Feature Story

OWU Graduate Helps Disney/Pixar Bring ‘The Good Dinosaur’ to Life

December 4, 2015 – by Jessica Vogel

Ohio Wesleyan alumnus and paleontologist Andrew Rossi '13 discusses the inspiration behind Pixar's latest film.

Andrew Rossi ’13 Combines Passions for Paleontology and Performance in New Video

Ohio Wesleyan University alumnus Andrew Rossi ’13 wasn’t always sure how he’d use his double major in geology and theatre, but he knew he wanted to pursue both passions.

“OWU was the only college that eagerly accommodated my two diverse interests,” he says, recalling his school search. Producers eagerly utilized both skills while working with Rossi in a new video to explain how dinosaurs like “Arlo,” star of Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” once roamed the Wyoming landscape.

Rossi has been connected to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center (WDC) since 2012, when he spent a summer as a center intern, having learned about the opportunity through the OWU Department of Geology. Currently, he is leading fossil excavations throughout Wyoming and Montana.

“Nothing was scripted or pre-planned,” Rossi says of the video shoot, coordinated with help from the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “All I had was my knowledge and my performance skills. It goes to show that the benefits of a liberal arts education are applicable in any field.”

Rossi says he “never would have discovered the WDC without OWU.” He enjoys the opportunity because it also allows him to draw upon his courses in biology, zoology, and astronomy for a better understanding of dinosaurs and their world.

“My workload includes writing scientific descriptions and giving 10-minute presentations at elementary schools – and everything in between,” he says. “I must be adaptable and professional at all times, especially with kids. OWU more than prepared me for a life of ‘professional chaos.’ ”

Rossi says the geology faculty were extremely supportive during his time at OWU, leaving a considerable impression, both personally and professionally. Rossi has been able extend some of the same opportunities he’s had at the WDC to current OWU students, including Zanna Wright ’16, a current geology major with an interest in paleontology.

Wright spent six weeks as an intern with Rossi’s field crews. He hopes this OWU connection continues, enabling Ohio Wesleyan students to tap into the innumerable research opportunities at the WDC.

“There will always be a need for eager, passionate people to explore and resurrect the prehistoric world,” Rossi says. “I intend to build on the solid foundation I formed at OWU in my future pursuits into paleontology.”

While at OWU, he participated in a Travel-Learning Course trip to Iceland, performed with the Babbling Bishops improv comedy troupe, and participated for two years in the “Modern Life and Its Discontents” Course Connection, a program built to blend academic disciplines and examine larger questions from this broad perspective.

“The collaboration skills and ‘universal thinking’ I developed through the Course Connections has translated beautifully into my job,” Rossi says. “As scientists, we constantly work with other institutions for research and field excavations, and sometimes the clues we’re looking for lie outside our usual field of knowledge. OWU helped cultivate my curious, broad-minded approach to paleontology.”

Rossi says he’s wanted to be a paleontologist for as long as he can remember. “I am well on my way to not only fulfilling my childhood goal, but in a capacity that allows me to share my knowledge and passion with others – children and scientists alike. It’s the perfect collaboration of my two majors in college, and my aspirations in the professional world.”

Long term, Rossi plans to pursue advanced degrees in paleontology and continue his work at the WDC. “The research I’ve participated in and will be pursuing in the future … this was all possible through the education and opportunities I received as an OWU student.”

He anticipates his video will be featured on the DVD release of “The Good Dinosaur,” but “Wyoming: The Land that Inspired The Good Dinosaur” is available now on YouTube, where thousands already have watched the paleontologist and performer.