When it comes to Disney press trips, there has never been one like the other. They always make it fun, and full of experiences that are truly special. Visiting Pixar Studios is something I never imagined doing and is another one of those amazing experiences.
This trip brought me to San Francisco to cover the release of the George Lucas film, Strange Magic, and for the sneak peek of the new Pixar film, Inside Out. I am so excited to finally share the trailer and interview with you, for the film is going to be really great.
From an adventurous balloon ride above the clouds to a monster-filled metropolis, Academy Award®-winning director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”) has taken audiences to unique and imaginative places. In Disney•Pixar’s original movie “ Inside Out,” he will take us to the most extraordinary location of all—inside the mind.
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
Inside Out and Lava: Sneak Peek
While at Pixar, I chatted with INSIDE OUT Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera and here is a bit of that interview.
These voices in our heads…I love this! How did you come up with this concept?
Pete: We both have kids. My daughter, if you saw UP, she was actually the voice of young Ellie in that movie. And she was around, uh, nine when we, we recorded that. And she was actually kind of a lot like that character. She was like, walk up to strangers and go, “Hello.” You know? And talk to people, and spunky and bubbly.
And then she turned 11 or 12, and things changed a little bit. She got quiet. We talked to her teachers who’d say, ‘Ellie’s a quiet girl.’ And we’d say, ‘Who are you talking about?’ So obviously you guys know what that’s like. You go through a difficult time, sometimes very difficult, both from the kid’s point of view, and the parent’s point of view. And that was really the origins of this film, is trying to figure out what’s going on inside her head.
We had this idea of using emotions as our main character, Anger, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Joy. What that lead to was this great research that we got to do talking to psychologists and neurologists, and really deep dive into how and why we think and feel. And that’s, uh, a lot of that research has shown up in the film, and then of course we made some stuff up too, but, uh, ‘cause it’s supposed to be fun to watch.
Jonas: It was really the idea that we’ll personify the emotions. When we pitched it to Disney and to John Lasseter we talked about our version of the Seven Dwarfs. You can really do something in animation, really get these characters and do something unique, specific, and fun. It just really appealed to us. We love—obviously—animated movies, but also the classic Disney animated movies, and we talk about that a lot. What was it about those movies that lasted forever? Why do we still talk about Lady and the Tramp and Dumbo and these movies that we grew up? They’re very emotional. UP is very emotional. We like movies that are emotional. What if we made one about emotions?
Pete: So the fun of this film has been really about casting, and even from the beginning we were thinking, ‘Okay, you have Anger, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, you have all these guys who have such strong passionate points of view on how you should act.’ You know, Fear is always going to be the one to say, ‘Uh, maybe we should, you know, just back off a little.’ Early on using Lewis Black, the great comedian, as an example of the kind of cast you could find. We were lucky enough to get him.
It ended up, not only do the characters lend themselves to great animation fun, but we had this amazing cast between Amy Poehler, who’s just fantastic, and really what made me fall in love with her is Smart Girls blog. My daughter was looking at. She does such great work in reaching out to kids and letting them know that growing up is hard, and so she really resonated with the film, as did Mindy…
Jonas: …Kaling, who plays Disgust. It’s just really great, too, we pitched with all these really smart actors, and they responded, and really have approached the film as if it’s theirs, like they’re really proud of it, as are we.
The cast! They are amazing! Check out this fun video showing the voices behind the voices in Riley’s head.
With a cast like that, how much freedom did they have to bring to the characters they voiced?
On how much leeway the actors have with the scripts
Pete: This was really an ensemble comedy. So we had a good sense of where the thing was going. But what we did with Bill Hader and Amy and well all the actors, we would go sit with them. And Amy we sat for a day and just rewrote and wrote out some things. And so she really contributed firsthand to the writing on her character’s parts. And then usually what we do is we’ll sit down, record what’s written, and then they’ll ad lib for a little while. Mindy was great that way.
Jonas: They’re so fast, and such good improv artists that we would take advantage of it. Make sure we got what we needed, but then just let them go. And a lot of that’s in the movie; they’re really small things, little reactions, little things how they’d play off of each other that we hope makes the movie feel conversational and real, so that it really feels believable. It was a lot of fun to work with them.
Pete: The drive of the story is sort of hinted at the beginning, is Joy and Sadness and those two characters. Especially Joy starting to understand that there’s more to life than being happy. And so that’s based on real life observations and things that we’ve learned as adults.
Jonas: That’s really the thrust of it. It’s something we’re really proud of, and we hope everyone will think it’s really funny. UP , we’re really proud of that film. That was sort of an observation and a love letter to our grandparents, and this idea of growing old, and the fact that there’s nothing you can do about that and all that with Carl. This is the echo of that about our kids and growing up, which is just a lot of fun, and it means something to us. So it’s very personal, and we’re very proud of it, and we’re really glad you guys are here.
The short before Inside Out is Lava, which is a beautiful love story. One about the fact everyone wants to be loved. Check out the trailer. I dare you not to smile!
Here’s a bit of the conversation I had with Lava director James Ford Murphy while sitting with him and producer Andrea Warren, where he shares how the song for the short came to be.
OK, let’s talk about the song.
James: Hello everyone. Aloha. I don’t know if you know this about Pixar but anyone can pitch ideas for Short Films. And the idea is you can’t just pitch one. You have to pitch 3 ideas. I’ve been here now for almost 19 years and in my last role I was kind of getting a little bored and really wanted to reach out and try something and said you know what, I’m gonna pitch 3 ideas of Short Films. And before I did that, I had one rule for myself and that was to create stories about things that I really, really love and things that I connect with emotionally. And ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this tremendous fascination with Hawaii and Volcanoes as I think most kids do. And I think it was, I was a huge Elvis Presley Fan and I think Elvis had a fascination with Hawaii and I was exposed to that but it wasn’t until my wife and I got married and we went to the big island for our Honeymoon that I really fell in love with Hawaii, Volcanoes, and particularly Hawaiian Music.
And probably about 15 years ago, my wife and I were watching an episode of “ER” that featured a very recognizable song that I had heard and knew from the “Wizard of Oz” but I’d never heard a more hauntingly beautiful rendition of this song, it literally floored me. And I’d go who is this? It just blew my mind and the more I uncovered it, I could believe the power and the beauty of that song. So then when it came time for me to come up with an idea for a Short Film I thought, well I have this love of volcanoes and this love of Hawaii and Hawaiian Music, what if I could write a song that makes me feel the way that that song did when I first heard it and feature it in a Pixar Short. So that’s what I set out to do. And as I developed the idea, the story, and the pitch for Lava, I also wrote this song that you see featured In the film.
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INSIDE OUT opens in theatres everywhere on June 19th!
*I was invited by Disney and Pixar on a press trip to cover the preview of Inside Out and Lava. All opinions are my own.