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Pete Docter & Jonas Rivera offers an inside look at how Pixar's latest, "Inside Out," was produced

Pete Docter & Jonas Rivera offers an inside look at how Pixar's latest, "Inside Out," was produced

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It is not everyday that you get the chance to speak one-on-one with the creative minds behind what you know will be a summer blockbuster at the box office.  That is exactly the opportunity that I had recently when I sat down with Disney / Pixar's Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera responsible for some of the best animation to hit the silver screen.

Doctor and Rivera were in Philadelphia recently as part of their cross-country press tour talking up "Inside Out," what they hope will be the latest accolade in their and Disney / Pixar's collective body of work.


(L to R) Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera at the premiere of Disney / Pixar's
"Inside Out." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved 

"Inside Out" is Disney / Pixar's 15th feature film and comes two years after "Monsters University" and just ahead of this animation studio's Thanksgiving 2015 release of "The Good Dinosaur."  "Inside Out" finds young Riley uprooted from her Midwest life and relocated to San Francisco.  It is there that Riley and her emotions, Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness battle on how to best navigate a new city, house and school.

For Docter, the movie is personal.  Not only the director but the writer of the movie, Docter says the idea was born out of changes he noticed with his 11-year-old daughter.  The once-bubbly-happy-go-lucky girl turned eleven and Docter said "she got more quiet, more reclusive and made me wonder, what's going on inside her head.  And thinking about emotions as characters just felt like this is what animation does best." He admits the idea seemed from the get-go like a "really fun idea."


Copyright Disney / Pixar. All rights reserved

The concept of a really fun idea was enough to hook producer Jonas Rivera into the project and the chance to work closely with Docter again.  The pair was responsible for 2009's "Up," which earned two Oscars at the 82nd Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.

As for the question whether "Inside Out" is a kids movie, an adult flick or a family film, Rivera says it really is a movie for everyone to see.   He confides that the number one rule and perhaps the only rule that Disney/Pixar boss John Lasseter has for his animators is to "make a film that you would want to see, you would be proud to show your family." Rivera is quick to add that the creative minds "write and produce these films for ourselves. We struggle with the question 'who do we make a movie for' and the answer is we make a movie for all of us."


Copyright Disney / Pixar. All rights reserved

The latest Disney/Pixar project took five years to make from initial sketches to edits and re-edits to the final feature.  In order to get the emotions right, the creative team spent a lot of time doing their research which included sessions with specialists to understand what emotions are and what role do they play in the human experience.  Docter says they consulted with psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists in an attempt to get to the root of human emotions.

They also spent a lot of time with the voice actors giving life to the emotions and according to Rivera it began with "Saturday Night Live" cast member Bill Hader.  "We knew Bill pretty well because he came on early and helped to write," said Rivera.  Docter chimed in by adding that "he put in a good word for us" as they reached out to fellow SNL alum Amy Poehler to join the cast as Joy.


Amy Poehler and the walk-around version of Joy,
her character from Disney / Pixar's "Inside Out."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
 

Rounding out the cast-mates of emotions are Hader as Fear, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, and Lewis Black as Anger.  Other notable voices lending their talents to the movie include Diane Lane as Riley's Mom, Kyle MacLachlan as Riley's Dad, Richard Kind as Bing Bong and what Pixar movie would not be complete without the vocal talents of John Ratzenberger as Fritz.  Both Docter and Rivera admit that Ratzenberger has become a good luck charm for the studios' movies since he has vocalized a character in every Disney/Pixar film. Pixar has grabbed nearly two dozen Oscars including six for best animated feature since the studio opened for business.

The success of their films does not get lost on the duo.  Both Docter and Rivera admit they are aware of their contributions to the wonderful world of Disney animation and the legacy of Walt Disney.  Rivera admitted that "is one of the coolest parts of this experience, and the heaviest, we don't take it lightly.  When we record an actor we go down to the Walt Disney Studios on the lot in Burbank.  We go onto Stage B where they recorded 'The Jungle Book," 'Cinderella,' 'Peter Pan' and ADR for 'Mary Poppins.' That is hallowed ground to us. We honor the past but we keep pushing forward and coming up with new stuff."


Pete Docter supervises one of Amy Poehler's recording sessions during
the production of Disney / Pixar's "Inside Out." Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved 

To answer that burning question for many Disney fans, "what would Walt think?" Rivera admits "that is an awesome question. I think he would be proud of it. I don't mean that in a cocky way, like we are doing stuff that Walt would love."  Rivera continues "Walt Disney to me was this amazing blend of nostalgia, like one foot in the nostalgia thing and one foot in the future, literally like Frontierland and Tomorrowland, which in a strange way is an echo of Woody and Buzz."

Conceding that Pixar is one of the most high-tech places on the planet, Rivera and Docter agree that the technology is only in service to the story.  "These stories that are rooted in these feelings we had when we were a kid," that is what sets them apart, adding that Uncle Walt "would have been proud of the technology and the look of it. But I think he would have been more proud, of what we're most proud of, which is the stories and the characters." 

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