If you grew up watching Pixar’s collection of iconic animated feature films, then you will definitely be looking forward to their string of upcoming projects waiting to be rolled out.
First up on the roster is The Good Dinosaur, a coming-of-age story that’s along the lines of the classic “boy and his dog” tale – except the “boy” is a young Apatosaurus named Arlo, and the “dog” is a feral human child named Spot. It covers Arlo’s journey from a timid little thing to a brave young “man” as he sets out to find the family he was tragically separated from.
Local and international media were treated to an exclusive preview of several scenes from the movie, which hits Singapore theatres on November 26, at a presentation by Pixar Animation Studios president Jim Morris yesterday afternoon (October 1).
From what we observed from the short clips, viewers are in for yet another stunning visual feast – in fact, even more stunning than its many predecessors, as ever-advancing technology has enabled animators to achieve even more jaw-dropping results with every flick they churn out. The nature views in particular were so realistic that Jim had to remind everyone that what we were seeing were not videos: they were all computer-generated.
“The Good Dinosaur can almost be called Outside In,” Jim, playing on the title of the studio’s current release Inside Out, said of all the breath-taking outdoor sequences that span from rocky mountaintops to grassy plains.
But like Inside Out and every other Pixar gem before it, what really stays with audiences are the emotional aspects of the story. Sniffles could be heard around the hall during a simple but heart-wrenching scene in which Arlo and Spot use sticks and sand to explain what happened to their families (remember to have tissues ready for this one).
Sometimes, however, those tears might also be from laughing too much. We were introduced to all kinds of quirky characters and their peculiar antics in The Good Dinosaur, including an over-paranoid Triceratops that keeps live animals as protective “talismans” on its head, as well as a trio of T-rex who, unlike in most dinosaur stories, are not the main baddies.
“We’re very proud of The Good Dinosaur,” said Jim. “It has a lot of funny moments but also a lot of emotions, just like Inside Out.”
A first look at Finding Dory, Toy Story 4 and Coco
The excitement doesn’t stop after The Good Dinosaur finishes its run in cinemas, particularly for fans of classic favourites Finding Nemo and Toy Story: both box office behemoths will be getting sequels in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Finding Dory, which takes place six months after the events in 2003’s Finding Nemo, places the spotlight on the bumbling and scatter-brained but beloved titular character, voiced once again by popular comedian Ellen Degeneres. We were given more sneak peeks of the show, including some unfinished renderings and rough drawings.
“If you liked Finding Nemo, you will like Finding Dory,” Jim declared. The film is slated to open in local cinemas on June 16 next year.
Then, in 2017, Woody and Buzz Lightyear (along with their original – and, in our opinion, irreplaceable – voice actors Tom Hanks and Tim Allen) come back with a bang in Toy Story 4, which Jim said almost didn’t happen.
“We were very happy with the trilogy and originally didn’t want to make another Toy Story unless someone came up with an absolutely irresistible idea,” he said. Well, someone obviously did, and now the story will take a romantic turn as it focuses on Woody and his porcelain love Bo Peep.
The presentation didn’t end there. Yet another project in the pipeline is Coco, which is based on the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead and follows a young boy’s journey into the underworld. Don’t be fooled by the dark-sounding premise, though: a test video we were shown promised loads of fun, music and vibrant colours, with the happiest-looking skeletons we’ve ever seen dancing about in their cheery afterlife.
“This has the potential to be a visually striking film filled with great comedy,” said Jim. Coco is expected to be out some time in late 2017 to 2018, but we can hardly wait already.
Jim Morris: We need to be able to say something is not good enough
Ever since Toy Story, Pixar’s first baby and the world’s first feature-length animated film, was released in 1995 (yes, it’s already been 20 years!), the studio has delivered 15 out of 15 commercially and (mostly) critically successful pictures that have collectively grossed almost US$10 billion worldwide.
During a brief Q&A session after the presentation, Jim divulged the secret to this impressive track record. “We’re terrified that we’re not going to get it right. We need to be able to look at something and say that it’s just not good enough.”
This is where the company’s “Braintrust” comes in. Every few months, a team will meet to review an ongoing project and to discuss what works and what doesn’t, but everything is done in a very constructive manner. “Our only motive is always to make the film better,” said Jim.
Another key to their victory is passion. “We make films the filmmaker is passionate about, and we make films that we want to see and hope that others want to see them too.”
The Good Dinosaur is in cinemas November 26. Stay tuned for our interview with Pixar Animation Studios president Jim Morris!