Exclusive interview – Walking With Dinosaurs director Neil Nightingale gives us the lowdown

The Creative Director of BBC Earth, Neil Nightingale is also the co-director of prehistoric animated epic Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie. In the first of a two-part interview we asked him to tell us the stories behind our five favourite moments from the film…

The Forest Fire

“That’s such a pivotal moment for Patchi, our young hero. It was fun to animate but we really did film that forest fire. We had a plantation of coniferous trees which we were setting alight multiple times, building up the visual effects on top of that, of fire and so on, to create an amazing conflagration in which the dinosaurs are trying to escape. And then the big baddies, the Gorgosaurs, come and cut off their exit...”

The Edmontosaurus Herd

“They were some of the biggest dinosaurs around, the duck-billed Edmontosaurs. They were ginormous plant-eaters. Their heads were the size of a human body with these duck-bills with huge banks of teeth in them. And when the young dinosaurs, including Patchi are lost they decide to fall in with them because they might take them to the food.”

The Frozen Lake

“They found hundreds and hundreds of bones of Pachyrhinosaurs together, so they know they lived in herds and a big disaster befell them. It gave us this great moment – not only of drama with the ice but also between Patchi and his bigger brother Scowler, who aspires to be herd leader. He’s very bullish and bullheaded and Patchi is a little bit more thoughtful. There’s a lesson to the film, that you don’t have to be the biggest and the strongest to win through. And this is where you first see Patchi’s leadership qualities, in that amazing scene when the ice begins to crack.”

The Narration by Alex

“Alexornis is a real bird that lived 70 million years ago alongside the dinosaurs. He grows to like Patchi and is a mentor, but also it’s symbiotic. He eats bugs and big dinosaur herds have lots of bugs so he rides along with Patchi and becomes his mate. He’s our storyteller, and he’s a bit of a wise boy. He’s always cracking jokes and pointing out Patchi’s weaknesses and giving him advice. Sometimes it’s jolly good advice like ‘Run away, you’re just about to be eaten!’ He’s a great character.”

The Present-day Sequence

“We wanted people to understand that this was real – although the humans are obviously fictitious characters. So we had the paleontologist finding some bones and at the end there’s this idea that every fossil tells a story. Although the details of this story are fictional, these kind of things happened, and it relates back to us and back to real life.”

Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is in Cineworld now. Click here to book your tickets.

What’s your favourite sequence from the film?