Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
In life, we all strive to be happy. Other emotions pop up to take control of our consciousness when happiness isn’t available. So it makes sense that Joy is the main character of Pixar’s June 2015 release Inside Out. Directed by Pete Docter (Monsters Inc., Up), the film takes place in the mind of a young girl named Riley Anderson, and dramatizes the way her five primary emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust – help inform who she is as a person. After a very happy childhood in the suburbs, Riley and her family move to San Francisco. There, Joy and Sadness get lost in deep in Riley’s mind. As that pair explores the mind, Anger, Fear and Disgust try keep Riley on track, but they can’t.
At the Director’s Guild in Hollywood, CA Docter, and producer Jonas Rivera, presented the first five minutes of Inside Out, an additional scene, and tons of other details. With one year remaining until release, the film had just completed 50% of its animation. So there’s still plenty of work to be done. But it was very obvious, even at this very early stage, that Docter’s latest film is on track to be something very special.
Below, watch a video blog discussing the evening and learn a bit more about the plot, characters and locations of Inside Out.
First up, here’s the video blog discussing lots of what you can read below:
As the evening began, Docter and Rivera talked about how, following up Up, they wanted to do something different. How could they make a film everyone would relate to and understand, but had never been seen before? Docter found the answer in his daughter Ellie, who at the age of 12 went from a super-happy little girl to highly emotional young woman. What was going on in her mind? Inside Out was born of that question.
The young girl in the film, Riley, is not the main character. She’s the setting. The main characters are Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). In the film’s first five minutes, Riley is born, and Joy takes control of the infant. She registers her first memory, of her mom and dad looking at her. That memory is visualized as a little ball that looks like something in a pinball machine. 33 seconds later, the second emotion is introduced: Sadness. Riley begins to cry. We then get a montage of Riley growing up and introducing each of her emotions in very recognizable situations: parents feeding their kid broccoli, the fear of jumping off a couch, the anger of not getting dessert.
We learn about core memories; the memories who make us who we are. For Riley, one is scoring her first goal in hockey. When that memory is filed away in her brain, it opens an Island of Personality. Each core memory creates one of these, and they define who Riley is as a person. (Joy’s favorite Island is called “Goofball Island,” and there we get a gratuitous Pixar butt shot.)
In that first five minutes, we see how emotions control imagination, and how, when we sleep, memories move from short term memory to long term memory. (That process looks like a giant game of pachinko.) In Riley’s early years, Joy logs many “perfect days,” which consist of all happy memories. But that’s about to change.
Docter and Rivera stressed that Inside Out takes place in Riley’s “mind,” not her brain. So the setting is an etherial, magical place. Biology and physics aren’t at play here. That allowed the animators to really push the limits of motion, something that doesn’t really happen in most Pixar movies. Most Pixar movies are grounded in some reality, but this isn’t. Anything is possible.
To that aim, the emotions aren’t made of flesh and blood. They’re made of “energy particles.” As the film nears release, we’ll get a better idea of how that really looks. Imagine the outline of a body, but instead of flesh and bone, it’s filled with tiny circles of energy, all independently lit. They’re beautiful, as are the rest of the sets in the mind, which look like some blend of a Seventies shag apartment and the design aesthetic of Dr. Seuss. Very bright. Very inviting.
Besides the main hub of the mind where the emotions control Riley and store the short term memories, Inside Out will show a ton of other places. We’ll see Long Term Memory, one of the biggest sets Pixar has ever created. (Docter said rendering it still crashes their computers.) There’s Dream Productions, a nightly movie studio with Hitchcock-inspired dream posters hanging on the walls. Imagination Land is made of everything Riley has ever daydreamed about. It used to be all stuffed animals, now it’s boys.
We’ll meet the “forgettors,” minion-like characters who are responsible clearing away memories Riley doesn’t need anymore, like old piano lessons or the names of all the presidents. Joy and Sadness will ride the Train of Thought, which creates a track as it’s moving, and which can easily get lost. They visit the subconscious, a place for abstract thought (which is so crazy, Docter said they hired a separate team just for the sequence.) There’s just so much that’s going to be in this movie.
They screened a more finished version of the dinner table scene screened at D23 and CinemaCon. Since this scene focuses more on the people in the real world, it’s a bit different from the rest of the film. Still, it’s brilliantly paced scene in which the family interacts at the dinner table. It cuts between the real world and the minds of each character, showing how their individual emotions guide the conversation. What’s most important to take from this scene, though, is that Joy and Sadness are lost in Riley. So Anger, Disgust and Fear are pretending to be Joy. Once you imagine anger masked as joy, you begin to understand the state of a teenager.
Pixar is famous for making inventive movies, but if Inside Out lives up to the expectations of this presentation, it could just top them all. At the very least, the five emotions in the mind of a little girl should find themselves right alongside talking toys, cooking rats, lost fish and superhero families in the lineup of great Pixar characters.
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