Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur may not look like it at first, but it does have some aspects of a Western that you would see in the rarely seen genre. In the upcoming animated film, Sam Elliot (Tombstone, Justified), Anna Paquin (True Blood, X-Men: Days of Future Past), and AJ Buckley (Justified, Narcos) provide the voices for Butch, Ramsey, and Nash, respectively, a family of T-Rexes who also happen to be cattle ranchers. They are just like any family in a western film, they have a very deep bond with each other, and are fascinated by the incredible stories their father tells. Together, they help Arlo get home, as long as the skittish apatosaurus is able to help them draw out some nasty rustlers who are stealing their cattle.
Geeks Of Doom was invited to sit down with the three film stars along with a group of our fellow journalists during the press day for The Good Dinosaur. During that time, the three actors talked about how weird Pop Vinyls look, finding the voice and the roars to their characters, being a part of the Pixar legacy, and much more. Check out our interview with the three actors here below.
Paquin walked in holding a toy figure of her character, Ramsey. It’s not every day you get to see yourself as a toy, but one thing she wasn’t quite sure of at first was the Pop Vinyls that have become increasing popular throughout the years. The actress said, “I have one of those weird bobble head thingies from True Blood. You know those ones that became weirdly popular. Those things that look like little squares. That I have never seen before until someone sent me a picture asking me ‘Can we get your approval?’ And I go ‘What the hell is this?’ Is that me? Is that suppose to look like me? Because it really doesn’t. No, I like this. This is cool.”
On what affected their decision to work with Pixar, Paquin said, “It means you don’t ask any questions after,” while Buckley said, “I seriously texted to my agent, ‘Are you sure?’ It’s me? They really want me?'”
Unfortunately, the three were unable to see their respective character designs, and based their vocal performance on what in the script. “There was a rendering, it was what I saw,” said Elliot. “It was only a couple of pages. I did my part of this in one session. It wasn’t at Pixar, I’m sorry to say. It was in Santa Monica. But going into these things, it’s not like going into do a job or a live-action thing, where you prepare, learn, try to look good, or look shitty, or whatever. It’s kind of an unknown territory.” Elliot then spoke highly of director Peter Sohn’s directing abilities. “The thing of it was, Peter is truly incredible. Talented actor in his own right, in the voiceover world. He knew specifically everything he wanted. And that’s all an actor asks for from a director. It made it a lot of fun, and pretty easy.”
Buckley had to make a few adjustments to his recording sessions in order to find Nash. One of the reasons why he was chosen was because Sohn liked the actor’s role of Danny Crowe in Justifed. He said they took his voice of Danny Crowe from Justified, then animated it to a scene that they already had laid down a track to, then they blended it. So when he went to record, he tried to play around with it, but couldn’t get it right the first couple of times. So as he tried to find Danny Crowe, he remembered that he had tobacco chew while on Justified. While there was no chew available at the time, he did pick up a handful of Jolly Ranchers, and stuck them in his mouth. And as soon as that happened, Nash came out.
Bringing a T-Rex to the animation world isn’t easy, but the unique thing about it, as Paquin would explain, is that “they are bigger, badder, and cooler… and tougher.” But it was hard “not to sound like an idiot” to Sam Elliot, who had already laid down his track, according to the actress.
For Paquin, it was a no-brainer to join the film. Having seen almost all of Pixar’s films, she and her husband (her True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer) wondered what they needed to do to get a voice role on their radar. “It just kinda came my way. It was awesome. I’m so flattered,” said Paquin.
One of the messages of The Good Dinosaur is that it is okay to be afraid, because if you are not afraid, then you are not alive. Elliot said, “It’s like a universal tale. It speaks to humankind. We are all going through it. We all go through it all our lives. Fear of the unknown. Survival. Trying to do what’s right, or wrong. I think there are a lot of themes and a lot of different lessons. The most exciting thing to me is that it’s great family fare. We’ve all done the dark stuff. I’ve done a couple of these family things before, but the fact that it is family fare. We’re in the entertainment. Fucking world we are living in today is as dark as it is, horrific as it is, how lucky are we to be sitting here making these kind of movies. It is a real gift.”
Paquin appreciates how one of the themes is that “struggles are hard, and setbacks in life are things that make you stronger and reach higher, and be a better stronger person.” She added, “We see him go from being completely weak and defenseless and terrified to in a position to take care of his friend who has been there for him. That sort of circular message.”
In recording sessions, you have a chance to drop your vanity, especially when you have to voice and roar a beast like a T-Rex. For Paquin, finding the voice of Ramsey was a bit of trial and error, and there were some aspects of True Blood as well that they liked. “My roar came very naturally,” said Paquin. “I’d say, 24 years of being a girl/woman in the film industry, and never getting to be, for the most part, anything other than girly girls, trust me there was like several decades worth of roar. True Blood was awesome because [Sookie Stackhouse] was badass in a very different way, but Ramsey is one of the dudes. There’s actually nothing unfeminine about that. I think that is really great. That is one of the stuff I would have loved to have watched growing up. If I was allowed to watch movies. It’s really cool.” Elliot wasn’t sure if he had one. He also wasn’t sure if it was enhanced, but he feels positive that it was. As for Buckley, he said director Peter Sohn helped him find it. “Peter said just literally do Danny Crowe, which is crazy because he was this murderous, rapist, sociopath,” said Buckley, “which is crazy.”
“He’s just very misunderstood,” joked Paquin.
But in regards to finding Nash’s roar, it wasn’t easy for the Justified actor. “The first time I did it, I felt really ridiculous,” said Buckley.
Watching The Good Dinosaur, many noticed how much the film felt like a Western, especially when Arlo meets the T-Rexes for the first time. While the genre may look like it’s dying, Pixar’s latest film can be seen as something that can not only keep the genre alive, but introduce it to a younger audience. “I’m never going to let that bone go,” said Elliot. “I have a couple of westerns that I still intend to get made at some point in time. I just think there is great value in that genre. The simplicity of it is one of the things. Black and white, the lack of a gray area, which I think is in this as well. I think there is a lot of elements in it that are common to this, and that is man’s struggle against man, and struggle against nature, and struggle against himself. Those are the three themes that were most important to me in the westerns that I did. I think that those speak to a lot of people. I think on some kind of level, although some of the younger audience may not intellectualize that, they’ll be turned on to it, their curiosity. You don’t see too many kids play cowboys and indians.”
“I do that all the time,” joked Buckley. To which Elliot responded, “but you’re a different kind of kid.”
Now that these three are part of the Pixar legacy, the actors shared their favorite Pixar films. “Toy Story for me,” said Buckley. “You know when the boy goes to leave the room, and he turns back quick to see if they are real? I did that. I thought the toys, every time I turned by back, were having a dance party. I did that. It justified so much of my childhood. That’s why that’s my favorite movie, because I really used to do that. Transformers and my G.I. Joes would be hanging out.”
Doing a voice role comes with a few perks as well, such as kids recognizing your voice or having their parents say he did the voice of said character. Elliot finds being recognized a real trip though. “I did this movie back in 74 called Lifeguard, and it was all young girls. And now it’s like their mothers. They go, ‘Oh my mom just loves you.'” He added, “It is a huge thing to be a part of this legacy. It’s huge. It’s like a milestone of sorts career wise. There is so much work that goes into it. We’ve covered so much time, the production of it. It is mind boggling. There is so many people you never cross paths with. On a film, you meet so many of the people who are involved. This thing you never see most of them.”
For Buckley, the 37-year-old actor promised he would show up at his friend’s son’s bar mitzvah in a T-Rex outfit.
Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur opens in theaters on November 25, 2015.