashing together visual cues from way too many better films, and lackluster conclusion – there are just too many points in this film, where you can tell, how badly they were trying not to delay the inevitable even further. And the inevitable… hit them hard. While the initial production cost was already somewhere in the ballpark of $200,000,000, it was the $150,000,000 in marketing they spent,
in desperately trying to get the word out about this film, after what I can only assume to be “Pixar fatigue”, after another one of theirs had already come out a few months prior, that tipped it over the edge, and made it lose a total of over $85,000,000; putting it on par with their competitor, Dreamworks’ previous failure, “Rise of the Guardians”, 3 years before. Or, making it the lowest-grossing Pixar film to date, even without marketing. The second would be “A Bug’s Life”, which was still the highest-grossing animated feature of that year. This one is not even lucky enough to call itself the highest-grossing dinosaur film of that year. But ultimately, it isn’t just a time and cost management lesson Pixar should have learned and take away from this experience. And I’m sure they’ll get by just fine, seeing as how the succeding film “Finding Dory” made more in opening weekend, than “Good Dinosaur” in total domestically. It shouldn’t even be about them learning a lesson about storytelling, that’s seems to have gotten lost over the years,
or something schmaltzy like that. If there’s anything to learn from all this, it’s for us to realize, that not even a company like Pixar, one that used to seem incapable of ever slipping up, will do so eventually. And that’s okay. We got to witness an impeccable run of animated features, thanks to the creative minds that work on them. All of which have quite the legacy to leave behind. Maybe it is time for them to take the next step in their journey, and revisit past tales. Come back to those films, that both shaped many a childhood, and will be the introduction to a new one at some point in the future. We can call ourselves lucky, that despite Cars 2’s obvious flaws, and this one not going down in history as anything remarkable, there’s not been a single, objectively terrible Pixar film to this day, as they all have something in them to enjoy. Raymond Ochoa: Yeah, the high, high bar to reach. I felt, like it succeeded in my way, because just being a part of that type of franchise, it that type of company, it’s already success in itself. Whatever… I know there’s kids that, you know, throw Good Dinosaur birthday parties, and things like that. When you have moments like that,
it is successful in its own way. No matter what review we’ve gotten, or what reviews we get… I’ll always just cherish being a part of the film. Because I still am a part of the Pixar legacy, and I always will be, and that’s something that I’ll always love. Hey guys, thank you so much for watching. Uh, if i sounded sick, at all… that’s ’cause I still am. Hence the long break in-between videos. But I wanted to give a shout-out to my friend Jim Gisriel for helping with the research on this video. Go check out his channel, he’s AWESOME. Of course, also shout-out to Raymond Ochoa for agreeing to be a part of this video, despite… you know, not being the biggest fan of this film myself. You’ve been a huge help, dude, thank you so much. Thanks also to my top Patreon supporters for June: Ryan Walterson, Paleosteno, Deley18,
and The Face of Team Rocket. If you wanna keep the channel going,
then Patreon is the best way to do so, I have tons of stuff, like…
way too much stuff coming up. So if you’re excited for that at all, I hope to see you then, and uh… bye!