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Pulling Back the Curtain on Pixar’s Next Hit, INSIDE OUT

Pixar partners Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera have been at this animation game for quite some time. The respective director and producer have been with Pixar for decades, worked together on now-classics like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and, most recently, the soul-destroying and beautiful Up. For about as long as we’ve been watching Pixar movies, these two have been making them, and, like us, Docter and Rivera have some understandable concerns about keeping the animation fresh. Enter Inside Out.

At an event at the DGA Theater last week, Docter and Rivera had a chance to showcase a few of the characters, concepts, and scenes from their upcoming new feature. Through a series of slideshow images, the pair breezily highlighted the humor and camaraderie that’s felt in almost every Pixar film. They spoke of wanting to experiment and try new things, but not alienate their audience with something too unknown. Docter then introduced us to his daughter, the inspiration for Inside Out’s setting: the mind of a pre-teen girl named Riley.

Through his own experiences raising a young daughter, Docter witnessed, to his dismay, the tumultuous emotions any 11 to 13 year old goes, and created a vast, poignant, silly world where he and Rivera could play. Here’s the official synopsis:

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

Inside Out boasts some incredible voices, and we had a chance to see each character in action. Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness all have their own role in Riley’s development, and each feeling is impeccably cast. Only Leslie Knope could navigate the waters of teen angst with such pluck, determination, and a little denial. If anyone can pull Riley out of her funk, it’s Poehler.

The world that Docter and his team has created is impressive and vast. Short and long-term memories are depicted as gorgeous glowing orbs, sorted, stored, and catalogued accordingly. Childhood fantasies are constructed into massive theme park worlds, elements of your personality are carefully cultivated through core memories, the subconscious is a very real, potentially scary place, and, in the mind of a vibrant, sensitive young girl, emotions definitely rule. (Sorry, mom and dad.) And, as if maneuvering a pre-teen girl wasn’t enough, Joy and Sadness are unexpectedly tossed from Headquarters and left to find their way home, while the remaining three are left to their own devices.

At this point, Docter and Rivera unveiled a scene that unequivocally sold the movie for me. As Fear, Disgust, and Anger – the three ruling emotions of any hormonal teen – take turns throwing a fit at the dinner table, we get a peek into the minds of Riley’s parents. Both Riley’s mother and father have their own particular parenting style, dominated by a similar, more nuanced collection of emotions. The result is that perfect Pixar combination of wit, imagination, and heart, and after the studio’s last few films, it feels like a breath of fresh air. We don’t want to spoil too much for you, but these short scenes won us over on what is sure to be a return to greatness for the storied animation studio. It feels like no coincidence that Inside Out has the same team from Up, arguably Pixar’s last major creative hit. And if their previous work is any indication, get ready for some serious feels with this one. (We still tear up when we hear that opening score from Up. No shame.)


Inside Out premieres June 19, 2015. 

Who would play your emotions? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. RRP says:

    Yay! It’s about time “Herman’s Head” got animated! (I kid, and I trust.)

  2. Xero says:

    so it’s Hermin’s head the cartoon?