So often typecast as witless and cold-blooded, dinosaurs are about to get an image rehab in Hollywood, courtesy of Pixar.
"It's time to do a movie where you get to know the dinosaur, what it's really like to be a dinosaur and to be with a dinosaur," said Bob Peterson, director of the animation studio's upcoming movie "The Good Dinosaur."
Peterson, who served as codirector and writer on "Up," said the inspiration for the movie came from a childhood visit to the World's Fair where he was awed by some dinosaur animatronics.
In "The Good Dinosaur," which will be codirected by Peter Sohn and produced by John Walker, an asteroid never hit the Earth and dinosaurs still roam.
In an interview at the studio's Emeryville offices recently, Peterson, Sohn and Walker -- who are in the midst of Pixar's secretive story-crafting phase -- kept key plot details such as geologic era and starring dino species under wraps, but hinted at some themes they'll be exploring.
Sohn said they are toying with the idea of what dinosaurs represent today -- something anachronistic or resistant to change. If there's a "good" dinosaur, after all, there have to be bad ones. "The title is deceptively simple," Sohn said. "It has more meaning than it seems."
A piece of concept art shared at Disney's D23 conference last August showed what appeared to be a silhouette of a small child with a dinosaur, suggesting that dinosaurs and people will be sharing the planet in the movie, but the filmmakers didn't confirm that.
Peterson said the crew had steeped itself in research for the film, visiting various natural history and science museums and examining fossils and bones to help them create their own dinosaur society and characters.
The director said he has been writing "The Good Dinosaur" vagabond-style, toting his laptop in his car and stopping at various spots in Northern California as inspiration strikes.
"So if there's a bunch of dinosaurs in a Whole Foods parking lot in this movie, you'll understand why," said Walker.
"The Good Dinosaur" is a few cinematic eras from release -- the movie will hit theaters May 30, 2014.
-- Rebecca Keegan
Photo: An interactive display at Field Station: Dinosaurs Park in Secaucus, N.J. Credit: Associated Press