Pixar animator and dinosaur visit BYU


Disney•Pixar sent an animator and a soon-to-be-famous dinosaur to the BYU campus on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Ari Davis
Rob Thompson, a directing animator at Pixar Animation Studios, spoke at BYU on Nov. 4, 2015. Thompson worked on Pixar’s newest film, “The Good Dinosaur.” (Ari Davis)

Rob Thompson, a directing animator at Pixar Animation Studios, gave a presentation on Pixar’s newest feature film, “The Good Dinosaur.” He showed sneak peeks of the movie and explained to students how the animation team brought the prehistoric characters to life.

Thompson said he and the other Pixar animators are always asking questions like what would happen if a toy came to life or if a rat became a gourmet chef.

“With ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ we asked ourselves one of the biggest what ifs of all – what if the dinosaurs were never wiped out by the asteroid?” Thompson said.

The main character in Pixar’s newest feature film is a 25-foot apatosaurus named Arlo. He begins the movie without much confidence, Thompson said, but becomes strong and brave with the help of Spot, a young boy living alone in the wild.

“The heart of this movie is really about a boy and his dog,” Thompson said. “Except a dinosaur is the boy, and a boy is the dog.”

“The Good Dinosaur” tells the story of Arlo, an apatosaurus who sets out on an adventure with a boy named Spot at his side. The film comes out Nov. 25, 2015. (© Disney•Pixar)

Thompson said Spot gives Arlo the courage he needs and helps him learn what he can really do.

“This movie is about friendship, self-discovery and overcoming your fears,” Thompson said.

The BYU Center for Animation worked with Thompson to organize the event, so Thompson also discussed some of the technical points of animating the new movie.

He explained that the Pixar animators had to figure out how to portray dinosaurs since they couldn’t observe them in real life. They compromised by going to the zoo and observing elephants, which became the models for Arlo’s walk.

“These animals step so softly that they can almost sneak up behind you, and it’s because they need to be efficient at walking,” Thompson said. “We really spent a long time at the zoo to really find out what that formula was.”

The animators patterned Arlo’s running after horses and giraffes, Thompson said, and they modeled some of the other dinosaurs’ motion after ostriches.

“A lot of the time, we didn’t know if it was going to work, but we had a lot of fun with it,” Thompson said. “Those are the puzzles that we’re always trying to solve in my department. It’s a lot of fun.”

Thompson completed his presentation by taking questions from students and giving them professional advice.

Disney•Pixar is sending “The Good Dinosaur” into the Cinematic Era on Nov. 25, 2015. It is the second film released by Pixar this year.



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