Trailer: The Good Dinosaur

Disney/Pixar recently released the first full trailer for The Good Dinosaur, due out this November. It’s gone through a lot of changes since it was first announced, with an almost entirely new voice cast, a new writer, a new director, and a new composer. The film’s first teaser trailer just gave us a brief glimpse at the film’s premise, but the new full trailer gives us much more. Take a look and read on for my thoughts:

It’s interesting that even in this full trailer we never hear any dialogue from The Good Dinosaur, nor even an explanation of the film’s story. Contrast this with the early trailers for Inside Out, which focused on introducing the characters and setting up the story. Of course, Inside Out is a complex, unique film that needs some explaining, while The Good Dinosaur is looking like a more traditional adventure story, only starring a dinosaur. This trailer gives us the simple tagline, “a single moment can change history, a single kindness can change everything,” focusing instead on the impact of the film’s gorgeous visuals and the tone of the film, helped along by “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men.

Right from the get-go, The Good Dinosaur looks visually stunning.  The shots above of the clouds and the tree branch look like they could be photographs.  We’re long past the early days of computer animation, where people marveled at how amazing and realistic were the images onscreen, but the craft is still progressing and The Good Dinosaur looks like another step forward for Pixar.

We get a brief repeat of the setup from the teaser trailer, where it’s made clear that we’re seeing a world where the extinction of the dinosaurs by an asteroid impact never happened.

And now we finally meet Arlo. Arlo is an Apatosaurus, who seems a little helpless. The film’s official description tells us that Arlo is lost far from home and is on his own, and we watch as he tries to fend for himself and munch on some berries, only to fail.

But Arlo is rescued by an unlikely friend, and it’s here we see The Good Dinosaur‘s twist.  In this unspecified time period, humans have started to evolve and live alongside dinosaurs, and Arlo adopts this lost human boy as a pet, naming him Spot.

I really like the expressiveness of both Arlo and Spot. Pixar has human characters down pretty well now, but Arlo is almost a throwback to the earlier days of Pixar films, with exaggerated animal characters like in A Bug’s Life.  Arlo and the other dinosaurs in the trailer certainly don’t look “realistic” in the way the dinosaurs in Jurassic World do, they’re more “cartoony” for lack of a better word.

The cool thing about the trailer for me is the way it takes these “cartoony” creatures and presents them in a very realistic environment. Arlo’s design may be exaggerated and anthropomorphised, but the quality of the animation keeps him from feeling out of place, as though the character and the backgrounds came from two separate films.

There are some things going on in the trailer that lack enough context for me to guess what we’re seeing, such as this dino carrying a menagerie of other animals on its horns.

But whatever these tiny fluffy things are with their big eyes, I want one. They’re adorably freaky.

The visual centerpiece of the trailer shows Arlo and Spot surrounded by fireflies, as Spot looks amazed. It looks like one of those moments of quiet wonder that Disney and Pixar do so well, and we’ll see more of it in a minute.

The film won’t be all pretty pictures though, and it looks like Spot will be doing more than simply getting food for Arlo. I don’t know how old Spot’s supposed to be, but he’s a pretty tough kid to face down a giant snake. I guess when you evolve alongside dinosaurs, you just have to deal with whatever comes your way.

More pretty!

More fireflies.

Here’s another example of the contrast in visuals and design. These aren’t the standard dinosaur shapes we’re used to seeing, things have been deformed and altered to suit the character style, but the more cinematic style of filming helps the dinos to feel more natural.

Among the dangers Arlo and Spot will face are apparently pteranodons.

The heart of the film is obviously going to be the relationship between Arlo and Spot, and although we haven’t yet gotten a real sense of how that relationship will play out (master/pet vs odd couple friendship for example), I feel like I’ve already grown attached to the pair despite this short, wordless glimpse.

I have all the faith in the world in Pixar, as they’ve rarely let me down, but they do have something of an uphill battle with The Good Dinosaur. Coming off of Inside Out, their most creative film yet and the original, non-sequel film with the highest grossing opening weekend of all time, it feels like The Good Dinosaur is set up to be a slight step down. When you add in all of the changes the film has gone through, in what sounds like a shakeup triggered by the film’s original vision simply not working, and things are a little troubling. But this gorgeous and heartfelt trailer is a step in the right direction. (And Ant-Man is proof that enjoyable movies can come out of troubled productions.)

I’m definitely curious to hear from the voice cast, which includes Jeffrey Wright, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliot, and Frances McDormand (the only original cast member to survive through the film’s changes), but for right now I’m intrigued and hopeful. There’s no way The Good Dinosaur could live up to Inside Out‘s originality, so it’s best for them not to even try. A story, after all, is only as good as how its told, and there are few groups out there better at telling stories than Pixar. I may not be counting down the days until November yet, but I’m certainly eager to see more of The Good Dinosaur.

What do you think? Are you excited about The Good Dinosaur? Does its troubled production have you worried, or do you only care about the final product? Does the new voice cast intrigue you, or would you have preferred the original (which included John Lithgow, Neil Patrick Harris, Bill Hader, and Judy Greer)? Can The Good Dinosaur ever live up to Inside Out, and should it even try? Does every Pixar movie have to blow us out of the water? Does the studio’s legacy unfairly impact our expectations? What’s your favorite dinosaur? Let me know in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Trailer: The Good Dinosaur

  1. Before I even read the review of the trailer, I have to do a brain dump here…

    The first trailer (with Inside Out) showed us just the Meteorite That Missed and the result (not grey parrots and emus and great blue herons, but more T-Rexes and raptors and things and stuffs oh my). It was amusing, intriguing, swell look… then that green palstic dinosaur that looked like some toy I had as a kid…


    but…Pixar. We’ll wait and see. I love the poster icon: hand and dino silhouette.

    So now this trailer, which I just watched (thanks!!!).

    Sweet! Gorgeous, great music, taps into every childhood fantasy ever, which, like the stories I grew up with (Fury, Black Stallion, Jungle Books) and many more recent things (How to Train Your Dragon, The Croods, Brave) has a kid and a Big Powerful Animal Companion.

    And really, who of us does not want a dinosaur as a “pet”.

    Still out to lunch on that green dino. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. seems kind of cartoony vs that great detailed background. Maybe I want more Jurassic World type dinos here… I am partial to raptors.

    Now to the trailer again…

    Yeah, early CG was, well, primitive. This is realistic… which leads us to the Uncanny Valley. It is difficult to find that balance between photorealism and the stylization that is necessary for art, especially cartoon art. The Madagascar films found that spot, creating highly stylized animals while keeping their species-specific characteristics… while that other cartoon about escaped zoo animals fell firmly into the Uncanny Valley, it’s near-but-not-quite-realism was unsettling. (The Wild, 2006).

    This is Pixar. I expect the best.

    to be fair, apatosaurs are kind of hard to cartoon, i guess, kind of a plain green wrapper sort of dino… but then there’s this… (Gertie the Dinosaur 1914 cartoon). Which I’m sure Pixar is familiar with and would certainly pay homage to without copying.

    As you mention, these dinos are more cartoony (perfectly good word, more stylized, simplified, exaggerated), but still expressive. It does echo Finding Nemo’s fish (another set of sleek, simple shapes) as well as Bug’s Life (early CG, therefore simple). Placing these cartoony characters in a realistic environment (which I much love) takes skill to keep it from looking like they wandered in from some other film. If anyone can pull this off it’s Pixar. Like you mention, the quality of animation and expression brings the characters to life.

    I like the twist that this seems to be from Arlo’s perspective and the kid is the “pet”.

    The little squeaky fluffy big-eyed things are some kind of primitive mammal… basically, “Hi there ancestors…” The website AboutEducation says this: “very few early mammals were larger than mice, for a simple reason: dinosaurs had already become the dominant land animals on earth. The only ecological niche open to the first mammals entailed a) feeding on plants, insects and small lizards, b) hunting at night (when predatory dinosaurs were less active), and c) living high up in trees.” So the idea that there are humans (which took awhile to evolve from those tiny primates we see in that other dino cartoon, what was it now…) with dinos requires a total suspension of disbelief (so do talking fish, and that was fun). Those fluffies might be this with bigger ears…


    we pause because my cousins came in, and someone is wearing a dinosaur glow in the dark T-shirt….

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  2. I have faith in The Good Dinosaur as well if only for the visuals. I think that’s because no matter what direction the move ends up going, they were probably always aiming to use this depiction of the world and the characters. Therefore, you can expect that the aesthetics of the movie got all the attention it deserved and it shows. Plus, Pixar has proven itself time and time again when it comes to mismatched people going on a journey together. I can’t exactly say where Arlo and Spot will end up on the Pixar scale that includes Woody and Buzz and Marlin and Dory until I get a more detailed description of the plot, but Pixar has more working for it than against it. I can’t really compare it to Inside Out since I have no idea what happens in the final product, but this movie nevertheless has all the classic beats of a Pixar film. I will say I was more interested in the premise of Inside Out, but that doesn’t say anything on the quality that this movie could have. And as an original film, I can’t help but want it to do well in order to move to other new ideas as Pixar had before. I really do want to see what happens.

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  3. I’m baaaaaack, after having sent my cousin’s kids off with a plastic horseshoe crab, some whelk shells, a bunch of masks and fins and snorkels and stuff, and showing pics of what I found when I went to the island they’re going to (Chincoteague and Assateague VA): slimy things, spongebob things, eeeeeels, blobby things, and some dinosaurs (egrets, herons and pelicans, which look totally like they did a gazillion years ago…).

    I thought of How To Train Your Dragon, which has fantastic gorgeous backgrounds/landscapes/skyscapes/seascapes. They even sent the animators to Iceland or somewhere to study the sub arctic landscapes. Then you have some fairly cartoony/exaggerated people and critters (I mean… those sheep are straight out of Aardman at its cartooniest).

    It worked beautifully, and I expect no less of Pixar.

    There is still a bit of art in the landscapes, a bit of exaggeration, it’s not as if they put a cartoon into a photorealistic landscape (um, Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon?). And it’s fantastic looking!

    What Pixar does best, I think, is Sense of Wonder. Many films evoke this quality, but lean heavier on action or character or other elements. Pixar never forgets true magic, Sense of Wonder, of possibilities, of Light at the end of the Shadow.

    The trailer hints at a film which is every kids fantasy about dinosaurs, about running around in that world, about being cool and tough and facing down giant honkin lizardysnakey things and galloping off on your dinosaur and…

    Not Jurassic World. Good.

    Not every film has to be the Champion of Champions, or beat the last one. It merely has to grab our hearts and tell a good story. Not everyone will like every story. That’s fine. I trust it will have enough quality… it’s Pixar.

    Which of course does influence our expectations.

    But… Pixar. They can sidestep our expectations and do something unique. They do not have to follow the Disney formula. And even Disney has shifted away from their own formula to give us better stories.


    Love the fireflies, we have them here and my favorite part of the summer is night with them blinking like Christmas lights in the tall grass and trees.

    The lovely sunset chase seems to contain some prehistoric bison as well as that T-rex… now there’s some evolution to think about! (sorry dire wolves, T-rex didn’t leave any for you).

    Pterrordactyls. Yes! Or pterrornadons…

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