Jeffrey Wright & Raymond Ochoa Talk Pleasures & Perils of Voicing For ‘THE GOOD DINOSAUR’

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Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) teaches Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) how to trap a critter in THE GOOD DINOSAUR. Courtesy of Disney-Pixar.

Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) teaches Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) how to trap a critter in THE GOOD DINOSAUR. Courtesy of Disney-Pixar.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Jeffrey Wright and Raymond Ochoa may have never met each other before the Los Angeles press day for THE GOOD DINOSAUR, but the pair perfectly fit together as father and son in the heartfelt Pixar film. The relationship between son Arlo (Ochoa) and Poppa Henry (Wright) serves as a catalyst for dramatic change – and a spectacular adventure to unfold. It was that emotional resonance, and his own kids, that convinced Wright to take the part.

“They pretty much made the decision for me. It was not only them. The decision was made with the first Pixar movie that I took with my son – FINDING NEMO. These stories have become central in the pop culture my kids have been on, for me as well as a father, taking it in through their eyes. Not only because of the legacy of these films, but it really is the quality of the films and the themes they are exploring – particularly as a parent. Exploring the challenges of parenthood – the failures, the successes. This celebration of family.”

You’d think there would be nothing challenging for these two seasoned performers voicing a Pixar film – especially for talent of their caliber. But you’d be wrong. Ochoa, who’s been crushing the voice work game for many years now, said recording isn’t just about letting one tool in his toolbox go, he uses all of them.

“When I record, I actually do use my entire body. It brings out more emotion. You can’t just talk into a mic and make it sound like you’re sad. It won’t come out as best as it can. If you use your entire body, you’re bringing out more emotion.”

Wright chimed in, saying

“I very much enjoy voice work. I come from the theater where the voice is the central tool really. Working on film, or documentary or animated featured, there’s an opportunity to distill everything and be really nuanced, subtle and focused with it. The challenge was you don’t know what the Hell you’re doing, you know? What does it look like? What am I doing? We see elements of it – the scenes are described. Peter was the glue between all of us. He was so specific and so detailed and so patient – was wonderfully childlike in his passion for this stuff. The themes are deeply personal for him. He was doing all the roles with such precision and clarity and that’s so important.”

Ochoa said the most difficult thing for him wasn’t the screaming or the crying reactions, but rather it was trying to howl.

“Trying to get one howl correctly was the worst thing. I was literally on the verge of saying, ‘Pete, go on the internet and find a wolf or something.’ We actually got one. It took five times of coming to the booth. It got there.”

Wright found the smaller moments to be the most difficult to hone in on vocally.

“The more subtle moments that Peter would describe. Now having seen the film and actually seeing what he was going for, there were these interesting subtle, ironic thing. The things that weren’t so obvious – the emotions and the tone. I could only fully appreciate it after watching the movie. It speaks to the level of the detail of his vision.”

In hindsight, there was one thing Wright would have liked to have tweaked.

“There might have been one moment there. There’s always something.”

Ochoa added,

“You can always improve no matter what. Nobody’s perfect. In a movie, there’s always something you could have made it sound better or done something that would have made it better. From the outcome, I was highly satisfied.”

Wright values the theater for this reason.

“That’s why the theater’s so great. You have time to do everything. I’ve given perfect performances in the theater. But there’s no evidence. In film, there’s evidence.”

THE GOOD DINOSAUR is now playing. Read our review here.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.