Get Up Close and Personal with Disney’s ‘Inside Out’

Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

As you progress through various stages of your life, there are many mental and physical changes that occur. It is likely that you experienced one of these mental changes that is commonly referred to as “teen angst.” Sometimes, the highly energetic and talkative child you once were gives way to a quieter reserved person that attempts to deal with the strange limbo between being a child and a young adult.

Pete Docter, the director of ‘Inside Out,’ had this going on inside of his head when he came up with the idea for the film, observing his daughter changing in front of his very eyes.

There are five emotions that are personified within the mind of the 11- year-old, hockey-loving Riley, a Midwestern girl who is forced to move to San Francisco with her parents. Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) guide her through the various problems that she encounters on a day-to-day basis. However, when Sadness and Joy get sucked into the deep trenches of Riley’s mind, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are left to fend for Riley’s actions and well-being.

The Wheel participated in a conference call with Docter and producer Jonas Rivera about “Inside Out.” When asked about the idea behind the film, Rivera stated that the emotions that the film focuses on are “like the seven dwarfs by personifying emotions and creating a story within the mind. Everybody changes, what if we could somehow show that from the inside.”

Why these five emotions? Docter stated, “We started working with Dr. Paul Eckman, who is a real pioneer and researcher in expression. He had posted that there were six emotions in his early research. It was these five plus Surprise, and as we were trying to think about how we would personify these characters as cartoons, Surprise and Fear felt kind of similar, so we just nixed that one.”

During the phone interview, Docter remarked that they had “just heard from researchers around the world and looked at all of the work they’d done. The only thing that they agreed on was these five emotions. They called it happiness instead of joy, but some of them had other ones like pride or, you know, whatever, anxiety, but the five that they all agreed on, I guess is the proper way to say it, the five they all agreed on as existing are these five.”

The most difficult emotions to develop were Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) and Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling). According to Docter initially, there was not a good response to Joy as the leading emotion because she resembled “the friends that we all have who are just kind of always happy, and you kind of want to strangle them, you know, ’cause you just sense insincerity.”  They key was to ensure that she was genuinely conveyed as loving her child and being a likeable and truthful character.

Disgust was the hardest to develop visually because there was debate about whether she should be disgusting or just disgusted. Picturing Mindy Kaling as portraying Disgust and lead Pixar animator John Lasseter pushing Disgust to look appealing made the final decision. “If she is too gross or disgusting, it would not be fun to watch.”

“We kind of follow in the same footsteps as the early Disney films, the stuff we grew up on and loved like Dumbo and Cinderella,” Docter confirmed about animation. “We record first, that way the actor has a chance to play around with the line. In our case we had such amazing ad-lib and improv actors that a lot of the stuff was just on the fly. Actors would come up with stuff and we’d end up using that. Sometimes the animators would listen to it over and over and craft the performance to the dialogue. So we record it first, and that allows us to really let the actor explore and bring a lot to the role.”

While animated films are typically associated with being geared solely toward children, this is a film that can be appreciated and enjoyed by children, teens, adults, parents, and grandparents.

“They are stories,” Docter stated. “They are not in a special little subcategory off to the side at the kids’ table.”

“Inside Out” has the ability to bring people to a place that everyone is familiar with, but one that they have never actually been to before.

“Inside Out” hits theaters June 19.

 

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