Well it turns out Pixar wasn’t only upending its story for The Good Dinosaur—the studio has revamped almost its entire voice cast. The film was originaly conceived by director Bob Peterson (who co-directed Up), but he was conspicuously absent from the movie’s D23 panel in 2013, and shortly thereafter it was announced that he’d been removed from the film. The voice cast of Lucas Neff, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, John Lithgow, and Frances McDormand remained, though (Steve even interviewed Neff and Greer at D23), and co-director Peter Sohn was subsequently upgraded to director while the story was revamped.
The original conceit—a world in which the dinosaurs never went extinct, with a story following a dinosaur and his pet human boy—remained, but Lithgow told us that the movie was “dismantled and completely reimagined,” adding that he already completed his voice work but was due to record all-new dialogue. He and McDormand were set to play Momma and Poppa dinosaur, but today Pixar announced the film’s voice cast and Lithgow is nowhere to be found, along with everyone else but McDormand.
- Raymond Ochoa (The Night Shift) provides the voice of an Apatosaurus named Arlo.
- Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) was tapped as the voice of Poppa, Arlo’s father.
- Steve Zahn (Rescue Dawn) provides the voice of a pterodactyl named Thunderclap.
- AJ Buckley (Justified) voices a T-Rex called Nash.
- Anna Paquin (True Blood) is the voices of T-Rex Ramsey.
- Sam Elliott (Justified) was called on as the voice of a tough T-Rex named Butch.
- Frances McDormand (Fargo) was tapped as the voice of Momma, Arlo’s mother.
- Marcus Scribner (black-ish) voices Arlo’s brother Buck.
- Jack Bright (Monsters University) provides the voice of Arlo’s unlikely human friend, Spot.
While Pixar has previously replaced voice actors (Reese Witherspoon was originally be Merida in Brave), this is the first time the studio has cast an entire film, recorded dialogue, and then replaced 99% of the cast. It couldn’t have been a cheap move, but it perhaps speaks to the extent of the changes that Sohn and the Pixar Brain Trust made to the story once Peterson left—and also their desire to make sure they get this one right.
Inside Out is getting rave reviews, but will The Good Dinosaur return us to lackluster Pixar? There’s now an equal number of production-troubled films that turned out great (Ratatoullie, Toy Story 2) and disappointing (Cars 2, Brave), so it looks like we’ve got a 50/50 chance. Here’s hoping all of these changes only improved the film.
The Good Dinosaur opens in theaters on November 25th. Click here to watch the teaser trailer.