At the CineEurope 2014 trade show in Barcelona, Pixar’s Jonas Rivera was on-hand to present some first-look footage at Inside Out , an intriguing proposition that personifies the emotions inside a young girl’s mind.
Producer Rivera also worked on Up , and from what Total Film saw, Inside Out looks to offer a similarly bittersweet mix of guffaw-inducing gags and heart-rending sentiment. “ Up was a love letter to our parents,” explained Rivera. “We thought this could be a love letter to our kids.”
Some of the clips screened were in an unfinished state, and they set the scene rather than revealing lots of plot details. First up came brief animated intros for the emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness, Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black).
The short vignettes introduced the characters snappily, with mopey Sadness and flame-headed Anger the standouts. Cute and colourful, the characters’ design cues were taken from iconic shapes, before they were personified and refined. So permanently perky Joy, with a short blue pixie crop, originally took her design cues from a star, while Anger was inspired by a lump of coal, and Sadness, a tear.
Rivera referred to the characters as ‘Pixar’s version of the seven dwarfs’, and explained that, visually, they were intended to look unlike any other animated characters, with their effervescent glow intended to capture the feeling of emotions. Up close they have an almost fuzzy quality, as if they’re made from some sort of intangible felt.
They exist inside 11-year-old Riley's mind, which is like the USS Enterprise’s command centre, with a giant display (feeding in from the eyes) in front of the control desk that the emotions fight over. Out the back are vast swaths of core memories, complete with distinct personality islands. Riley’s mind is the biggest set Pixar has ever built, according to Rivera.
While you’d expect Inside Out to be funny – given that its key cast is made up from comedic character actors – the footage was also loaded with poignancy. When Riley is a baby, we see Joy take tentative steps to the control panel, to emit the first gurgles of happiness. It’s not long until Sadness sidles up and things take a turn for the dour. A montage of moments sketching Riley’s younger years – including emotion-led decisions and personality-shaping memories – had bags of warmth and personality.
It wasn’t all tear-jerking though. The funniest sequence was a dinner-table confrontation from the perspective of the emotions inside Riley’s head and those of her parents. Insightful and hilarious, it suggests Inside Out will have a lot for adults to chew on while younger kids enjoy the colourful characters.
The plot kicks off when Riley and family move to a new town, although the real fun looks to be the interplay between the distinctly drawn and vividly realised characters. Poehler’s Joy is ostensibly the lead – Rivera described her as a cross between Amélie and Bugs Bunny – with the bulk of the film centred on her relationship with Sadness after the move.
Given our excitement level following the footage, expect to hear a lot more about this one before it's released next year.
Inside Out opens in the UK on 24 July 2015.