Pixar's Peter Sohn on Boarding 'A Good Dinosaur': "I Was Terrified"

Peter Sohn - H 2015
Fabricio Reyna

Peter Sohn - H 2015

At the Mar del Plata film festival, the director of 'Partly Cloudy' talked about taking over Pixar's upcoming Thanksgiving release.

Pixar's latest first-timer, A Good Dinosaur's Peter Sohn leveled with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday about taking over the wheel after Bob Peterson's removal from the director seat, a decision that pushed the film's release for a year.

Artistic recalls are not strange in Pixar, which reportedly did similar moves with Toy Story 2, Ratatouille, and Brave. "They do it all the time, but witnessing it was pretty incredible, because those guys really care about making the best film possible, that is their sincere focus. Yet at the same time I was terrified", Sohn said at the Mar del Plata film festival, where he attended as part of his PR tour, which included a screening of 30 minutes of footage of the film, to be released on Nov. 25 in the US.

"Taking that responsibility was intimidating," Sohn says. "But, I do have a sincere love for movies. I relied on that. And Bob pitched the heart out of this thing; the original concept was his. He pitched it to John Lassetter, this idea of a dinosaur story that flipped the whole boy-and-dog concept, and when I took over I wanted to honor that the best as I could. In terms of simplifying it, I'd say the heart is still that original thing," he adds.  

Based on a "what if" about the asteroid that allegedly killed all dinosaurs missing the Earth, A Good Dinosaur tells the story of a young Apatosaurus who gets stranded from home and starts a coming-of-age journey back, aided by with a young savage human boy.

"This is a survival movie," Sohn says. "There are some intense scenes about a kid just trying to survive out there. Moments like in Bambi or those early Disney films, the classic ones, where they do go to a place where they're dealing with themes that are a little darker than usual, but that only helps depicting what a kid goes through when they're maturing. That's what I always loved about those early Disney films: they respected what life offered you. Life has dark times, and happy times, and miraculous times," he adds.

After taking the lead, Sohn's first decision was to make Arlo younger. "He was more of an adult character in the beginning," he reveals. "Actually, in most of Pixar films the characters are more of an adult point of view, so this is one of the first ones when we really brought it down to a youthful one, and I really wanted to keep it simple with the coming of age concept. We were excited about the fact that if we keep it simple, we let the characters and the world breathe," he adds. 

Studio heads and staff proved to be safety net for the director of Partly Cloudly. "It's a studio filled with filmmakers, and it's run by filmmakers, who have been in this journey for 20 years. In the beginning they told me 'we believe in you Peter, you can do this.' If I made a mistake and said 'I'm sorry', it was like 'don't apologize, I fell in that same place before. Keep going'. I don't know if I would get that opportunity in other places. So, that was a big deal, that type of support," he adds.