Pixar's Pete Docter Promises 'Inside Out' Will Break New Ground

8:56 PM PST 06/20/2014 by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Pixar's 'Inside Out'

The studio's new film, coming next summer, is set in the mind of an 11-year-old girl and will take viewers to mental regions like Long-Term Memory and Imagination Land.

Pete Docter, the Oscar-winning co-director of Up, is promising that his next animated Pixar feature, Inside Out, which will be released June 19, 2015, will break new stylistic ground. While previous Pixar movies have aimed for realism, in the new feature, which is set primarily inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl, the director said,  “We’re doing stretchy, squashy stuff we’ve never been able to do before.”

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Docter and producer Jonas Rivera showed footage and detailed the plot of Pixar’s ambitious project at a Hollywood screening on Thursday at theDGA Theatre.

Inside Out is set in the mind of an 11-year-old, Riley, and its central characters are her emotions of Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), all of whom vie for control of Riley’s decisions when her family relocates from small-town Minnesota to San Francisco. The film is Pixar’s first of two 2015 releases and will be followed on Nov. 25 by The Good Dinosaur.

The footage, which also screened at CineEurope on Wednesday and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival on June 10, opened with character introductions. The filmmakers explained the emotions’ temperaments as well as their jobs in Riley’s life—Anger makes sure she is not treated unfairly, Fear and Disgust keep her safe and out of trouble, and Joy makes her happy, while Sadness’s purpose is unclear.

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The film’s first five minutes begin with Riley’s birth, in which Joy and, shortly thereafter, Sadness come into existence. In a montage of baby Riley’s experiences, the other emotions enter the picture, and a Joy voiceover explains the complex world of Riley’s mind. Her emotions operate from the Headquarters, a playfully futuristic set Rivera described as “a cross between It’s A Small World and an Apple Store.” Its shelves hold Riley’s memories, glowing orbs color-coded to emotion, which nightly are transported to her Long-Term Memory. “She’s not the main character, she’s the setting,” Rivera said.

The filmmakers outlined the story with accompanying concept art. On Riley’s first day at her new school, Joy and Sadness fight for the controls, and both end up falling out of Headquarters. They travel back through the regions of Riley’s mind, which include the amusement park of Imagination Land; Dream Productions, visualized as a film set where Riley’s dreams and nightmares are shot nightly; and the dark, cavernous Subconscious. In the meantime, Disgust, Fear and Anger are left in charge of Riley’s personality.

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The second clip showed the trouble that arises when the three of them control Riley’s reactions to her parents at the dinner table. It went inside Riley’s parents’ minds, where their emotions—characters similar to Riley’s, except Dad’s are mustachioed and Mom’s in glasses and pearls—respond to Riley’s bad temper. With an exaggerated cough, her mother’s emotions signal Dad for help, interrupting his emotions watching a memory of a hockey game. However, when his emotions are “reporting high levels of sass” from his daughter, they “put the Foot down” in a military-style sequence with flashing red lights and a launch protocol. Riley’s mother’s emotions respond to his gruff parenting with a daydream of a dashing Brazilian helicopter pilot.

The film, Docter said, was inspired by his daughter Ellie, who became glum and withdrawn when she was roughly Riley’s age.

His trouble understanding what was going on in her head then combined with the creative question he and Rivera found themselves facing after the success of Up (which Rivera produced and Docter co-directed). They both have worked at Pixar since Toy Story changed animation in 1995, and they wanted their new film to push the genre’s limits again without alienating audiences. “The puzzler was, how could we take audiences somewhere that they could relate to, but they’d never been before?” Docter said.

They responded with Inside Out’s animation as well as its story. The emotions are not rendered as solid—they are composed of tiny particles of light. “We wanted them to look like emotions feel,” Docter said. Their unusual texture presented him the opportunity to reject the realism previous Pixar animations have pursued, he said, showing a clip in which Joy slides and bounces around the Headquarters. 

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The film’s greatest challenge, he said, was its multilayered narrative. “It’s two stories at the same time, and they have to relate to each other,” Docter told The Hollywood Reporter. Earlier outlines of the film varied the prominence of Riley’s story compared to the emotions’, but the final story’s balance is about 75 percent inside, 25 percent out, Rivera told THR.

Still a year from its release date, Inside Out’s animation is unfinished, but Docter said the production intends to finish that by Christmas. Post-production, sound work and Michael Giacchino’s scoring is slated for early 2015. It’s an ambitious schedule, Docter conceded, especially considering the productions of Up and his first feature, Monsters, Inc.—“Those, we worked right to the last minute till someone ripped it out of our hands. Now, we’re going to try and be disciplined,” he said. “It’s never worked before, but we think we can do it.”

The screening Thursday also saw the debut of the Disney/Pixar animated short that will be shown in front of Inside Out in theaters. Titled Lava, it is directed by James Ford Murphy and produced by Andrea Warren and is a love story amid the volcanoes of tropical islands, set to a song written by Murphy.

Email: Austin.siegemund-broka@thr.com
Twitter: @asiegemundbroka

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