Inside ‘Inside Out’: A Sneak Peek at Pixar’s Next Movie
Since ‘Cars’ in 2006, Pixar has pumped out one film a year, but production delays on ‘The Good Dinosaur‘ mean that they’re sitting out 2014, and the company is not used to taking this much time off. So, last night — a year to the day before they release it — director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera presented a scene and the opening five minutes of ‘Inside Out.’
The opening sequence sets up the movie. A girl is born, and the first resident in the child’s mind is Joy (Amy Poehler). But soon thereafter she’s joined by Sadness (‘Office‘ regular Phyllis Smith), and then by Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black). The child is driven (literally, they have a emotional control panel) by these emotions with Joy as the leader of the group, and it is Joy who gathers all the day’s memories and sends them into the long-term memory storage. Life is happy, but as the girl is about to turn twelve, her parents move from the Midwest to San Francisco, where the housing is less flattering, and she is on the verge of transforming into a woman.
And as Docter told us, the film was derived from his relationship with his daughter, who was turning into a tween when he began writing the film. His daughter went from being a kid to that stage where she didn’t want to share with her parents and someone who presented more anger, fear and disgust than joy.
Having created the powerful opening sequence to ‘Up’ (I suggested it was ten minutes, he said it was four and a half, and we joked I felt it was ten minutes long because of all the crying), I asked if he thought about that sequence while constructing this equally powerful moment. He said that it wasn’t an influence, and that any time something seemed too familiar they’d scrap it, because they’ve done it before.
This opening sequence led to Docter explaining the narrative thrust, which finds both Joy and Sadness knocked out of their command tower and into the recesses of the mind (the mind — not the brain, as Docter made clear). They go to different islands of memories, like Goofball Island where the girl has created imaginary things — only for the fun stuff to be replaced by things like an imaginary boyfriend generator — to Dream Studios, where the mind makes up dream movies like ‘I’m Falling for a Very Long Time Into a Pit.’ They also get to ride a Train of Thought, enter into the subconscious where they become abstractions, and visit the Long Term Memory, where they meet the Forgetters, whose job it is to eliminate fading memories. We were also told they get to understand deja vu and how songs get stuck in your head. These different sequences, and the fact that the animated figures of the emotions weren’t based on human characters but on emotions as ideas, led the film to have more of a Looney Tunes influence (at least in terms of the physics) than any previous Pixar film.
With Joy and Sadness on their own quest, Fear, Anger, and Disgust are trying to lead the girl, who has just moved and is going through a hard time. In the most finished sequence presented we see her having dinner with her parents (who have their own emotions guiding their actions), and the trio can’t help but make the situation worse.
But as that could be read as the lack of the right emotions controlling the girl, Docter told me that parallel stories are being told as both the human and emotion stories are driven at the same time in ways that intersect but make sense on both levels. For anyone who’s ever gone through those years where sexuality and peer interactions become more important than imagination and fantasy, and where parents become slightly alien and less involved in the day to day, the film is going to hit home. It’s powerful stuff, but done with the expected brilliance of Pixar.
Docter admitted that his daughter has been kept from seeing the film as of yet — she’s currently fifteen; they’ve been working on it for four years — and that the long term memory set is the biggest in Pixar history. Asked to quantify that, he couldn’t, it just meant that their computers — which could now render ‘Toy Story’ in less time that it would take to watch it — were crashing trying to render the set. And, that’s exciting. Though Pixar could rest on their laurels, they keep smashing through whatever computer/glass ceilings they have.
Docter told me that they are (hopefully) twenty-six weeks away from finishing everything, with hopefully the last six months spent on post-production quibbles. But, he also said that no Pixar film has been finished that far out. They’re hopeful, and it sounds like everyone is happy with how the film has turned out. He also said that Ren Klyce will be doing the sound design, which led me to think of David Fincher, as Klyce is known for his work on Fincher’s films, with ‘Fight Club’ a big one — considering how it too take place inside a main character’s head.
As I was wrapping up with Docter, it was mentioned that it seems likely that the emotions will easily become memes and gifs because of how quickly they are recognizable and create character. Docter said he hadn’t thought about that, nor does he or anyone he’s involved with think about how the characters can be turned into toys. And it made me realize something I hadn’t thought about before: in a cinematic landscape where there is so much borrowing and recycling, Pixar is still ahead of the game in terms of creating memorable characters.
Sure, the company has been taking some lumps lately for going sequel heavy, and for some of the controversial production troubles on ‘Brave,’ but they seemed to answer that — or perhaps fight against mandates — by making sure their next series of films were original stories. And when you think about Buzz and Woody, Flik, Marlin and Dory, Mike and Sully, Mr. Incredible, Remy, Carl Fredricksen and Russell, and more you realize that even when you have a film like ‘Cars’, you’re dealing with memorable characters. Having considered that, as Docter was leaving, I told him that what was so great about Pixar was that they weren’t trying to make Han Solos, they were making Han Solos (Note: he and producer Jonas Rivera were honored I’d say that). And if the last couple films have been problematic as sequels/prequels and troubled productions, ‘Inside Out’ looks like their best film in a long time.
‘Inside Out’ opens in theaters on June 19, 2015.
That said, we also saw the short that will be played in front of ‘Inside Out,’ and it’s called ‘Lava.’ Here’s that film’s poster:
We were asked not to reveal too much about the film, but it’s a short that is cute, and emotional, and a little bit weird. It’s based on the director’s love of Hawaii and about looking for Lav(a).