‘The Good Dinosaur’ Star A.J. Buckley Talks About Pixar’s Legacy & More!

By November 24, 2015

Coming off of one of their best films ever earlier this year, Pixar looks poised and ready to hit another home run again with their latest outing, The Good Dinosaur, which envisions a world in which the dinosaurs never went extinct. Not only does it feature some of the most gorgeous animation that the medium has ever seen, but is sure to be a reliable Holiday getaway for families this year.

I was recently able to speak with one of the film’s stars, A.J. Buckley too, whose scarred cattle ranching T-Rex, Nash, helps Arlo to realize what it means to be a part of a family alongside his sister and father. Buckley is able to perfectly embody the kind of Southern cattle rancher we’ve seen countless times in movies and television before too, without ever playing it up too much.

You can find the full interview below too, in which we not only talk about our favorite Disney and Pixar films, but also how his sociopathic Justified character helped him to find Nash’s voice in the film.

Check it out below:

How were you introduced to the project initially?

It’s kind of crazy story. I was packing to go to Bogota, Colombia to shoot ‘Narcos’, and my phone rang and my voice over was like, ‘I just got a crazy call from Pixar, and they’ve offered you a role in their film ‘The Good Dinosaur’,’ and I was like ‘What?’. [Laughs] I was like, ‘Get outta here this doesn’t happen, are you sure it’s the right A.J.?,’ and she was like, ‘There’s only one A.J. Buckley,’ and I’m like, ‘Well what is it? How is it? I’m so confused,’ she said, ‘I don’t really know the details, but when you’re done shooting, you’re going to go up to fly up to Oakland to meet everybody.’ So I flew up and of course, I’m you know, over the moon, so when I say that I was geeking out walking in, I was geeking out. I was that guy, taking pictures, and you know, in my childhood I was definitely bullied and stuffed in many lockers for trying to express myself as an artist, so I feel like there’s this really cool club that’s been formed, where anyone that’s been through anything that is super creative, and there’s this place called Pixar, that has the most amazing people, who all get it each other and are super, super cool in their own way and are creating the most amazing product of all time.

So back to what the question was with Peter [Sohn, Director], I sat down with him and asked him how this all happened. He said, ‘Well I’m a big fan of ‘Justified’,’ and he’s like, ‘I loved your character Danny Crowe, and we couldn’t find the right voice for this [T-Rex] family, cause Sam and Anna were already cast, and I was watching the show one night and your voice, and I just took a piece of it and sampled it with their voices, and it fit.’ And I was like, ‘So Danny Crowe… in a Pixar movie?’ The crazy part is when we got into the recording booth for Nash too, I was trying to find the voice that he wanted and he was like, ‘Just do Danny Crowe,’ and I was like ‘Okay.’. Danny was a sociopath man, you know, the 21 foot rule, how do I bring that into a dinosaur?

So I remembered that I chewed with my character in that season, which I’ve never done before, and I don’t recommend. But it suited the character, but this voice happened when I put the chew in. I didn’t want to ask the people at Pixar if they had any chew lying around though, but there was a plate of Jolly Ranchers so I was like. ‘Give me one second,’ and he asked me what I was doing and I was like, ‘Danny Crowe had chew,’ So I literally put a couple Jolly Ranchers in there and Nash came out, and there he was, and it was like this crazy, and he thought it was the funniest thing. But it really was this thing where saliva was flying everywhere because you know that happens when you eat a Jolly Rancher, so I was slobbering all over myself, which worked for Nash, but I literally found out that the Pixar version of Danny Crowe was through a Jolly Rancher.”

How much did you work with Peter to work with Nash other than the obvious Justified inspirations? How did he visualize Nash for you, as a dinosaur?

“I was blown away by with Peter because what you see is what you get. He’s so sincere and you’re not, when you show up to something, there’s a blank canvas. There’s no pictures, there’s nothing, other than this man standing in front of you who’s giving you a pitch. The way I’ve described today is when someone tells you I love you for the first time, they look you in the eyes and are like, ‘Hey, I love you,’ and there’s that passion, that conviction. Peter actually had that way of conveying this story, where he would get emotional telling me this story, and you could see how much he cared about this. It’s his first time directing a massive film and for a film this size, are you kidding me? At this scale, with what they’ve accomplished with the scenery,it’s insane. ]

But he was so present for the actors that he gave such a compelling pitch that this empty canvass in front of us had all of these colors to it all of a sudden, and then he just sort of us let us do our thing, and guide us. What blew me away though, was the campfire scene. Because we didn’t hear each other’s voices, so, what he was able to do was that we all recorded different times, and we didn’t hear each other’s tracks, but that scene is a comedic scene. I had never done a comedic scene that’s actually funny without bouncing off another actor, but he knew how to set up the joke with the right tone. That’s a crazy thing to create comedy out of actors that aren’t in front of each other.”

It’s crazy because you would think that you were all together with how that scene was constructed.

“You would think that we were all there, or I have these people tell me that me and my sister have such great chemistry, but I’m just like, ‘We were never there! I never heard her!’. So you were just truthful to the dialogue and to his direction and it came off the page.”

It’s a really effective scene in terms of where it happens in the story and how it is constructed, that it was one of the highlights of the film for me.

“I actually didn’t realize at the actual point in the film cause I didn’t know where we were in the story, how important that campfire scene is to the character of Arlo, cause he kind of sees that a family that works together, stays together. He’s had enough time to step away from his family, where he had to do chores and have to do this and that, and then he sees this family and realizes that this is what a family is, that they work together, they fight, but they love, and they have a way of competing through their own ways of being a family. It was a cool moment when I watched it for the first time to realize that that was an important part of the movie.”

Now, I know that I would definitely be up for this, but if you could see a spin-off movie with the T-Rex family only, what would you want it to be about?

“People keep asking about it, but what would I want it to be about? Well I’m an aloof character, and I’m all over the place, so ‘Finding Nemo’, but with T-Rexes, but we don’t know where our mom is, so why don’t we go looking for our mom? We go looking for momma T-Rex, and she is angry!”

It’d be nice to meet a companion to Butch.

“Right? Let’s just be honest about Sam, is he not just the best with that voice and his teeth as a mustache? Isn’t that awesome? I mean, that’s genius cause that’s him! What is that line he says, ‘If you’re not afraid, you’re not living,’ but the way he says it, he’s just such a cowboy.”

Favorite Disney movie?

“Toy Story, and I’ll give you a quick reason why because Toy Story affected me so much and is the reason I became such a big fan of Pixar. As a kid I would walk out of my bedroom and then open the door real quickly to see if my toys were moving, so to see that happen in Toy Story, where the kid walks out and then keeps turning around and the toys would freeze. I literally had this validation that somebody else did that, and I wasn’t crazy, ‘Oh my God! I’m not that nuts, someone else did it too and I’m not such a nerd! It’s in a cartoon.’ So that was a big moment for me.”

The Good Dinosaur will hit theatres on November 25th.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

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Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable