Sneak Peek: Pixar’s Inside Out

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Concept illustration from Inside Out Image © Disney-Pixar
Concept illustration from Inside Out
Image © Disney-Pixar

Pixar provided a behind-the-scenes look at their next film, Inside Out, for a small audience in Los Angeles, exactly one year prior to its scheduled premiere date of June 19, 2015. The preview included a look at the opening five-minute sequence (much of it in the form of storyboard images), character and set designs, concept drawings, and some brief scenes from the film. The audience was also treated to a preview screening of Lava, the animated short that will accompany Inside Out in the theaters.

The event was hosted by Jim Morris, General Manager of Pixar, who said of the film, “it changed the way I think about thinking.” Writer/Director Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.; Up) and Producer Jonas Rivera (Up) spoke about the film and lingered at the reception afterward to answer questions. Also present were Jim Murphy, Animation Supervisor, and Andrea Warren, Producer, to present Lava.

Docter explained that the film is largely inspired by his own daughter, Ellie, now 15. As a child, Ellie was exuberant, adventurous and joyful; in Up, she provided the voice for the character of Ellie as a child, a character that was very much like herself. Around age 12, she went into a funk, becoming quiet, sullen and withdrawn, and seemed to lose the bright outlook that had been a core element of her personality. Docter wondered what had happened to her, and that concern eventually led to the script for Inside Out.

The film tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley, formerly goalie of her hockey team, whose family has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco; the many changes involved weigh heavily on her, as do conflicts within her own emotions. Riley is not so much the star of Inside Out as the setting; the real stars are the emotions that guide her from “headquarters,” the control center within her mind, which looks rather like what would happen if Dr. Seuss had redesigned the bridge of the Enterprise in the “Googie” style.

Joy (Amy Poehler), the first of Riley’s emotions, opens the film by reviewing her early years, as one by one, her other emotions emerge; Fear (Bill Hader) keeps her safe; Disgust (Mindy Kaling) keeps her from getting poisoned; Anger (Louis Black) fights for fairness on her behalf; and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), well, Joy’s not sure quite what Sadness does for Riley, but they’re clashing a lot more often lately.

Eventually, while struggling for control, Joy and Sadness are accidentally thrown out of Headquarters and find themselves in the deep recesses of Riley’s mind and have to try to make their way back, traveling through Long-Term Memory (gigantic skyscrapers filled with glowing memory spheres), Imagination Land (where Joy is dismayed to see that the “princess castle” has fallen into disuse while the “imaginary boyfriend generator” is running at full speed), the Dream Production Studio, the Subconscious, the bizarre Abstract Thought region, and the Train of Thought. While they are lost in their travels, the other emotions, Fear, Anger and Disgust, are trying their best to keep things running and pretend nothing is wrong. Riley’s resulting mood swings and outbursts will be very familiar to parents of adolescents, and the accompanying peeks into the parents’ emotional lives are equally familiar and entertaining.

© Disney-Pixar
© Disney-Pixar

As with all Pixar releases, Inside Out is accompanied by a short film, in this case a geological love story called Lava, set to the vocal talents of two stars of traditional Hawaiian music, Kuwana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig accompanied by ukelele.

Animator Jim Murphy conceived Lava after decades of love for Hawaii; he and his wife had honeymooned there 25 years ago, and he became fascinated by volcanoes, as well as the aesthetics of Hawaiian art and culture. The film is built around a song he wrote, telling the tale of a lonely volcano. Lava is sweet and romantic and incredibly beautiful to look at. To say any more would spoil it.

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