Blast from the Past

The co-director of Walking With Dinosaurs chats with TFK about his new film

Dec 20, 2013 | By Stephanie Kraus
COURTESY 20TH CENTURY FOX

Two triceratops talk face-to-face in a scene from Walking With Dinosaurs.

Get ready to stomp back in time with Walking with Dinosaurs. The movie follows Pachy, a small Pachyrhinosaurus, who struggles to compete with larger dinosaurs and make his four-ton father proud. Pachy’s adventure takes place during the late Cretaceous era, near the Arctic Circle—where dinosaurs would actually have grazed millions of years ago.

BBC Earth and 20th Century Fox produced the film, which is named after the 1999 TV miniseries. To make the movie feel as real as possible, filmmakers shot in Alaska and added 3-D dinos later. The project came to life with the help of paleontologists. The scientists studied the history of dinosaurs and guided animators on how to show the creatures accurately.

TFK spoke to the film’s co-director, Barry Cook, to learn more about the larger-than-life film hitting theaters on December 20.

TFK:

What is Walking with Dinosaurs about?

BARRY COOK:

The film is about a particular dinosaura little guy named Patchy. He’s a very unlikely hero. The story follows him from the time he’s in the nest through his adolescent years. His brother Scowler is a big, burly guy who wants to be just like his dad. When he grows up, he’s the strongest, he’s the biggest, but he just doesn’t have the heart to make it as a leader. And Patchy, although he’s smaller, has a lot of things that his brother doesn’t have. Eventually those help him win the respect of his community. I guess you could call it a coming-of-age story or an underdog story.

TFK:

Where does the film take place?

COOK:

During the latter part of the Cretaceous period. All of the dinosaurs in the film would have been found near the Artic Circle, so that’s where the film is set.

Pterosaurs, commonly known as pterodactyls, were the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight.
COURTESY 20TH CENTURY FOX
Pterosaurs, commonly known as pterodactyls, were the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight.

TFK:

What made you chose that time period?

COOK:

BBC Earth felt that it was a period of dinosaurs with the most recent discoveries. It’s also the least seen in animation, scientific shows, or documentaries. They wanted to introduce new dinosaurs to people.

TFK:

What are some of the themes of the film?

COOK:

For me, it’s not the idea of how to survive but why we survive. We survive for our communities, our families, our loved ones. And that’s what Patchy does.

TFK:

This was originally a TV series. Are there any similarities between the TV show and the film?

COOK:

The title is the only thing taken from the TV series. The series was more educational. BBC Earth did a Walking with Dinosaurs live show in arenas around the world. They had puppetry and life-size dinosaurs. So, I think the logical next step was a feature film.

TFK:

You worked with actual paleontologists on this film. How important was their expertise in creating the film?

COOK:

It was crucial. The paleontologists would tell us where a certain ligament was attached that would allow certain movement. It helped with the basics of getting each dinosaur up on its feet and walking.  

TFK:

Did you have any interest in dinosaurs before the film came up?

COOK:

No. When I was a kid, my heroes were astronautsthe guys who were walking on the moon. I didn’t really have a lot of interest in dinosaurs at all. BBC Earth approached me because I had experience developing characters and stories and I had worked on Mulan and Arthur Christmas. I strove to make a dinosaur movie that I would personally enjoy.

Paleontologists worked on Walking With Dinosaurs to make sure the creatures shown were scientifically correct.
COURTESY 20TH CENTURY FOX
Paleontologists worked on Walking With Dinosaurs to make sure the creatures shown were scientifically correct.

TFK:

Why do you think people, especially kids, are so fascinated with dinosaurs?

COOK:

I think the fascination is that we’re seeing animals that we didn’t grow up with. We didn’t see them in the zoo or the wild, so I think that’s a big part of it.

 

TFK:

Why should kids go see Walking With Dinosaurs in theaters?

COOK:

They’ll love it! A lot of kids are really going to love the characters. I would highly suggest seeing it in 3D because it really gives you the sense that you’re right there with these dinosaurs.