Do you ever look at someone and wonder what is going on inside their head? Disney•Pixar’s original new film ‘Inside Out‘ ventures inside the mind to find out.
Based in Headquarters, the control center inside 11-year-old Riley’s mind, five Emotions are hard at work, led by lighthearted optimist Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), whose mission is to make sure Riley stays happy. Fear (voice of Bill Hader) heads up safety, Anger (voice of Lewis Black) ensures all is fair and Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) prevents Riley from getting poisoned—both physically and socially. Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) isn’t exactly sure what her role is, and frankly, neither is anyone else.
We sat with the talent behind the emotions of Disney•Pixar’s latest animated film at the Inside Out press conference in Beverly Hills recently, for a Q&A packed full of humor and quick wit, everything you would expect from this talented line of comedians.
In what is sure to be their most unforgettable performance this year, I believe I heard ‘Oscar' mentioned more than once that weekend, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, share how they all became involved with this heart-warming film, which character they would like to play (hint: it's almost unanimous), what their all-time childhood favorite Disney movies are, how a character named Bing Bong caused them all to emotionally lose it, and they may even hint at the possibility of a sequel (or maybe I'm just reading too far into the responses.) We'll just have to wait and see.
Participating in the press conference was ‘Don’t be sad, Phyllis Smith'; ‘Got nothing to be afraid of, Bill Hader'; ‘Could you have asked for a better Joy, Amy Poehler'; ‘You won’t like him when he’s angry but you love him anyway, Lewis Black'; and ‘No Disgust here, Mindy Kaling.'
You can also check out our Q&A with Director Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera to learn more about their vision for this film.
‘Inside Out' opens in theaters everywhere on June 19, 2015!
Disney Pixar Inside Out Press Conference
Q: What was it like for you all when you read the screenplay to wrap your head literally around the scope of what was going on in this movie?
Phyllis Smith: I was very excited to get the call and, I really don’t know the magnitude of it even now. I was just really happy to go to Emeryville and have Pete and Jonas tell me the story and see the pictures and immediately without a beat, without missing a beat I said yes, yes please and I had a great time.
Bill Hader: It was great. I kind of stalked them, Pixar. I went to them. I said, “I wanna take a tour of Pixar.” This was back in 2010 –
I’m a giant fan, so I just said, ‘Can I please take a tour?' I went around and I met Pete and Jonas, and there was actually a scene in the movie that deals with a live television element. Pete and Jonas said ‘We’d like to come to SNL'; and I said, ‘Come to SNL.' They hung out at SNL for a week for reference of that sequence and so they let me come and hang out at Pixar as a thank you and then said, ‘Do you want Fear?' and I said, ‘Sure.' It worked.
Amy Poehler: I came to the project later and they had done so much work already, a lot of people had already recorded, so I kind of got this PowerPoint presentation of what the idea was and I couldn’t believe it was the setting was the mind of and 11-year-old girl. I just loved that was the setting.
I honestly believe from the minute they told me the idea I was like ‘This film is gonna be the best Pixar movie ever made, and it’s gonna make the most money and it’s gonna win an Oscar;' that’s what I thought from the minute they told me. I said ‘This is the best movie ever made, and it will be the only good movie I’ve ever been in, and I can’t believe I’m in it.' So, I just thought about this day, I actually thought about the day when the film came out because as you can tell, I’m kind of a pessimist when it comes to these things.
Lewis Black: Apparently I was like the first one cast, so I was really the tipping point as soon as the others heard I was in it, they couldn’t wait to be with me.
Bill Hader: Yes, they said, ‘You wanna be in a Lewis Black movie?' And I went ‘Yes.' And they said. ‘You got to go out to Pixar.'
Mindy Kaling: Well that is really true, it’s almost if Pixar and Pete and Jonas in the experience of working with them it’s like dating a guy. It’s like this really well raised guy that doesn’t know he looks like Tom Brady and has the title of Tom Brady.
We did these other movies and we have these other things and you’re like ‘I’m in.' Much less wonderful organizations teeming with talent treat you much worse and so you’re kind of like ‘This is great, how do I take advantage of this? It’s really wonderful.'
Bill Hader: They act like it’s a real privilege that they get to do their jobs. It’s like they can’t believe they get to do what they do which is really nice.
Q: I’d like to ask you all, how do you relate to the emotion that you’re playing?
Mindy Kaling: The character ‘Disgust' has a lot of qualities of a very impatient, judgmental adolescent girl, and I seem to be recurring in playing that role over and over again in my career. She just says the things I say on a really bad day, the things I really wanna say but then don’t say it. Basically, in my mind the parenthetical role or her lines is ‘I can’t, I can’t with this;' it’s just like what she’s always thinking.
Lewis Black: For me, my family argued all the time, that’s what we did, that was the way we expressed love and it’s always been. That kind of anger is always kind of a part of me, and my mother couldn’t cook.
Amy Poehler: I think there are some characteristics of Joy, like some unrelenting energy and bossiness perhaps that Pete, Jonas, and Ronnie thought I could pull off. Maybe from the other characters that I’ve played, and I do think she just likes living in the moment and I like to think that I do that too, but I aspire to be more like Joy.
Bill Hader: I think yes, I’m a big whimp. I don’t know. I guess he needs to play Fear.
Phyllis Smith: I’m just a mess and I’m a real sad sack. I sit around and mope all day and I think they saw that effervescent side of me and decided to hone in on it. No, it’s actually my insecurities, those little quirks that I have that Pete was able to glean out of me, so yes.
Q: You guys played your characters perfectly and your emotions perfectly, but if you could play another emotion, what would it be and why?
Amy Poehler: I’d like to play Anger. That feels like the one that next to Joy and Sadness for me, is kind of in the driver’s seat and it’s just so funny. Anger is so funny.
Bill Hader: I would say Anger is the fun one. Yes, I would like to play Anger. It’s just very therapeutic, you know. I just felt like when I was watching Lewis’ thing I’m like ‘God it would be nice just to go into work and be like aaaahhh.' Because sometimes when you do a take in a movie, you do it and then you get some breathing room, then you get time to relax and you do it again, but in this they do a series so they say, ‘Do a series of that line.' So it’s like ‘Open the door, open the door; open the door.' And you just start to go crazy so it would be nice to be Anger.
Phyllis Smith: I’d like to be Angry as well as Disgust. Yes, Anger and Disgust.
Lewis Black: Yes Disgust, that’s really my second place. I spend a lot of time on the road in restaurants listening to people talk and I’m just, I’m disgusted.
Mindy Kaling: I think I would be Anger. It’s not necessarily socially acceptable to be angry, as a woman, and so that would be a fun thing to be able to do.
Q: This is for specifically Phyllis, but I’d love to hear all of your take on it. How surprising was it, this been an animated film, to find out that when the climax of the film comes along, that the core, the emotional center and theme of the movie is sorrow actually. That’s not what you’d expect from an animated film, and how do you get over these problems in your life? Well, you cry and you feel horrible and you let all your old memories be consumed by sorrow. It’s a really surprising message from a Pixar movie in a way, even though a lot of them like ‘Toy Story 3' of course had melancholy to them as well.
Phyllis Smith: I attribute that to the genius of Pete Docter and the writers, they really took me on a journey too. I didn’t realize that it was going to have that kind of feeling until the end of the movie, and I just love how Joy and Sadness, it shows the importance of your emotions in your life and that’s it is okay to be sad and Joy just complements it. She becomes aware of that too. It’s a really nice moment. So it’s Pete Docter’s fault; it’s all his fault.
Amy Poehler: Yes, Pixar doesn’t patronize their young audience and they don’t underestimate the intelligence of their audience every time so they keep raising the bar, and also they assume that you and your big brain is gonna show up and your big heart. They assume you’re gonna take all those things with you when you go see their movies; and you’re so rewarded when you do.
Q: Actually Amy, I wanna ask you if Pete Docter talked about this when he was out just now, about sitting down with him, going through the script and maybe making adjustments to certain things about it. What was that like to do that with Pixar?
Amy Poehler: It was an ability of two, it was awesome. I have a theory that with the exception of a few eccentric geniuses, I feel like most talented people are good collaborators because they are not threatened by other people’s good ideas, because they have a million of them.
My fear was that Joy would get annoying and apparently she was because no one wanted to be her; that’s okay. We talked a lot about that and pitched jokes, ways to walk that line where she wasn’t driving you crazy.
Q: Question for Mindy and Amy if you might like to chime in. The movie is all about feelings and memories, what is a core memory that you have as performer or writer or producer?
Mindy Kaling: First I’d just like to say that the idea of a core memory, that something that Pete and Jonas and Ronnie made in this movie that people say and talk about because before they named it I didn’t know it, but there are such things as core memory and that’s what so enjoyable about the movie as you’re watching. You’re like ‘Thank you for putting a name on that now I know.'4
For me my core memory was that my mother who was my absolute best friend, she was an OB/GYN when I was very little. I would have that thing with my brothers, right? Competitive about spending time with her alone one on one. That was so important to me, that no one would be around except the two of us.
She came back from work and she was in her scrubs, she had spent the night at the hospital, and she had brought home Dunkin Donuts. She had a jelly donut which I’ve never seen as a kid, and I sat on her lap in the kitchen and we shared a jelly donut. It was like everything I ever wanted in the world, just undivided attention from my mother and to be exposed to this new delicious sweet filled with another sweet. So that to me is like such an important core memory.
Q: Pixar characters tend to have a long life beyond the initial film itself, with this one assigning emotions to characters as a physical embodiment, particularly for kids with special needs, I think this is gonna be a big deal. Going forward, are you guys prepared for that scene where you’re thinking about that, when you were doing your voice or…?
Amy Poehler: That’s really cool; really. I hadn’t put that perspective on it…
Lewis Black: I was thinking about lunch.
Amy Poehler: I’m happy to represent Joy until someone tells me to stop. That’s not a bad job.
Phyllis Smith: And I’m very happy to be Sad so…
Q: Like so many Disney and Pixar movies, this one is going to be very important to kids who see it and grow up with it and revisit it over and over. I’m curious, what are the Disney or Pixar movies that are really tied up in your emotions, the ones that you fell in love with it as children?
Bill Hader: ‘UP' the other movie that Pete and Jonas did. ‘UP' by far was just unreal; I thought it was really great.
Do you remember that Ichabod Crane Disney one? Do you remember that? I dressed up like Ichabod Crane for Halloween like for four years in a row because I was obsessed with that. It was great. This was a couple of years ago. Dad…
Phyllis Smith: I’m just an ‘Up' person as well as. I date myself but it’s like; ‘Cinderella' and the older Disney ones.
Amy Poehler: Yes, I think it was ‘Sleeping Beauty', ‘Cinderella', ‘Snow White.' All those; I loved Cruella De Vil, right?
She’s a funny character. A meaty character part for a woman, Cruella De Vil. We all get to our Cruella De Vil stage, in a manner of months and now that I have kids, watching Pixar movies with them, they love them all. I love ‘Wall-E.' I just love the first 35 minutes of no talking. Again, the audacity.
To make a movie like that. It’s the big risk, big reward philosophy of Pixar. This film is really high concept and every film right now is going external, everything is about made up stakes. The world is ending, and super heroes, you have to get the diamond from the computer chip place.
It’s so bad ass that Pixar went in and was like ‘You wanna see some dangerous stuff? Why don’t you go inside someone’s mind? Do you wanna see stuff like a terrain that you live in everyday but know nothing about how it looks? We’ll tell you.'
Bill Hader: That’s what Pete is good at too, he’s a real artist, it’s not a pandery kind of thing. ‘Up' it’s an old man who ties balloons to his house and is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. It’s an expression of him and he saw his daughter going to this thing and so what’s going on with that? It just came out of him in this way, and that’s what so great about Pixar is that they trust their vision.
Mindy Kaling: ‘Up' really made me feel like you can do anything thing, and as you get older that it’s harder to find movies that do that. You see things that you’re like ‘That was great and I could see how you could do that.' To not see the process is, those were really the things that stay with you.
We were saying earlier that there are some artists we're certain Pixar, the Cohen brothers, Alexander Paine, where no matter what they do you’re like I’m in. Pete Docter is one of those types of people who when I saw ‘Up' I felt that, and so this is a dream come true. Disney when I was younger, since I bare no passing resemblance to any princesses is hard to really attach to them; but I really liked ‘Robin Hood' as portrayed by a fox. I thought that he was very dashing and while not human, I had a crush on him.
Lewis Black: I was never a child.
Bill Hader: You came out like this.
Lewis Black: My mother carried me until I was 27. No, ‘Up' had a big effect. ‘Up' just irritated me because I was old enough at that point to go ‘Yes, you know what I wanna do for the next couple of hours is confront death; that’s kind of a fun thing for me to think about.' Someone who’s spending his whole life avoiding thinking about it and if it’s literally like oh boy, I’m gonna die. The big one for me was Disney's ‘Fantasia,' because that was the one that made me go ‘I can’t wait to do whatever it is they’re doing.'
Q: If you had to describe to kids what will make ‘Inside Out' a classic film that they must see, how would you describe it?
Bill Hader: I think what’s so great about this movie is that they chose to make a film about a time in your life that we all have to go through. When you go from being young, and when you’re an adolescent, things start to change, and things start to get a little hard for you and a lot of normal movies don’t talk about that.
I wish I had that growing up because I would go through that and you look for answers and you think you’re the only one going through this thing and they did in this film in such a beautiful, fantastical way, and that’s why you have to see it. It’s a movie I wish existed, my life would have been a little easier I think if this movie existed when I was a kid.
…and the last question contains HUGE spoilers in the comments, but it contains so much heart about how the cast fell in love with this amazing film. If you haven't seen the movie stop reading NOW! You have been warned!
Q: You all just have shown, you have an excellent experience with improvisation and I was wondering if you had that opportunity in the recording studio to improvise on the characters and the dialogs and if so how much of that made it into the final cut?
Bill Hader: We all record by our self so we’re just alone. Actually, Mindy and I figured out that we’re all actually reading with Pete usually so in the movie, we’re all just responding to Pete. All our characters were basically talking to Pete. I remember there was a part in the movie where I said, ‘I’m taking the coward’s way out,' and I go up a thing. That was in the room and I remember Ronnie del Carmen who’s a genius. Ronnie del Carmen boarded out the sequence in ‘Up,' showing the relationship between the two people.
We’re talking about that and he’s looking at me just drawing and he goes ‘So like that?' And he just drew it out the way you see it. It was unreal. I was like ‘Yes, something like that.' and he just did it.
Phyllis Smith: Well, I had the privileged of recording with that lady there, with Amy. Actually, Amy helped me through some lines.
Amy Poehler: We have some private jokes and we don’t want to tell anybody.
Bing Bong. If you don't know who he is, you will after watching the film.
Mindy Kaling: Yes, there is a scene that’s on at the end of the movie where they come back and we’re like ‘Guys tell us about your adventure?' And you had to be there. Bing Bong was there…
Phyllis Smith: Speaking of Bing Bong we should take a minute to give due respect to Richard Kind.
Mindy Kaling: He’s not dead.
Amy Poehler: Amazing and the heart breaking…
Bill Hader: They are my favorite moments in the movie.
Amy Poehler: He should be up here with us because that character is like…
Bill Hader: Unreal. We had a screening and we all got to watch it together and we all got so emotional during that scene; we just totally lost it.
Amy Poehler: My favorite part was when Big Bong puts his hands out and says, ‘I got a good feeling about this one.' And you’re like ‘Oh my God, childhood is over.' It’s just like he resigns himself to the fact that I’m not gonna be able to get up there with here.
Bill Hader: With the scene, Amy looking at the memories and Big Bong, looking at the memories; how good she is in that. That’s the thing so hard with these movies. I go on there and it is really hard if you go ‘Oh, it’s really easy, you get to go over in your pajamas and record and stuff.' And you don’t; it’s really difficult and you’re channeling everything just through your voice. A lot of times you’re just screaming, I’m just screaming for four hours, but Amy did such a nuance, beautiful performance in that scene. I thought, it was really, really unreal; right up here.
About Inside Out
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Joy (Amy Poehler).
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’ opens in theaters June 19th, 2015.
Portions of the material and expenses for this event have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.