Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera

Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera: The Minds Behind INSIDE OUT

Disney disclosure

Pete Docter, Director Pixar’s Inside Out and Jonas Rivera, Producer, will both tell you they “love making movies.” As in, they both have a genuine passion for what they do. Together, they are the leading minds behind Inside Out. And that passion is apparent in each frame of the film.

Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera
Photo Credit: Marc Flores / Pixar

Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera

Pixar’s Inside Out was actually inspired by Pete Docter’s daughter who voiced Ellie in”Up.” Pete started to notice new attitudes and emotions that began presenting themselves in his daughter around the age of 11. The stories and scenes we see played out in the movie are based on her emotions, as well as those from moments of parenting and observations of kids from the crew. They were able to draw from their own truthful experiences as a kid, as well as parents.

INSIDE OUT Director Pete Docter.
Photo Credit: Deborah Coleman / Pixar

By bringing in specialists, such as neurologists, people from research lab at Columbia and a number of psychologists, the team was able to better understand the intricacies of the mind. They dove into the research and brought is leading researchers, such as Dr. Paul Eckman, who has been pioneering research in emotions and facial expressions.

INSIDE OUT Producer Jonas Rivera
Photo Credit: Deborah Coleman / Pixar

One of the topics that talked about was the purpose of emotions. As well as asking questions such as, “why do we experience anger?” In this case, Dr. Eckman believes it is a good thing that we have anger because he believes that feeling that gets us into trouble can also be used for good things (ex: social good… get angry and motivates us to do something).

INSIDE OUT – Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness and Disgust
©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Each emotion has a job and wants to do well at that one job. Yet they are also high achieving and have things they are the best at. Such as the case in Inside Out, it can be comforting knowing you have a team of characters looking out for you. The character’s are very clear in who they are, but are more than their stated names. They can experiences the emotions of others, as well as their own.

A day in the life of "Inside Out" Director Pete Docter
Photo Credit: Deborah Coleman / Pixar

This brings up questions about the emotions themselves. For starters, why do they seem to be lead by Joy? According to Docter, Joy represents the childhood that most of us hold onto. But, Joy does not stay in charge as we see in Riley’s parents. Oh, and the simple answer as to why Dad’s head is full of males and Mom’s full of females? Because they needed things to read easier on the screen. Plus, it worked better for comedy and clarity. It simply made it clear and funnier.

©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The emotions are presented as adults but have the knowledge of how old Riley is. They also seem to have a limited understanding of situations based on Riley’s age. Inevitably, they are all working towards the same goal: to keep Riley safe and happy.

INSIDE OUT Pete Docter
Photo credit: Deborah Coleman / Pixar

In fact, the first draft had “Logic” leading everyone else. They then realized it seemed to be told more from a parent’s point of view and didn’t work as well. They wanted to show that the leader is more Riley herself with Joy leading the mind. They needed the relationship between the emotion and the kid to be apprarent. This echoes the way we emit emotions ourselves. According to Pete Docter (and what I tell my kids often):

“We don’t choose to get angry, feel sadness or fear. It just happens. What you do with that is up to you. You can mask it, you can exhibit it, you can hit somebody, whatever you’re going to do.”

This was the route they decided to go with the film as well. Jonas said they even toyed around with literally “throwing Logic out the window.” Another emotion that got cut? Pride. She was a “well, if you want to do it that way” type character and they decided it was a combo of disgust and Joy. Not to mention, the science and entertainment possibilities were against that type of character.

Photo Credit: Marc Flores / Pixar

Speaking more of the characters, they are not made out of flesh and blood, but rather boiling energy. Which Docter said was unlike other projects they have ever done. Therefore, they wanted to make sure they did not look like little humans or puppets, but needed to look the way emotions feel to us. Through that thinking, they were able to fall back on animation history for inspiration.He said, it was a “great opportunity for animation to really express the way we feel at those times.” For instance, you feel like you’re lighter than air, so you float in the air or you’re angry so your head ignites.

©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Both agreed that Inside Out has something important to say not just about happiness, but all the emotions together. Additionally, they learned that maybe the reason parents get angry is based on the fact that “you are more likely to remember something if it has a strong emotional attachment to it.” Kids don’t respond to simple requests, but once say it with more authority in your voice, they move.

INSIDE OUT Jonas Rivera
Photo Credit: Deborah Coleman / Pixar

As Pixar began to screen the movie with children, they discovered that the concept of film was not only resonating with the kids, but making a positive difference. A son of one of the Technical Director’s found the courage to jump off the diving board after watching the film. He said he felt like Fear had been leading his mind and he just asked him to step aside… and jumped! Jonas’ own kids discovered that, “Anger is driving. That’s why I hit my brother.” I know in our home, our 5 year old often mentions who is leading her own mine, and will let everyone around her know who is leading them as well. She likes to see Joy in everyone.

I know that Jonas mentioned it during our interview, and I have experienced it myself, but Inside Out will make you think differently. As you begin to consider the core memories you are creating with your children, you may stop and take note.

Which emotion is driving you right now?

Meet the emotions inside Riley’s mind when Disney Pixar’s Inside Out opens in theaters everywhere on June 19.