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There was a moment during the press conference for Pixar’s Inside Out where a significant portion of the room suddenly felt very, very old.
“Toy Story is having its 20th anniversary this November,” said John Lasseter with a smile. “Yeah, it’s 20 years since Toy Story.”
The Disney Animation Studios/Pixar chief and animation icon was reflecting on the boom experienced over the past two decades in his industry and how it was born out of a false assumption that animation was solely for children.
“We were so inspired by the revolution in the late ‘70s by the work of Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese and this amazing work that was going on and how these films were so entertaining audiences, we felt that we would like to do this for animation,” he said.
Lasseter said he came up against a “great amount of resistance” from the industry.
“But we never stopped that belief that animation can be and should be for everyone, and should be entertaining people all around the world with great stories. That’s what our dream was,” Lasseter said.
Toy Story‘s phenomenal success paved the way for “over 250” computer-animated films since, he claimed.
It also no doubt helped get Pixar’s latest offering, Inside Out — directed by Pete Docter — a plum slot in festivals such as Cannes, although someone might want to tell Amy Poehler that it’s not in the running for the Palme d’Or. “It’s not up for the Palme, but it can still win, right? It’s up to you, in the world of the mob,” the actress quipped.
The film stars Poehler as the emotion Joy alongside Mindy Kaling‘s Disgust, Bill Hader‘s Fear, Lewis Black‘s Anger and Phyllis Smith‘s Sadness working together in the headquarters of a child’s mind.
“I went up to Pixar and I cried,” said Kaling about her first trip to the company’s offices to read the script. “They showed me the story and I started weeping. Luckily, they weren’t too scared off by that.”
Lasseter later described the Inside Out cast as “one of the most talented” in Pixar history. “They helped us create these characters. They did an unbelievable job,” he said. Phyllis was just remarkable. When we got the first recordings and played them, everyone just screamed about how great it was.”
Up — also directed by Docter — opened Cannes in 2009, going on win two Oscars, including best animated feature. “2009 was the highlight of our lives. And now this is the second highlight of our lives,” said Lasseter, adding there was a growing push to have “female and ethnic characters” in animation.
“When we got started, animation was mostly guys, but we’ve been seeing more and more women and more people from all over the world work in it, and I think this will get reflected in movies,” he said.
He used Disney’s upcoming animated musical Moana, set in the South Pacific and about a Polynesian princess, as an example of this changing focus. “I guess most people think of fairy tales as European fairy tales,” he said “We’re trying to reach out and find origins of legends all over the world.”
Inside Out has its world premiere in Cannes on Monday.
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