Pixars The Good Dinosaur footage reaction: Cannes 2015

Pixar is no stranger to Cannes. The beloved animation house opened the festival in 2009 with Up, and screened Inside Out to rapturous applause earlier this week, so it’s no surprise John Lasseter brought something extra special to the festival this year – a detailed preview of Pixar and Disney Animation Studio’s upcoming slate of films.

Lasseter described 2015 as a “milestone year” for Pixar, the first in the studio’s history where they would be releasing two movies – Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur and the biggest chunk of his presentation was devoted to the latter. All of Pixar’s films ask questions: what if toys came to life when you weren’t around? What if monsters were real? But The Good Dinosaur asks the biggest question of all, Lasseter said: what if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs missed Earth?

A lot of the footage that Lasseter showed was still a work in progress, but it was already plain to see that The Good Dinosaur will be among Pixar’s most visually accomplished films to date. Footage of water falling on leaves, vast foliage-filled mountainsides and geysers spewing steaming water looked so real we assumed it was research material until Lasseter clarified it had all been created in a computer.

Main dino Arlo has a more stylised look. He’s a leaf-green Apatosaurus and utterly charming, appearing slightly awkward in his own body, and moving like he hasn’t quite grasped how to operate his own limbs properly yet. In The Good Dinosaur’s world herbivores are farmers, and at the start of the film Arlo’s father Henry is killed in a tragic accident. Shortly after Arlo falls into some rapids and is knocked unconscious (the water looked astonishing in this sequence, as life-like as water has looked on screen), finding himself hundreds of miles from home.

In the wilderness Arlo meets Spot – a tiny human boy who’s more canine than homo sapien, walking on all fours, crying like a wolf and not speaking a word (Arlo on the other hand is voiced with youthful exuberance by Lucas Neff). Lasseter described the film as a “boy and dog story, but the roles are reversed” and together the two set out to find Arlo’s home. We were shown a sequence where Arlo tries to explain what family is and that his father died to Spot using twigs in the sand – a genuinely touching moment despite the fact this was the first proper bit of footage we were seeing of these characters.

Other highlights included velociraptors with feathers that look like haircuts, a triceratops with animals living on his horns who acts as a sort of spiritual guide for Arlo, pterodactyls (which are the vultures of The Good Dinosaur’s world), square-jawed T-Rexes (who aren’t all that bad) and a beautiful sequence in a field where Arlo stirs up some fireflies with his tail, much to Spot’s delight.

Peter Sohn, the man behind Up’s short Partly Cloudy is directing while Life Of Pi’s Mychael Danna is providing a “unique score” according to Lasseter. Even based on early footage and concept art it looks remarkable, and after Pixar’s return to form with Inside Out we have high hopes The Good Dinosaur could be another gem from America’s great 3D animation studio.

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