Posted on Saturday, June 20th, 2015 by Germain Lussier
Pete Docter has been making movies for almost thirty years. In that time, he’s directed three features. Two of those have been produced by Jonas Rivera. One of those films won the Oscar for Best Animated Film. The latest one might do the same.
That latest film is Inside Out, Pixar’s 15th creation, which is now in theaters. Co-written and directed by Doctor and produced by Rivera, it follows five emotions inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl. As a follow up to both Monsters Inc., Docter’s first film, and Up, Rivera and Docter’s first team-up, Inside Out already has a ton to live up to. Then there’s the fact it’s the first Pixar movie since 2013, and the first original property since 2012. That’s a ton of expectations on top of the already-high bar Pixar has set in the past 20 years.
Speaking with Docter and Rivera, we talked about those expectations. We also talked about how large the movie got before focusing it down, developing the story, animation challenges, Saturday Night Live, Michael Giacchino and theme parks. It’s a wide spreading conversation, which you can now read below.
So Inside Out is the first Pixar movie we’re getting in over a year. And it’s the first original one in a while too. There’s the already pressure of being a Pixar movie so do those factors add any more pressure on top top of that?
Jonas Rivera: That’s a good question. It’s certainly…
Pete Docter: I think every film has pressure, you know.
JR: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s bad.
PD: I don’t think one has more or less. I think, well, we sort of felt it as the film went on this year. That did feel like “Oh there is a little extra pressure” ’cause of that gap.
JR: Yeah. That’s your come back.
PD: Just that anticipation of…
JR: It was just because we worked on this from sort of the day after we wrapped Up, this came to fruition. Every movie we work on, we treat it like it’s our last one. Just to be healthy about it. And to be grateful for this position we have.
PD: And recognize how incredibly lucky we are to be doing this.
JR: Yeah. It’s so amazing. And so we put everything into it. And then, you get close to when they’re done and you almost have these panic attacks. I remember this with Up too it was like “Oh my God, what have we done? Is this the–?”
PD: It’s almost over.
JR: I don’t know if you heard Lewis [Black], he said he told us “I’m gonna be in Pixar’s first failure.”
JR: And he’s not wrong ’cause they all look so abstract when they’re early on. And then you ride it out and you get it closer to what you hoped it could be. And then you start feeling good about it. But then it all circles back around and the minute we were at Cannes and you’re walking into a room to watch it in public.
PD: ‘Cause then the movie’s gone.
JR: And in a well known for being critical room.
JR: And you just you cross your fingers. And then they liked it, so of course then you feel good. But I don’t think, to answer your question, it’s the same amount of pressure that we put on ourselves for all these things.
We hear much about the story process at Pixar, how stories are reshaped and developed over years. In this movie, was the section that needed the most massaging?
PD: This film had a lot of interlocking pieces and made it very complex. So you have the story of Riley, you have the story of Joy, the two relate to each other, but not in a direct physical way, in a much more kind of psychological way. When Riley turns her back on her friend, it causes a physical change. And that took a long time to work out. And it was really year four that we finally landed the architecture of the interior mind world going back to structural changes in Riley’s story. So any time you change that, that meant a whole new inside. You know, we had Riley initially growing up in San Francisco. She didn’t hadn’t moved houses.
JR: Yeah, that’s right.
PD: And she was part of a Thanksgiving Day pageant. That was one version of the story as she was growing older, she was gunning for the prized role of the turkey pageant, the turkey. And that was so bizarre and didn’t really work. Then we also, on the inside story, we had Joy paired with Fear for a long time. Which I know we’ve talked about in other media things. And that was a huge change. [The point was] really giving Joy someone to bounce off of and knock heads with that would change her mind about where she stands. It ended up Fear didn’t really provide that so we rejiggered the whole thing to make it about Sadness.
JR: With each one of these narrative changes on the outside of Riley’s world, would impact the geography of the mind, whether there were different islands or knocking away paths they needed to go. So, poor art department. You know, one word would change in the script and like the world…
PD: Would change.
JR: They’re all tough, but this was a much more violent wrestling match to harmonize those two [worlds], I would say.
PD: Yeah, it felt like it.