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Peter Doctor & Jonas Rivera Talk INSIDE OUT

If we have learned anything from the filmmaking duo of director Peter Doctor and producer Jonas Rivera, it is that they can tap into human emotions, while creating entertaining animated films, like no other. Take UP for instance, in the beginning of that film, with no dialogue at all, they were able to tell a beautiful and meaningful story and there wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre. Some would even joke that they enjoy making us cry, but I would argue that it is the source of their inspiration that grounds these animated films in a way that you can’t help but feel the love that goes into them.

Their new film INSIDE OUT is no different and is once again like nothing we have ever seen. INSIDE OUT is the story of a little girl named Riley who is uprooted from her happy life in the Midwest and must move to San Fransisco when her father gets a new job, but it wouldn’t be a Disney Pixar film if that was all the story was about. What makes this story special, different and fun is that it’s well, INSIDE OUT! We get to journey inside Riley’s brain, also known as headquarters and meet the emotions that run it and how they help or try to help her navigate her new city, school and life.

Leave it to the team of Doctor and Rivera to give us a fun and meaningful look at the question we ask ourselves daily, “What is going on in your head?.” The first thing I wanted to know was where in the world do they come up with this stuff! At a press conference recently held in Beverly Hills Peter Doctor told us how he came up with the idea for the film saying:

“I noticed my daughter growing up, being a little less goofy and wacky and funny and a little more shy and quiet because she had turned 11. And at the same time, I was looking at different ideas for a film and thought about emotions as characters. So the basic pitch that I gave to Jonas at first, and then ultimately John (Lasseter), was, “What if we have an 11-year-old girl who’s move across the country, but she’s actually not the main character; she’s the setting, because inside her head are her emotions that help her deal with everyday life?” And it was pretty much just that simple of a concept.”

Like so many of their other films INSIDE OUT is not only a fun and exciting film but an emotional journey that deals with saying goodbye to your childhood. Both filmmakers are constantly inspired by not only their own childhood memories but by being parents. Rivera said:

“Yeah, there’s almost nothing more emotional to me than thinking −I’m a parent now.  My kids are nine and seven and three, so they’re younger.  And I guess I’ve always been drawn to those stories, and it just feels like that is common at Pixar.  Maybe it’s because we actually act like we’re ten-year-olds all the time.  I don’t know what it is.  But Pixar does feel a little bit like this Neverland we’ve built and that it’s − I don’t know − maybe we’re the Lost Boys or something.”

Doctor agreed adding:

“I think the other thing that affects us is we’re trying to put our own life experiences up on the screen.  I don’t think there’s been
anything that has impacted me near as strongly as having been a
parent.  And so that experience just continues to inspire and
challenge and move us in ways that everybody can resonate with.”

While the story may be about Riley, the main characters are her emotions. We meet Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) who run the headquarters in Riley’s brain. They are in charge of keeping Riley safe and happy of course. Of all the emotions that we feel every day we had to wonder what made them decide on these five emotions. Doctor said:

“Yeah, the very beginning pitch, I think I had pitched optimism,
which is, we learned later, not really an emotion, and joy.  So I had fear and anger and some other ones, and we realized, man, we don’t really know anything about this.  So we did a lot of research, and that’s where this came from…We ended up at these five, largely because of the work of Dr. Ekman, who was one of the consultants on the show.  And he had originally, back in the ’70s, posited six.  It was our five, plus surprise.  And we felt surprise, as a cartoon, is probably fairly similar to fear.  So we jettisoned that one, and that’s how we ended up with the five.”

Not only did they do research with Dr. Ekman to make sure they got it right, but it was also important to make sure they had characters to fit each emotion with voices that brought them to life. Each of the emotions look exactly how you would imagine them to and there is a clear difference in the animation of the emotions as well, there is of course a reason for that. Rivera told us:

“Yeah, that was kind of fun, because it was such an abstract
process.  Pete had said he wanted these characters to look like our emotions feel, which was hard for the arts department to then chase down what that would be.  We didn’t want them to be little people or little Muppets…Albert Lozano, our character art director, came up with this…So Joy was a star, and she was literally this golden, illuminated, almost like a sparkler, like an explosion.  Even her body language, she’s always out.  And Sadness was a teardrop, so even the shape and color and her hair, sort of almost a waterfall.  Fear was just a raw nerve.  He drew this straight line, like he is tight and conservative, and he’s − I don’t know − he’s wound up.  Anger’s a brick, this immovable briquette or something that could blow his top.  He just was a square.  And Disgust was a stalk of broccoli.  He just drew that like our kids would be disgusted by that.”

Beyond the amazing animation and wonderful story the casting of each emotion was crucial to making this film work and as usual the team nailed it and has the perfect voice cast to compliment each character. Doctor and Rivera knew how important this would be to making this project work and even early on had their sort of wish list. Doctor told us:

“Lewis Black was one that, even as I was pitching the concept, I
would say, “Imagine the fun we’re gonna have when it comes to
casting.  We could get people like Lewis Black as Anger,” and
people would go, “Oh, yeah, I get that.” So, when we cast him,
Jonas called him.”

Rivera let us in on the call saying:

“I called Lewis through our casting department at Pixar, and
we pitched him the movie.  We wanted him to play Anger.  And he immediately, like, I think what he said was, like, “Great, real
stretch casting, guys, brilliant.” Like, mocks us for calling him.  That was even perfect.  He was so great.”

Bill Hader came on the project early on. Rivera was a big fan of Hader’s work on Saturday Night Live and Hader is a huge fan of Pixar, so when Hader stopped by Pixar studios because he loves animation so much, Doctor and Rivera jumped on the opportunity to sit with him. Soon after Hader came on board as a writer and through that process became Fear. Rivera said:

“He was kind of perfect at it.  He really brought this sort of − I don’t know − Don Knotts, sheriff of Mulberry, like, quick turn on a dime that made us laugh, and he fit.”

Mindy Kaling’s voice came up when the team decided they wanted Disgust to be disgusted, not disgusting and they knew they made the right decision by the fact that she would add alternate lines that added to not only the character but the film. It was Phyllis Smith’s role in BAD TEACHER that put her in role of Sadness. Jonas Rivera saw her in the film and just loved how hesitant she was saying:

“I saw her in the movie, Bad Teacher, and she was just so funny.  I think hesitant was what − because you had written her more like a crybaby. Always crying, which was funny, but in Bad Teacher, she was hesitant and couldn’t even order a chicken sandwich.  Like, “I’ll have the chicken sandwich?”  Everything had a question mark, and that felt right, and it worked.  And that’s how we ended up playing the character, and she just nailed it.”

Joy was the last one to be cast and proved to be the hardest. Doctor told us:

“Joy was the last one to be cast, and it was the most difficult of any of the characters to write for because she had a tendency of being really annoying.  If you write someone who is always chipper and upbeat and, “Come on, guys, we can do this,” it just kind of got like, oh, you wanna sock that person. And so Amy was able to put that in some way that made it just entertaining.  It was not insufferable.  You root for her.”

There is no shortage of hard work or heart when it comes to Disney Pixar films and it comes across in their work. From TOY STORY to UP, they continue to amaze us, give us characters we fall in love with and stories that will stay in our hearts forever. Their new film is no different. With TOY STORY having such successful sequels Doctor and Rivera where asked if they were already planning for Riley’s teenage years to which they responded:

“Too scary, can’t go there.” Peter Doctor

“Yeah, that’d be a horror film, and we’re not brave enough.” Jonas Rivera

Get ready to fall in love with Riley and all of her emotions when INSIDE OUT opens this Friday, June 19, 2015.

Krisily Kennedy is just a chickk who loves movies and talking about them. Owner and founder of The Movie Chickk a place for chickks who love film and guys who love chickks who love film.
About TheMovieChickk (355 Articles)
Krisily Kennedy is just a chickk who loves movies and talking about them. Owner and founder of The Movie Chickk a place for chickks who love film and guys who love chickks who love film.

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