I recently attended the press conference for Inside Out and interviewed the cast of the upcoming Pixar Disney movie. The animated movie is about a 12 year old tween girl who deals with her emotions as she struggles to adjust to a new home and life in San Francisco. Her emotions: joy, fear, disgust, sadness and anger emotions live in headquarters and star Amy Poehler (voice of “Joy”), Bill Hader (voice of “Fear”), Mindy Kaling (voice of “Disgust”), Phyllis Smith (voice of “Sadness”) and Lewis Black (voice of “Anger”). The emotions conflict about how to navigate the move to a new home. Inside Out is unlike any animated movie I have ever seen.
Our Inside Out cast interviews were full of emotions, but they made it through the interview without getting sad. We got to know them personally as well as emotionally — which is something that doesn’t always happen at a press conference.
The cast personalities also closely match the emotions of the characters they play in the movie. I look forward to watching the movie again and again when it is released in theaters on June 19.
Top Secrets From Inside Out Movie Filmmakers
What was the inspiration behind Inside Out and how you pitched this to John Lasseter?
Pete Docter: 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. The basic pitch that I gave to Jonas at first, and then ultimately John, was, “What if we have an 11-year-old girl who’s moved 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?” It was just that simple of a concept. I didn’t really have a story yet. That came from working with Josh Cooley and Ronnie del Carmen, all the amazing story talents that we have. It slowly developed over the next four years. But we all kind of know that, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re gonna make a lot of adjustments and refinements as we go.
Could you talk a little bit about picking five emotions to go inside the head, rather than six or four? Is there a mathematical reason for that? And, also, were there some of the voices − I mean, in the case of Lewis Black, did he just cast himself?
Pete Docter: The very beginning pitch, I had pitched optimism, which is, we learned later, not really an emotion, and joy. I had fear and anger and some other ones, and we realized, we don’t really know anything about this. So we did a lot of research, and that’s where this came from. There is no consensus amongst scientists about how many emotions there actually are. Some say 3; some say 27; most are somewhere in the middle. So we realized, well, we get to kind of make this up. So we arrived at five, mainly because it’s a nice odd number. It felt like a good crowd, enough contrast and conflict between them, but not so big that you’re, like, “Wait, who’s that again? Schadenfreude? Okay. Lost track of −” so, if we were to represent all 27, I just − my brain was hurting, thinking of writing for all these characters.
At the center of emotion is the emotion console. How did the idea for the emotion console come, as well as the theme of a spaceship, driving those emotions?
Pete Docter: From the very beginning, we thought of the emotions as being some sort of controls because That’s probably how they would work, right, in other to affect us emotionally. And early on, we made it much more specific. We had heart rate and body temperature, kind of the things that emotions actually do physically affect in us. We have butterflies in the stomach, spine tingle, you know, stuff. And then we thought, well, that’s you wouldn’t need to know that as an audience member. So we tried to make it more evocative of what might be in an 11-year-old girl. It’s got a sense of fun and play to it, but it’s also practical and physical.
The idea of each emotion − I don’t know if you notice this − when they touch the console, it changes color to kind of take on − it’s like those fancy cars when they can kind of sense when a certain person sits in it. The seat adjusts. So it’s a little like that. It adjusts, depending on who’s driving.
Jonas Rivera: We didn’t want it to be too science fiction. You can imagine, in this movie, without any visuals, reading it, it did sort of lean that way. So we worked really hard to make it whimsical and fun, like the mind of a little girl. Once we had that grammar, then you could be, like, dads as more of a NORAD computer, you know, old-school coffee cups on it. You could kind of echo that. And there’s just, we hope, just enough logic in the buttons and the way it would work that you would just buy that it was − and when we get too literal, it would almost feel robotic, like they were driving.
And so it was this really − I mean, we looked at − and you mentioned a ship. I remember even looking at the Millennium Falcon. You just buy that there’s a throttle. You kind of don’t need to know more than that. I’ve always sort of accepted those buttons worked and did things. And we wanted the similar grammar, but in a fun way.
We had talked with the art department as they started coming up with it, that and the whole room. It was almost like this combination of It’s a Small World and an Apple store. That’s what we kind of kept saying. It was whimsical and whirligigs and same with the console. But it was also serious. It was just clinical enough to work and be functional and so forth.
Top Secrets From Inside Out Movie Talent
What was it like for you all when you read the screenplay to wrap your head literally around the scope of what was going on in this movie?
Phyllis Smith: I was very excited to get the call and it – I really don’t know the magnitude of it even now. I don’t believe – I was just really happy to go to Emeryville and have Pete and Jonas tell me the story and see the pictures and immediately without a beat, without missing a beat I said yes, yes please and I had a great time.
Bill Hader: I kind of stalked them – Pixar – I went to them. I said, “I wanna take a tour of Pixar.” This was back in 2010. I went around and I met Pete and Jonas and there was actually a scene. They didn’t tell me about the movie – there is a scene in the movie that deals with a live television element. We’d like to come to SNL; and I said, “Come to SNL.” And they hung out at SNL for a week for reference of that sequence and so they let me come and hang out at Pixar as a thank you and then kind of really – “Do you want Fear?” and I said, “Sure.” It worked.
Amy Poehler: I came to the project later and they have done so much work already and a lot of people had already recorded, so I kind of got this PowerPoint presentation of what the idea was and I couldn’t believe it was – the setting was the mind of and 11 year old girl. I just loved that that was the setting. I just thought – I honestly believe from the minute they told me the idea I was like “This film is gonna be the best Pixar movie ever made, and it’s gonna make the most money and it’s gonna win an Oscar.”
What you see in yourself that makes it perfect that you play the characters that Pete Docter and the rest of the team wanted you to play; so how do you relate to the emotion that you’re playing?
Mindy Kaling: The character discussed has a lot of qualities of a very impatient, judgmental adolescent girl and because I seem to be recurring in playing that role over and over again in my career – she just says the things I say on a really bad day – the thing I really wanna say but then don’t say it. Basically, in my mind the parenthetical role or her lines is “I can’t, I can’t with this;” it’s just like what she’s always thinking.
Lewis Black: My family argued all the time, that’s what we did, that was the way we expressed love and it’s always been so – that kind of anger is always kind of being a part of me and my mother couldn’t cook.
Amy Poehler: There are some characteristics of Joy – like just maybe some unrelenting energy and bossiness perhaps that Pete, Jonas and Ronnie thought I could pull off, maybe from the other characters that I’ve played and I do think she just likes living in the moment and maybe like to think that I do that too, but I aspire to be more like Joy and I think that characters in the film get all of the range of emotions. Everybody feels anger, fear, sadness, joy; each in their own journey. Bill?
Bill Hader: I think yes, I’m a big whimp, I don’t know. I guess he needs to play Fear.
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