The Real Reason The Good Dinosaur Changed Directors Mid-Production

Back in the summer of 2013, the production of Pixar’s new animated movie The Good Dinosaur went through what one might describe as a hiccup. It was reported that director Bob Peterson was being removed from the project, and that the film would be delayed and put under the purview of Pixar veteran Peter Sohn. Exactly what went down behind the scenes wasn’t entirely clear, but now we’ve learned the reason: the story became too complicated, and necessitated simplification.

Last week, I was invited up to Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA for an early press day for The Good Dinosaur, and it was while sitting down one-on-one with director Peter Sohn that he delivered the skinny on exactly what happened to cause the movie to change directors in the middle of production. Speaking openly yet bluntly, the filmmaker took me through the timeline of the project, explaining,

Bob Peterson first started this thing in 2009, and he asked me to come and develop. In developing it, we came up with a fun version of the world – and then the story got really complicated. So they asked me, because I had been with the story already for a while, please take over and find a new take to it.

Peter Sohn and his team at Pixar had to alter a lot in The Good Dinosaur – making fundamental changes like the age of the protagonist and instilling a frontier aspect to the story – but at the heart of it all, Sohn did manage to retain the idea that spurred on the project at the very beginning: the idea of a reverse boy and dog story where the dog is an under-evolved human, and the boy is a young dinosaur. Said the director,

I wanted to honor what Bob had started off with, with that boy and dog pitch that he had done. So when I got on, it felt like I could take it in a new way, while also keeping the heart of it to honor Bob.

Stepping into the director’s chair is a big deal for Peter Sohn – and not only because of Bob Peterson’s involvement. After spending many years as a production artist and animator – not to mention part-time voice actor – he will be making his feature directorial debut with The Good Dinosaur. Considering, however, that he helmed 2009’s Partly Cloudy - my personal favorite Pixar short - it’s not hard to have confidence in his abilities.

With a script by Inside Out’s Meg LeFauve, and a voice cast that includes Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott and Frances McDormand, The Good Dinosaur will be coming to theaters just in time for Thanksgiving this year, arriving on November 25th.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.