Inside Out: Meet the Little Voices Inside Your Head
*I was invited as a guest of Disney to attend the press junket for purposes of this post*
Have you ever wanted to meet those little voices inside your head? Or do you ever look at someone and wonder what is going on inside their head? Well, in Disney-Pixar’s fifteenth film, “Inside Out” examines this very thought of what goes inside our head as we witness firsthand the turbulent mechanisms and dynamics of the five primary emotions driving an eleven year-old girl’s mind. At a recent press junket in Beverly Hills we were able to do just this as we got to sit down and chat with the creators and cast of Inside Out.
Director Pete Docter, Producer Jonas Rivera, and cast members Amy Poehler (“Joy,”) Bill Hader (“Fear,”) Mindy Kaling (“Disgust,”) Phyllis Smith (“Sadness,”) and Lewis Black (“Anger”) joined us for some very emotional fun, topics ranging from emotions, to Pixar, to Islands of Personality.
First we chatted with Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera. Both have been with Pixar for over 20 years, and their love for creating movies shines through in Inside Out.
So how did the idea of “Inside Out” come to be?
Pete Docter noticed that his daughter was going through some very emotional times, like all pre-teens do. She had just turned 11.
“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 pretty much 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.”
How did there come to be five emotions to go inside the head, rather than six or four? Is there a mathematical reason for that?
Pete explained to us: “I 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, man, 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. We realized, well, we get to kind of make this up. 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. We ended up at these five, largely because of the work of Dr. Paul 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.”
Do Pete and Jonas deliberately start out to make movies as a team or purposely like to make people cry?
Jonas had this to say: “We don’t sit around consciously going, “All right. Let’s make a great movie.” I mean, we hope that happens, obviously, but I think it’s just like, “What do we wanna see? What did we love seeing when we were kids? What do we wanna take our families to? What are we gonna be proud of? Let’s aim for that.”
Next, we had a hilarious chat with the voices inside the head of Inside Out.
When you have as many comedians in one room (especially ones from Saturday Night Live), you know they’re going to ad lib and who knows which way the conversation is going to go, you never know. Many laughs were had by all. So lets get started!
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 as Sadness answered first. “As always I’m speechless, I was very excited to get the call and it – I really don’t know the magnitude of it even now. 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 and I don’t know – take it Bill.”
Bill as Fear then chimed right in. “All right, it was great. 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’m a giant fan, so I just said, “Can I please take a tour?” I went around and I met Pete and Jonas and there was actually a scene – the Dream Production they said, “We have this…” 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 as Joy answered next. “I came to the project later and they had 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 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;” that’s what I thought from the minute – I’m sorry but not to be – but from the minute they told me I was like this is the best movie ever made, and it will be the only good movie I’ve ever been in and I can’t believe I’m in it.”
Lewis as Anger then told us, “Apparently – I found out – I was like the first one cast so I was really the tipping point as soon as the others heard I was in it, they couldn’t wait to be with me.”
Lastly, Mindy as Disgust told us her first thoughts of being cast as Disgust. “With Pixar, Pete and Jonas, in the experience of working with them, it’s like dating a guy. It’s like this really well raised guy that doesn’t know he looks like Tom Brady and has the title of Tom Brady and it’s just like – and we did these other movies and we have these other things and you’re like “I’m in” and I wanna just make you happy and you feel so honored to be with you. So you’re kind of like “This is great, how do I take advantage of this? It’s really wonderful.”
Going off of the last question, each was then asked how did each of them identify with the emotion they voice.
Mindy’s response was that she’s been there done that many times before. “The character 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: “For me it’s just that I’ve spent – 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: “Well, I think 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: “I think yes, I’m a big whimp, I don’t know. I guess he needs to play Fear.”
Phyllis: “Likewise I’m just a mess and I’m a real sad sack. I sit around and mope all day and I think they saw that effervescent side of me and decided to hone in on it. No, it’s actually my insecurities that I think they – you know, those little quirks that I have – that Pete was able to glean out of me so – yes.”
I wish there was time to discuss the whole conversation with the cast, as it was a highly entertaining laugh fest, but we have time today for one more question.
If they could play another emotion, what would it be and why?
Amy wanted to be Anger. She felt like that’s the one that’s next to Joy and Sadness – for her that one’s kind of in the driver’s seat and it’s just so funny, Anger is so funny. Bill wanted to be Anger too. (They all wanted to be anger! lol) He said “Anger is the fun one, yes, I would like to play Anger. It’s just very therapeutic, you know. I just felt like when I was watching Lewis’, I’m like “God it would be nice just to go into work and be like aaaahhh.”And you just start to go crazy so it would be nice to be Anger.” Phyllis wanted to be Anger & Disgust. Lewis chose Disgust. “Yes Disgust, that’s really my second place. I’m really of the idea of just – I spend a lot of time on the road in restaurants listening to people talk and I’m just – I’m disgusted.” Mindy also chose Anger. “I would be Anger. It’s not necessarily socially acceptable to be angry – a woman – and so that would be a fun thing to be able to do.” Phyllis then joked ,”What does that say about us that we all wanna be angry?” and Amy added, “No one wants to be Joy, isn’t it interesting?”
That concludes our look inside the heads of Inside Out, so be sure to go see the masterpiece they’ve created on Friday! 😉
Oh! Wait! I almost forgot…. DON’T be late to see Inside Out because you WON’T want to miss THIS! There’s a new short called Lava that will be showing before Inside Out starts and we were in for a very special treat by getting to listen to Creator/Director/Singer, Jim Murphy and Andrea Warren, the producer, speak to us about their journey from the idea of Lava to the big screen. I hope you ‘Lava’ it as much as I did! The story really hits the heart. It’s a seven-minute animated movie about a lonely volcanic island named Uku with the dream of having someone of his own to love. He always sees others paired up, and he’s happy for them, but he’s sad at the same time since he is all alone. Which, I can very much relate to him on that, so Lava was that much more relatable for me.
Jim shared with us how he’d taken a honeymoon with his wife years ago to Hawaii, where he grew a passion for Hawaiian music and even purchased a ukulele. It was a successful pitch, but like with any storyline, he went through some growing pains in getting the story just right. He even sang and played the theme song from Lava for us on that same ukulele he purchased in Hawaii! Take a listen, it’s such a sweet song!