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Pixar’s ‘The Good Dinosaur’ Interview: Stars Jeffrey Wright & Raymond Ochoa
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The Good Dinosaur header photo

Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur suffered a huge setback when production had to be overhauled. With the film having to basically start from square one, a majority of those working on it from animation to the cast had to start anew. And for the cast,it meant that their parts were scrubbed, and eventually replaced with an entirely new cast, with an entirely new story.

Despite these huge changes, Pixar managed to get through it all, and come out with a beautiful film about family and maturity. We were invited to sit down with a group of our fellow journalists to talk a little bit about the film with its stars Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2) and Raymond Ochoa (Fallout 4).

Just below, find out what these two had to say about their recording sessions, their favorite Pixar film, and more.

How was he pitched, what sold him on being in a Pixar film?

Jeffery Wright: For me, I got the invitation to be a part of it. Of course consulted with my kids. My 14 year old son, my 10-year-old daughter. I asked, ‘Do you know anything about this Good Dinosaur movie?’ And they are all, “WHAT!?” They pretty much made the decision for me. And it’s not only them. The decision was made when I had taken my kid, my son, was Finding Nemo. You know, these stories have become central in the pop culture journey that my kids have been on, and for me as well. As a father, it’s taking it in through their eyes. It’s as much of a no-brainer as one could possibly imagine. Not only because of the legacy of these films, but it really is the quality of these films, and themes that they are exploring, particularly one as a parent, just exploring the challenges of parenthood, the failures the successes, the celebration of family, and all of those things.

The parental frustration is not communicated very much, so to see that in The Good Dinosaur was great. What did you think when you read that?

Jeffery Wright: A big part of parenthood is frustration. A big part of it is learning, you know. Learning, you’re trying to teach. So that is an element I found particularly on point. Just the find balance between nurturing and damaging. In terms of encouraging your kids, pushing your kids to be, to really fulfill everything that they are. I think the key is that, I think what Poppa, and his wisdom understands, is that we’re not as parents to impose our aspirations on our kids, but help fulfill their aspirations, and those are individual for each child. Sometimes our own ego as parents can get in the way, instead of creating healthy children, it would be more towards creating monsters. So that was a real central element for me in this as we kind of explored these dynamics.

You guys confirm that you not get to record your voices together, how much of it was a challenge to use just your voice as opposed to using your whole bodies and getting the chemistry right?

Raymond Ochoa: When I record, I do use my entire body. When I do stuff, it brings out more emotion. You can’t just talk into a mic, and sound like your sad. IF you use your entire body, it sounds better. You are bringing out more emotion. It’s just showing more. I’m not sure with other actors.

Jeffery Wright: With this one, I used my voice, and my tail largely.

Raymond Ochoa: I used my long neck. The mic was high.

Jeffery Wright: I very much enjoy voice work. Coming from the theater, the voice is the central tool, in the theater. Working on film, or a documentary, animated features, there is an opportunity to kind of be nuanced, and subtle, and focus with it, that I very much enjoyed. The challenge was that you don’t know what the hell you are doing, you know. That’s the challenge, like ‘where am I? who? what?’ We see elements of it, but these scenes are described.

Raymond Ochoa: I think the best thing was our director. He was so helpful in telling us, “what’s the scenario, what’s going on.” He was very helpful telling us the background. It was really like having another person there, that was like reading with Jeffery, or with Anna, or whoever was in the scene I was with, or he was with. He was just so helpful in guiding us in the right direction.

Jeffrey Right: Peter was the glue between all of us. He was so specific, and so detailed, and so patient. Really, wonderfully childlike in his passion for this stuff, as though the themes, and they clearly are, the themes within the movie are deeply personal for him. It was really cool. The best part of filmmaking is collaboration, and the worst part of it is it can be a collaboration. It is all a function of who is at the party. In this case, he was pretty much, from our perspective, he was the entire crowd. He’s playing every role, describing all the graphics that were going into it, and doing it with absolute precision and clarity. That’s so important. Tremendous leadership from him.

When you’re in these recording sessions, you kind of have to drop your vanity…

Jeffrey Wright: Speak for yourself. I never drop my vanity. I’m an actor after all.

…What was the most challenging reaction that you had to work on?

Raymond Ochoa: There are so many scenes where I am crying, where I am screaming. I think the most challenging for me, is me trying to howl. Me howling was the most difficult thing ever. Trying to get one howl correctly was the worst thing. I was literally on the verge of saying, “Pete, just go on the internet, and find like a wolf howling. You’ll get the best there.” But we actually finally got one, it took like five times of coming to the booth. I think that was the most challenging for me.

Jeffrey Wright: The most challenging parts for me were thinking of the smaller more subtle moments that Peter would describe. But now seeing the film, and seeing what he was going for, I understand now, but just these subtle ironic thing. Just the things that weren’t so obvious. The emotions, and the tones, that weren’t so obvious. The smaller things that I really only fully appreciated after watching the movie. Again, that speaks to the level of the detail of his vision. Just the smaller things. Which are so small I can’t describe in detail.

Watching it again, does it make you feel like you should have taken a different approach?

Jeffrey Wright: There might have been one moment there like “Oh, okay.” Might have been one.

Raymond Ochoa: You can always improve. Nobody’s perfect. In a movie, there is always something where you could have made it sound better, you could have done something that would have made it better. But you know, the outcome, I was highly satisfied. That’s what it was.

Jeffrey Wright: That’s why the theater so great. Because you have time to do it perfectly, or I’ve given perfect performances in theater if you had been there, you would have seen that.

Do you guys remember your first Pixar film, and what it meant to you?

Raymond Ochoa: Monsters, Inc. was mine. That was my first one. My brothers, that’s their favorite movie, and my too when it comes to Pixar, and probably in general my favorite movie. Yeah, there are huge Monsters, Inc. fans. I remember watching it with them. They showed me that. I’m so glad they did, because that’s when I actually fell in love with Pixar. To be here today, where some day people can be like “what’s your favorite movie?” and they can be like “oh, The Good Dinosaur,” it’s wow.

Jeffrey Wright: My first film was, big Pixar film was, Finding Nemo. It was the first movie that I went to with son and his mom, when he was, I think he was young enough that he slept through it. We watched, and then we watched five to six hundred times as he was growing up. My favorite of Pixar is Ratatouille, which is kind of kind of ironic today because of what happened in Paris. Such a loving animated portrait of that city, it captured wonderfully of the essence of some parts of the joie de vivre culture there. So that’s my particular favorite. I also like to eat, so there’s that.

What was your favorite part of the story?

Jeffrey Wright: I guess I am going to be bias, because it’s going to be from my perspective. I’m going to be anyway, I’m just trying to be a little self-depreciating, falsely. My [favorite] is this relationship, and not only, it’s really the legacy of the relationship between father and son, and the secular nature of their journey, which my son picked on as well, which is accented in the movie in terms of beginning with the father and ending with the young man, you know. That’s some pretty cool stuff.

Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur opens in theaters on November 25, 2015.

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