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5 Questions with Peter Sohn of The Good Dinosaur

Peter Sohn has the best job in the world, working at Pixar. But even in a such a great job, the director seemed very nervous in the months leading up to the release of the film The Good Dinosaur. In the best way possible, though, because when we sat down during the first week of TIFF in a downtown hotel, the film was not yet finished. There was still more work to be done.

But when we viewed the film, we could see why Sohn was so engaged throughout the entire process. He also kept hidden that like Andrew Stanton in Finding Nemo, he plays a role in his film, and a hilarious one at that. It’s his work as director and story by writer that makes The Good Dinosaur so wonderfully memorable.

Scene Creek: This is your first film as a director?

Peter Sohn: Yes, and it’s been quite a learning experience for me and it has been great working with Pixar on this challenge. Yeah, I’ve been there for fifteen years now, and gone through the gamut of different departments, but to see it all from this kind of view of seeing all the departments work like an orchestra is incredible.

Brad Bird has been a great role model. His priorities of putting everything that you have into the movie always has inspired me. He comes from this long line history of Disney. He studied under Milt Kahl, (one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men”), and Brad’s movie The Iron Giant was the first one that I worked on and what an impression that he made. I love Brad…he gave me my first break. I owe him so much.

Oh man, working the years at Pixar, working with John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich…they have a great belief in everyone there. I could tell you from each director, their style and differences, and how they have found their way through making movies. They’re all so different, but it has always been the same priorities, like Brad, trying to make the best thing that you can, the best movie. That’s the priority, not the job title, not politics, not big famous stars, make the best movie that it can be.

Scene Creek: And you believe that this is the best movie that it can be?

Peter Sohn: Absolutely. As hard as it has been, we put everything that we’ve got into it, and we’re just so proud of it.

Scene Creek: How do you feel that we are so lucky as to have two Pixar films come out this year?

Peter Sohn: I think Inside Out is one of my favourite Pixar movies. It was incredible and I have a five-year-old daughter. I’ve been there for so long, it’s like a family, we’re so proud to see our brothers and sisters do a movie like Inside Out, it’s like one of those really seminal movies. We’re in the same year, sure, it’s daunting, but we’re also part of the family and we’re proud to be putting something out as well.

Scene Creek: Do you feel like your film has a Western feel?

Peter Sohn: Yeah. I have been calling it a Frontier movie because I don’t want it to feel like I’m making fun of Westerns. The world of it, like if evolution had gone on, where would it go? The fun of it, making herbivores farmers and then making carnivores these ranchers, that already in subtle ways, it started to form that world, that dinosaurs had evolved to speak, but also in a way that dinosaurs were slightly evolved.

Because I’m such a movie lover, I looked at a lot of Carroll Ballard movies at the beginning, like The Black Stallion, you know, E.T., Old Yeller, Heaven’s Gate was another, Shane.

Scene Creek: For what should an audience look out?

Peter Sohn: We do have a character in the movie that’s from the next movie coming up that you haven’t seen before, the next Pixar movie, kind of hidden, but if you look carefully, you’ll see him.

The Good Dinosaur opens this Wednesday, November 25th.