Take A Peek Inside Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’: Character Sketches and Movie Inspiration

Inside Out is propelling Pixar back to the top of the game with the movie dominating theatres worldwide—not enough to top Jurassic World, but that’s another story.

Inside Out hit movie theatres worldwide on June 17, and the movie is already racking up great reviews left and right. Pixar’s first original since 2012, Inside Out was definitely a wise move. How did Inside Out came to be and what is the genius behind the title? Washington Post talked to Inside Out director Pete Docter to find out how the pieces came together to create Inside Out.

Docter tells Washington Post that he is not alien to the phenomenon called adolescence, inspiring him to help fellow dads out there to sneak a peak inside their changing kid’s head.

“My daughter is changing. She used to have this happy, goofy spirit. But she began to move toward being more quiet and more reclusive. As a parent, I was playing and being a part of that ‘pretend-play.’ And that was going away [at 11]. That was a big part of [Inside Out].”

Docter shares that Inside Out took a lot of commitment, passion, and research, taking almost five years of hard labor for the movie to finish. Inside Out has not only become a commercial project, but more of a personal piece from Docter, saying how much being a father has translated into his films. Children as the centrepiece of his stories began taking place when Docter directed all-time favorite Monsters Inc.

I think being a parent has affected every film I’ve worked on.”

Docter also praises his cast, who made Inside Out a comedic but inspiring piece. He says the talents behind the characters of Inside Out brought the comedic punch to Inside Out, all being comedic all-stars from NBC and Comedy Central. They certainly were successful in delivering the film since Inside Out became one of the most hilarious Pixar movies, despite the tear-jerker moments and the complex idea of being a Jung-meets-Freud project.

Inside Out character Joy is one of the central characters in the story and was voiced by Amy Poehler. USA Today reports that Joy’s character in Inside Out alone took three years of design and production to complete. Inside Outcharacter director Albert Lozano explains the concept behind Joy, her pixie-cut and her bare feet designed to embody her happy-go-lucky nature.

It’s a short haircut that is somewhat messy. Joy doesn’t spend much time getting dolled up. She just wants to run out and play and jump into action.”

Character sketches for Joy and Sadness
Character sketches for Joy and Sadness

Literally blue, Inside Out character Sadness was designed to embody the emotion. It is noticeable that Sadness is a bit shaped like a teardrop, with her hair evoking water falling down and her wool sweater as a safety blanket during a cold damp day. Voice actress Phyllis Smith played Sadness perfectly in Inside Out.

Another Inside Out character, Anger, was voiced by Lewis Black, a decision made early on in the development of Inside Out. Docter shares that he would mention Black to the production and everyone agreed immediately, seeing how “that could work.” His character was designed to be as rigidly uncomfortable-looking as possible, something an angry person would literally feel.

His compact nature is lacking limbs, his fingers are really short. We just wanted to make it feel like he’s this uncomfortable guy who is always pent-up and ready to explode.”

Character sketches for Disgust, Fear, and Anger
Character sketches for Disgust, Fear, and Anger

Another genius design by Lozano is Inside Out character Fear. Lozano shares that Inside Out’s Fear was loosely based from comedic legend Don Knotts, his wide eyes designed to encapsulate the phenomenon one experiences during anxiety. While cowardice was traditionally associated with the color yellow, Docter admits that they had to use the color purple for Fear in Inside Out instead because Joy had already claimed the color yellow.

Fear was kind of, frankly, the leftover color. We tried to design them in a nice ensemble group so they looked good together.”

When it came to designing Disgust, the Inside Out animation team had to decide which route to take: should she look disgusting or should she look disgusted? In the end, they went with disgusted and gave her the color green, the rationale being “when you see green food, it kind of indicates it’s gone bad.”

We ended up with disgusted. She’s very beautiful. She’s the cool girl at school who knows you’re wearing last year’s outfit. She’s very judgmental and aware.”

Disgusted or Disgusting? Character sketches for Disgust
Disgusted or Disgusting? Character sketches for Disgust

Inside Out producer Jonas Rivera explains that Inside Out was influenced by coming-of-age classics such as Peter Pan and Wizard of Oz, although it quite came off as an Inception movie for kids.

Everyone from the Inside Out cast to the producers and staff are very proud and sentimental about the film, and it shows in the quality and beauty Inside Out embodies. Inside Out producer Rivera told The Wall Street Journal that Inside Out was literally a very emotional project for them.

It’s a personal film not just for Pete but for myself and almost everyone on the crew. If [Inside Out] were the last movie I ever got to make, I’d really be proud of it.”

[Photos courtesy of Disney/Pixar via USA Today]