If you’ve ever wanted to go on a friendly jaunt with a Pachyrhinosaurus, now is your time.
With a premiere at Dubai International Film Festival on December 14, Walking with Dinosaurs takes audiences back 70 million years to a prehistoric Alaska when giant animals ruled the world. It tells the story of little hero Patchi, the youngest and smallest in his nest of dinosaurs, as he goes on adventures, overcomes obstacles, and proves that you don’t always have to be the biggest or strongest of your kind to emerge on top.
Co-director Barry Cook has been an animation veteran for three decades, working on films such as Tron (1982), The Little Mermaid (1989) and Aladdin (1992.) Co-director Neil Nightingale, the creative director for BBC Earth, has spent nearly as long working in natural history broadcasting. As a result, Walking with Dinosaurs toes a fine line between fiction and reality.
“The film is a great entertaining family cinema experience for kids and families and so on, but at its heart, it is absolutely inspired by real dinosaurs,” Nightingale told tabloid! over the phone. “The biggest challenge was making a wonderfully entertaining story that was actually built on what we really know about dinosaurs. That was a tricky one.”
“I’ve made wild life films all my life for the BBC, and so my knowledge of animals combined with the fossil evidence we have gives a great authenticity. You really do believe you’re back in that time with real animals, and I suppose that’s the greatest thing that’s come out of having a wild life filmmaker involved in directing it.”
It wasn’t an easy feat recreating an era long gone — one that none of us had been around for — but Nightingale said they wanted to craft the ultimate immersive time-travelling experience. Inspired by the greatly successful BBC documentary miniseries by the same name from 14 years ago, the independent film took four years to develop from start to finish, and $85 million (Dh312,205,000) to finance, much of that coming from distribution pre-sales.
“It was originally funded by an Indian company called Reliance, and then we sold it pretty quickly to 20th Century Fox for most of the world, and to a range of other distributors in a few other countries, and that’s not an unusual path for an independent film — in other words, a non-studio film which doesn’t originate from a big studio.”
Filmmakers scoured the world for places that look like Alaska millions of years ago. In the end, they filmed partially in Alaska, and partially in South Island, New Zealand.
“We shot all that in 3D, in real life, in snow and rain and fire and all kinds, and then combining that with the wonderful animation that Animal Logic did — combining the real world and the animated world — to create a believable whole, that was an enormous creative and technical challenge and one I think we’ve succeeded in really well.”
The film has received mix reviews so far, with some sensing a disconnect between the simplistic storytelling and spectacular visuals. It’s too early to tell how it will be received upon theatrical release, but Nightingale has his own thoughts on whether or not it will be well-received globally.
“We’ll see whether it’s a success, I can only hope so, but it’s a story that will absolutely resonate with kids and families all around the world. The story, the hero, his adventures and the great monsters he meets and so on, I know will absolutely resonate with audiences wherever they are in the world.”