Based in Headquarters, the control center inside 11-year-old Riley’s mind, five Emotions are hard at work, led by lighthearted optimist Joy, whose mission is to make sure Riley stays happy. Fear heads up safety, Anger ensures all is fair and Disgust prevents Riley from getting poisoned—both physically and socially. Sadness isn’t exactly sure what her role is, and frankly, neither is anyone else.
“The Emotions are kind of like the voices in our heads,” says director Pete Docter. “When we were just getting started on this film, we looked around—at our kids, friends, co-workers—and we realized that everybody has a default temperament. We all go through periods of being happy or sad, but certain people are just happy or angry or what have you. Riley is one of those happy kids. So Joy had to be the first Emotion to show up, and she has a very special bond with Riley.”
“Joy has 33 beautiful seconds of being the only one there,” says Amy Poehler, who lends her voice to Joy. “Then Riley starts to cry and Sadness shows up. Joy realizes that she’s going to have to share Riley with all the other feelings and emotions.”
When Riley’s family relocates to a scary new city, the Emotions are on the job, eager to help guide her through the difficult transition. But when Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley’s mind taking some of her core memories with them — Fear, Anger and Disgust are left reluctantly in charge. “Think about that,” says executive producer John Lasseter. “An 11-year-old is left without Joy and Sadness—only Anger, Fear and Disgust. Does that sound like any 11-year-olds you know?”
During a recent press conference, we chatted with some of the voice talent and how they brought these emotional characters to life.
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: Okay, I was – as always I’m speechless – no, I was very excited to get the call and it – I really don’t know the magnitude of it even now.
Bill Hader: All right, 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.
Amy Poehler: I came to the project later and they have done so much work already and 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.
Lewis Black: Apparently I found out 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.
Mindy Kaling: Well that is really true, it’s almost if Pixar and Pete and Jonas and the experience of working with them it’s like dating a guy.
Helping to bring the characters to life is a creative and comedic ensemble voice cast, including Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”) as Joy, Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live”) as Fear, Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project”) as Disgust, Lewis Black (“The Rant is Due: Part Deux” tour) as Anger and Phyllis Smith (“The Office”) as Sadness. Riley is voiced by Kaitlyn Dias (“The Shifting”), and providing the voices of Mom and Dad are Diane Lane (“The Mystery of Love and Sex” play) and Kyle MacLachlan (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”). “We have a dream cast,” says Docter. “We could bring in material, describe what we want out of a scene, and then workshop with them about how they might say it. They would give us what we wrote, plus plenty of improvised alternate lines. It’s been fun.”
Q: Since you 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 ind 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.”
Phyllis Smith: Okay great, yes, I’d like to be Angry as well as Disgusted. Yes, Anger and Disgust.
Lewis Black: Yes Disgust, that’s really my second place. I’m really of the idea of just – 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 – a woman – and so that would be a fun thing to be able to do.
“I just love the crazy amount of heart that’s in this film,” adds Poehler. “In minutes you go from crying to laughing. And it just looks so incredibly beautiful. It is like a world that feels very familiar and really magical at the same time.”
Q: We were wondering for you ladies as producers and writers, would you ever consider doing an animated film or just even start something like a brain trust to come up with more great ideas for more diversity?
Mindy Kaling: Amy with Smart Girls is already doing something that’s so wonderful. She has six full time jobs but I love about what she’s doing is she’s – and this is important to me also – but what I’ve love is that she wants to give young girls a voice and I think it’s great.
Amy Poehler: Yes, it’s really cool to have young women like what you do. I really like young women and I love that age girl, that girl that Riley is that moment before you’ve been thrown into the snake pit.
Q: Did each of you have an imaginary friend growing up?
Bill Hader: I feel like I was someone else’s imaginary friend.
Amy Poehler: No, I didn’t have one.
Lewis Black: Most people would be talking to their imaginary friends but we would use them to beat each other up. It was really strange.
“Inside Out” was directed by Docter (“Up,” “Monsters, Inc.”), produced by Rivera (“Up”), co-directed by Ronnie Del Carmen (“Dug’s Special Mission”) and executive produced by Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “Cars”) and Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E”). The screenplay was penned by Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley from an original story by Docter and Del Carmen. Academy Award®–winning composer Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Up”) was called on to provide the score.
Rated PG, Disney•Pixar’s original movie “Inside Out” is now playing in theaters.