Meet the People Behind the Little Voices Inside Your Head:
Behind the Scenes of INSIDE OUT with the Cast
Recently, Movieguide® had the chance to attend a press conference with some of the voice actors in Disney and Pixar’s new animated comedy, INSIDE OUT.
INSIDE OUT is about a young girl who has a wonderful life, until her family moves to San Francisco and her emotions get out of control. INSIDE OUT is a delightful animated movie with a great plot line, excellent animation and a strong moral worldview.
The cast attending the press conference included Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black, and Phyllis Smith.
Q: What was it like for you all when you read this screenplay, to wrap your head literally around the scope of what’s happening with this movie? Let’s start with you, Phyllis.
Phyllis: 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. . . . I had a great time. . . . Take it, Bill.
Bill Hader: All right! It was great. I wanted to take a tour of Pixar, and that was back in 2010. I’m a giant fan, so I just said, “Can I please take a tour,” and I went around and I met Pete and Jonas. . . They told me, “There’s a scene that deals with a live television element; we’d like to come to SNL.” I was like, “Come to SNL!” and they hung out at SNL for a week. . . for that sequence and let me come and hang out at Pixar as a “thank you.” Then, they asked, “Do you want to play Fear?” I said, “Sure!”
Q: Amy, how about you?
Amy Poehler: I came to the project later, and they had 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. I couldn’t believe that the setting was in the mind of an 11-year-old, but I loved that that was the setting. I honestly believed, from the minute they told me the idea, that this film was going to be the best Pixar movie ever made, it’s going to make the most money, and it’s gonna win an Oscar. I’m sorry, but from the minute they told me, I thought this movie is going to be the best Pixar movie ever made, and it’ll be the only good movie I’ve ever been in, and I can’t believe I’m in it! I actually thought about the day when the film came out, and, as you can tell, I’m kind of a pessimist (laughter).
Q: How about you, Lewis?
Lewis Black: Well, apparently I was the first one in the cast, so I was really the tipping point. As the others heard I was in it, they couldn’t wait.
Bill Hader: They said, “Do you want to be in a Lewis Black movie, and I said, ‘Yes!’” Then they said “You’ve got to go to Pixar,” and I’m like, “Oh, Pixar’s doing it!”
Lewis Black: They did send me a box – you never see this in this city or in this industry, but the humility they have is almost psychotic. They sent me a box with a letter in which they said I may not know who Pixar is, which meant either that they were crazy, or they thought I was some sort of a recluse. So they said they had this role of Anger, and I thought, “Well that fits.” Would I be interested in it, and maybe if I didn’t know them, then they sent me all their stuff – like all these things that I had seen. They sent a big nice book. I mean, I think I made out better than any of you. They sent me a 20 page, kind of what they were thinking, a rough draft of the script, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is going to be a flop! This is the worst thing they’ve ever done!” Maybe, there’ll be something to that in its own special way. Then, I went out there, and they’d already done 12,000 changes and I thought, “You’re an idiot, Lewis.” Like, this is crazy, what’s going on?
Q: Perfectly cast, and Mindy, what about you?
Mindy Kaling: Well, that is really true. The experience of working with them is great. . .
Bill Hader: They act like it’s a great privilege that they get to do their jobs, like they can’t believe that they get to do what they do, which is really great.
Mindy Kaling: Yeah, and that was so great. You know, a lot of the people here [in Hollywood], we have to create our own opportunities, or we enjoy being able to orchestrate our own projects. . . They [Pixar] want you to collaborate, but you don’t need to because the standard of excellence is so high, it’s such a treat.
Q: Mr. Black has already touched on this a little bit, but I’d like to ask you all what you see in yourself that makes it perfect that you played the characters that Pete Doctor and the rest of the team wanted you to play? So, 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 because I seem to be recurring and playing that role in my career – she kind of says the things I would say on a really bad day – the things I want to say, but then don’t say. Basically, in my mind, the parenthetical of all of her lines is, “I can’t. I can’t [deal] with this.” That’s sort of what she’s always thinking.
Lewis Black: First off, the use of the “f” word does not represent Disney or Pixar, I’ll make that perfectly clear. For me, it’s just my family argued all the time. That’s what we did. That was the way we expressed love, and so it’s always been [that way]. Anger’s always been a part of me.
Amy Poehler: Well, I think there are some characteristics of Joy, maybe some unrelenting energy and bossiness, perhaps, that Pete and Jonas thought I could pull off, just from the other characters that I’ve played. I do think she just likes kind of living in the moment, and I maybe like to think that I do that, too. I aspire to be more like Joy, and I think the characters in the film get all of the range of emotions each in their own journey.
Bill Hader: I’m a big wimp. I think they saw the medication I’m on and thought I could play Fear.
Phyllis: Likewise, I’m just a mess, and I’m a real sad sack. I sit around 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, the little quirks that I have, that Pete was able to glean out of me.
Q: This is for, specifically, Phyllis, but I’d like to hear all of your take on it. How surprising was it, this being an animated film, to find out that when the climax of the film comes along, that the emotional center of the movie is sorrow, actually? That’s really not what you’d expect from an animated film, and it’s like, how do you get over these problems in your life? Well you cry, and you feel horrible, and you let all your old memories all be consumed by sorrow. It’s a really surprising message in a Pixar movie, in a way.
Phyllis: You know, that can be taken back to the genius of Pete Doctor 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. I just love how Joy and Sadness…shows the importance of your emotions in your life and that it’s okay to be sad. Joy just complements that and becomes aware of that, and it’s a really nice moment. So, it’s Pete Doctor’s fault, it’s all his fault.
Amy Poehler: Yeah, Pixar doesn’t patronize a young audience, and they don’t underestimate the intelligence of their audience. You know, every time. They keep raising the bar, and also they assume that you and your big brain is going to show up – and your big heart. They assume that you’re going to take all of that with you when you go to see their movies, and you’re so rewarded when you do.
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 going to be a big deal. Going forward, are you guys prepared for that kind of legacy? Were you thinking about that when you were doing your voice work?
Amy Poehler: Woah, that’s really cool.
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: I’m very happy to be sad.
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 some of the Disney and Pixar movies that are really tied up in your emotions? The ones that you fell in love with as children.
Bill Hader: UP. The other movie that Jonas did, UP, I thought was just unreal. When I was a child, I dressed up as Ichabod Crane for Halloween four years in a row. I was obsessed.
Phyllis: I’m just an UP person, as well as CINDERELLA and older Disney ones.
Amy Poehler: Yeah, I think it was like SLEEPING BEAUTY, CINDERELLA, SNOW WHITE, all those. I loved Cruella de Vil. She’s a funny character, a meaty character part for a woman. Now that I have kids, watching Pixar movies with them, and they love them all. I love WALL-E. I just love the first 35 minutes of no talking. The audacity to do something like that! I like that big reward philosophy of Pixar. This film is like a really high concept. Every film right now is going external, you know, like made-up stakes, and the world is ending, and superheroes. It’s just cool that Pixar went in. Why don’t you see a terrain that you live in every day but know nothing about how it looks? We’ll tell you.
Bill Hader: That’s what Pete’s so good at, too. He’s a real artist. I mean, UP — an old man ties balloons to his house, and it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, and it’s an expression of him. His daughter was going through some kind of thing, and it was like, what’s going on with him? It just kind of came out of him in this way, and that’s what’s so great about Pixar. They trust their vision.
Mindy Kaling: UP really made me feel, as a writer, woah, you can do anything. As you get older, it is harder to find things that do that. You see things like, “That was great, and I could see how you could do that.” To now see the process is. . . those are the things that really stay with you. There are certain artists who, no matter what they do, you’re like, “I’m in.” Pete Doctor is one of those types of people, and when I saw UP, I thought that this was a dream come true. Disney, when I was younger, since I bear no passing resemblance to any princesses, it was hard to really attach to them. I really liked Robin Hood as portrayed by a fox, and I thought that he was very dashing. While I’m human, I had a crush on him. Is that okay to say?
Lewis Black: I was never a child. No, UP had a big effect [on me]. UP just irritated me. I was old enough at that point to be like, “You know what I want to do for the next couple hours? Confront death. That would be a fun thing for me to think about.” Literally like, oh boy, I’m gonna die. But, the big one for me was FANTASIA. That was the one that made me go, “Oh! I can’t wait to do whatever it is they’re doing.”
Q: As you all have shown us, you have an excellent experience with improvisation. I was wondering, if you had that opportunity in a recording studio to improvise on the characters and the dialogue, and if so, how much of that made it into the final cut?
Bill Hader: Well we all recorded by ourselves, so we’re just alone. Actually, we’re all reading with Pete. So, in the movie, we’re responding to Pete. All of our characters were basically just talking to Pete. I remember there’s a part in the movie where I go up and say, “I’m taking the coward’s way out,” and one of the animators, looking at me just drawing, just drew it out. It was unreal.
Phyllis: I had the privilege of recording with Amy, and we did have three sessions together. Amy actually helped me through some lines that I might have been having a little trouble with and she’d give me suggestions.
Amy Poehler: We should take a moment to give due respect to Richard Kind. His performance is so amazing and heartbreaking. . . .
Bill Hader: Unreal. There was a screening, and we all got to watch it, and we all got so emotional during that scene.
Amy Poehler: My favorite part is when Bing Bong puts his hand out and says, “I’ve got a good feeling about this one.” You’re just like “Oh my gosh, childhood is over.” He just resigns himself to the fact that I am not going to be able to get up there with her.
Bill Hader: How about this scene really quick, too, with Amy looking at the memories and how good she is. That’s the thing that’s so hard with these movies. I go in there, and it is really hard. People go, “Oh, it’s really easy. You get to go in your pajamas and record and stuff.” But, you don’t. It’s really difficult because you’re channeling everything just through your voice. A lot of times I’m just screaming for hours, and Amy did such a nuanced, beautiful performance. It was really, really unreal.
Q: This goes to Bill Hader: If you had to describe to kids what makes, and what will make INSIDE OUT a classic film they must see, how would you describe it?
Bill Hader: 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 you go to adolescence, and things start to change and things start to get hard for you. A lot of movies – a lot of normal movies – don’t talk about that. I wish I had that growing up. I would go through that and look for answers, and you think you’re the only one going through this thing, and they did it in this film in the most beautiful and fantastical way. That’s why you have to see it. It’s a movie that I wish existed. My life would have been a little easier if this movie existed when I was a kid.
Q: Actually, Amy, I wanted to ask you if Pete Doctor talked about this. Sitting down with him, going through the script and maybe making adjustments and stuff – what was it like to do that?
Amy Poehler: Bill did it too. It was awesome. I have a theory, with the exception of a few eccentric geniuses, I feel like most talented people are good collaborators because they’re not threatened by other people’s good ideas because they have a million of them. It was awesome, and my fear was that Joy would get annoying – and apparently she was because no one wanted to be her – but, just tracking that and making sure, you know what I mean? 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. Of course, the movie is all about feelings and memories. What is a core memory that you have as a performer or a writer or a producer?
Mindy Kaling: I first would just like to say that the idea of a core memory – if that’s something that Pete and Jonas made and this movie is making something people say and talk about, because before they named it, I didn’t know it, but there are such things as core memories. That’s what’s so enjoyable as you’re watching it, you’re like, “Thank you for putting a name on that! Now I know!” For me, my core memory was that my mother, who is my absolute best friend, when she was an OBGYN when I was very, very little, I would have a thing with my brother where I was very competitive about spending time with her alone so that no one could be around except the two of us. So, 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, and she had a jelly donut, which I had never seen as a kid, and I got on her lap in the kitchen, and we shared a jelly donut. It was like everything I’d ever wanted in the world, which was undivided attention from my mother and being exposed to this delicious sweet filled with another sweet. Such an important core memory!
Q: I was wondering for you ladies, as producers and writers, would you ever consider doing an animated film or just even starting, like, a brain trust for coming up with more ideas for more diversity?
Amy Poehler: That just seems like a lot of work. I mean, yes.
Mindy Kaling: Amy is already doing something that’s so wonderful. I mean she has six full time jobs, but what I love about what she’s doing is she wants to give young girls a voice, and I think it’s great. You know, it’s the hardest thing about when you start creating your own material. It’s just all the people I love most are so talented and so great and, oh, they have their own show! They’re so incredibly busy with their own things. I love Amy, and I love these opportunities when I get to sit three people away from her. Yeah, of course the answer is yes.
Amy Poehler: It’s really cool that young women like what you do – I really like young women. I love that age girl, that girl that Riley [the heroine of INSIDE OUT] is. That moment before you’ve been thrown in the snake pit where you’re just like all possibility and really open-faced and just ready for everything – and boys are the same way, too. It’s just that great time. As an adult, I feel like you’re just always trying to get back to that time, like the magic hour. I think we both have a lot of love for that age, and it’s really nice at that age that anything we do resonates with that age.
Q: Did you have an imaginary friend growing up? Maybe some you still have one. Share with us any of those memories.
Amy Poehler: Did anyone have one?
Phyllis: I did not.
Bill Hader: My father – I’m joking.
Amy Poehler: Anyone else? No?
Bill Hader: I feel like I was someone else’s imaginary friend.
Amy Poehler: I had an imaginary enemy. She’s here – no, I’m just kidding. I didn’t have one.
Lewis Black: I did. I don’t really remember much, but me and my friends, instead of attacking each other, it was all about how the imaginary friend was stupid or silly. It was weird. Most people would talk to their imaginary friends, but we would beat each other’s up!
Q: I loved how she had all the different islands. Like, obviously all of us have probably Friendship Island or Family Island, but I wanted to know if you guys had any other fun islands. Another thing, What is something that pops in your head like that gum commercial?
Amy Poehler: My islands would be Thousand Island, Fantasy Island, Kitchen Island, Skull Island, and Islands in the Stream.
Phyllis: Let’s see. My islands are very boring. I have Baseball Island. I like a lot of Amy’s islands.
Lewis Black: Barbecue Island. Pork in a variety of fashions, in all sorts of delightful ways, slathered with sauce. It’s a big island. The other is Tahiti.
Mindy Kaling: To answer the question a little seriously, I think lately: Role Model Island is something that I think of and it’s good. I think it makes me want to live my life in a way that I think is inspirational or makes me feel ashamed of the people in my life. Yeah, that’s one I think about all the time – and probably Sleep Island.