“What is going on in her head?”
I think pretty much every single parent of a tween has asked themselves that same question about their own kids. After the parents who work at Disney Pixar asked themselves that question about their children, they ran with it and made it into a movie, Inside Out, which opens on Friday.
Producer Jonas Rivera spoke at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, and he gave us a bit of insight into Inside Out and what went into the the making of the movie.
Why is the main character in Inside Out named Riley?
Those involved in the film were out for a walk in San Francisco, which isn't far from the Pixar offices. They were trying to come up with the perfect name for the 11-year-old girl who is the focus of the movie. At the time, they were in the Presidio, on Riley Avenue. And voila! They named her Riley.
In Inside Out, Riley and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco - why those two locations?
The movie's director, Pete Docter (who also directed "Up"), is originally from Minnesota and now lives in the Bay Area, just across the bridge from San Francisco.
They wanted to paint the city by the Bay in the best possible light and "wanted it to feel like postcard version of San Francisco," said Rivera.
How did filmmakers come up with the five emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust- that live inside Riley's head?
Rivera said that they talked to psychologists and neurologists to get information on how many emotions there are, and they received a wide range of responses. One said that there are just three, another listed 27 emotions. Dr. Paul Eckman, a leading researcher in microexpressions and emotions, told them he identified 6 emotions in monkeys. The filmmakers merged the emotions of fear and surprise to narrow it down to five: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.
Fun fact: Eckman later followed up with the folks at Pixar and let them know that he had revised his view and believed that there are 16 emotions. Their response?
The film was well under development at that point and they opted to stick with the five they already had.
Why do we have those emotions and how does that play out in the movie?
"There is a reason you have emotions, they each have roles," Rivera said.
"Fear keeps you safe. Anger’s job is to help keep things fair. Disgust keeps you from being poisoned physically but we turned it into keeping you from being poisoned socially. Then there's sadness and joy – joy is why Riley is who she is," he explained.
How long did it take to make the movie?
Rivera said that it took five years and added, "It takes a ridiculous amount of work and writing and rewriting and numerous iterations." And that's all before you get the to animation portion of making the film. Animators produce 3-4 seconds of the film per week when working at their fastest.
What was the inspiration behind the character Joy?
Rivera says that with Joy, the character who is front and center for a large portion of the film, getting her just right was very important. "We thought of Joy as a cross between Amelie and Bugs Bunny." He stressed that they wanted her to be smart.
He also said that he and Docter are long-time fans of old school animation, which can be tough to invoke in today's world of computer animation. "We tried to achieve that by playing with style," Rivera said. "We didn’t want Joy to walk like a real person, so she has bent limbs that are pushed and exaggerated."
There's a sequence at the beginning of this movie that follows Riley from babyhood to tweenhood that is somewhat evocative of the beginning of the movie "Up." (Parents - you may want to have a few tissues handy.) Was that intentional?
"'Up' was a love letter to our grandparents. 'Inside Out' is a love letter to our kids," Rivera explained.
Disclosure: I was invited to the 2015 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I paid a conference fee that included hotel stay, park-hopper tickets, and special events. They never asked me to blog about my experience. All opinions are my own.
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