Raymond Ochoa, the 14-year-old San Diego native, discusses his breakout voice role as Arlo, the Apatosaurus protagonist from The Good Dinosaur. Ochoa’s done voice work in Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Mars Needs Moms, Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III and A Christmas Carol, and will appear in next year’s The Angry Birds Movie.
Bill Desowitz: How did you audition?
Raymond Ochoa: It just said Pixar, so I did the audition and sent it over. And a couple of months later, they said they wanted to send me over to the Pixar facility for a call-back. And I did three call-backs total and they told me I got the role. It was an amazing day because I’m such a big Pixar fan.
BD: What were the call-backs like?
RO: I read the entire script and that was for each call-back, and I was flown multiple times just to do the script over and over again with different rewrites.
BD: What was the process like voicing Arlo?
RO: It was around 12 sessions. It really brings out every emotion and I’ve been acting for a while now, and all the work that I’ve done over time, I felt was brought into this one movie. There are moments when you’re crying and there are moments when you’re yelling, you’re happy and joyful.
BD: How much artwork and animation did you get to see?
RO: I saw my character when I got there for the first call-back. They had a still but it was just my face. And I thought that was cool. But it wasn’t until I did pick-ups for minor things when they asked if I’d like to see a bit from the movie. And I said, “Please, yes.” It was the scene when I’m attempting to get the berries and I was so emotional when I saw that because it was so cool to see myself as a dinosaur and my voice coming out.
BD: Do you see a lot of yourself in Arlo?
RO: I really do. I feel like there’s a big likeness between me and Arlo. One is all he wants to do is be the best son to his parents, and just to make my parents proud is all I want.
BD: What was it like working with director Pete Sohn?
RO: It would’ve been very difficult for me to do the voice-over without him because he plays all the characters for you, and he also really helps you by telling you what the scenario is, what’s going on and the scenery around you. He’s there to help and guide you and he’s so kind and joyful.
BD: The scene about family is one of the emotional highlights. Was it a difficult scene to play?
RO: I think that’s one of the scenes I did a lot. That was one that Pete wanted to attack with the best and he knew that was going to be so impactful to the audience that he wanted it to be perfect. And it literally took multiple trips to Pixar before he said that was the right one. I would do it and he’d say we’re going to keep that one and every time I would go back up there, he’d say let’s do that scene one more time. And he got the one he wanted and it was really powerful.
BD: What kind of direction did you get?
RO: He said it’s a very dark and sad moment when it comes to you and Spot because you realize you are relatable. He lost some of his family, you lost some of yours and that’s how life is. It was really weird and it was really fun and it was really hard and I took that as a challenge. And I finally got the perfect read.
BD: What’s your favorite scene?
RO: My favorite would probably be when my Poppa [voiced by Jeffrey Wright] takes me out to the grass and he shows me the fireflies when he moves his tail. And the reason why is that felt like a bonding moment. And later on, I basically do the exact same thing with Spot. And I show him and that’s when I actually bonded with him.