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An Inside Look at ‘Inside Out 2’ from Pixar Animation Studios

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Before my love of Star Wars, and before I watched superhero movies, the first films to stick with me were those made by Pixar. Memories like going to see Finding Nemo with my grandmother when she babysat me as a toddler, and watching the original Cars at five-years-old and hearing the iconic “ka-chow” of Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen, are seared into my mind. I had been watching the Toy Story films from before I can even remember, and I’ll never forget watching the third film in elementary school, crying my little eyes out when our heroes were holding hands in the incinerator. Fast forward to fourteen years later, imagine the profound feeling of wonder I felt, when I was invited to visit Pixar Animation Studios for an inside look into their latest film, Inside Out 2.

Last month, I had the honor of flying to Pixar for a special press event to learn about everything that went into the creation of Inside Out 2. I got to see the first 30 minutes of the film, tour the facility, and see how six different departments within the studio work. The event included insightful lessons from incredible artists, and the opportunity to interview some, who shared with us details about their work. Let me guide you through POC Culture’s visit to Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA. 

Jorgie at Pixar Studios for Inside Out 2
Jorgie at Pixar Studios for Inside Out 2

The visit started on a cool Monday evening in the Bay Area. Before the entrance to the Steve Jobs Building on the Pixar campus, you can find the beloved Pixar lamp and ball. Of course I had to stop and take a picture of the iconic setting.

Upon entering Pixar, I was greeted by statues of Buzz Lightyear and Woody in front of me, with Luigi and Guido from Cars to my right and a statue of The Incredibles family beyond them. Pixar is a beautiful campus where the artists are truly wizards at their craft.

Prior to screening the beginning of the film, director Kelsey Mann gave a quick presentation on his own experience growing up. Sharing pictures from his childhood, Mann explained that as he started to grow up, there was an ever present feeling of self consciousness, and that was where the idea of anxiety came from. He also mentioned the increase in anxiety in our world since the start of the pandemic, making the new emotion’s inclusion very timely.

Cars Display at Pixar Studios, with The Incredibles in the Background
Cars Display at Pixar Studios, with The Incredibles in the Background

We then got to see the first 30 minutes of the movie. The film’s opening is very strong. It wastes no time re-establishing the core mechanics of the world of Inside Out. All the characters from the first film are reintroduced in a fast-paced scene that effectively reminds the viewer of their dynamics and functions in Riley’s (Kensington Tallman) mind. With Joy (Amy Poehler) at the helm, the emotions have found their groove after the events of the first film; everything is perfect now. Surely it will stay like this forever, right?

In the sequel, we find Riley as she is starting puberty, which comes with a whole slew of new emotions. Among the new emotions is Anxiety, who is the perfect antagonist for Joy. Anxiety is my new favorite emotion. Portrayed by Maya Hawke, Anxiety adds some much-needed complexity to capture this era of Riley’s life. Aside from being a new character, the overthinking and ruminating nature of the emotion presents a shakeup to headquarters. As Mann said in our interview, Anxiety really cares about Riley, and just wants the best for her, same as Joy. Anxiety says in the trailer, “Riley’s life requires more sophisticated emotions than all of you.” Which brings us to the other additions to the cast.

Pixar Animation Studios Production Designer Jason Deamer
Pixar Animation Studios Production Designer Jason Deamer

Among the new additions are, Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), and Envy (Ayo Edebiri). Each of these new additions are great, but Edebiri really shines, bringing so much energy to the character. From the tone in her voice when she likes Disgust’s (Liza Lapira) hair, to the grunt she lets out when wanting an item someone else is holding, Edebiri brings a lot of enthusiasm and humor to the adorably designed character. Some might wonder why these new emotions were not seen in the first film, especially inside Riley’s parents, who would have already gone through this stage in Riley’s life. In the press conference held the following day, Mann addressed this potential question, and assured us that they did think of that, and he’s come up with an explanation that is to come later in the film as to not break the canon.

A large portion of the footage seen so far in the trailers is from these first 30 minutes that was screened. That is very exciting because the rest of the story is truly a mystery. What we have seen is a great opening to what could be another incredible Inside Out film. The animation is spectacular, as one might expect from Pixar, and I was lucky enough to get to sit in with the different departments ahead of our interviews conducted later that day.

Pixar's Gamma Stage Camera in Action
Pixar’s Gamma Stage Camera in Action

As part of the opportunities for press, I was able to view an animation polish session, storyboard pitching, character design, virtual camera set scout, and a live editing session. In the animation polish session, we got to witness the near final stages of the animation process, where they gave notes to ensure the characters have a weight and gravity to the, and look and feel real. In the storyboard pitching session, we watched an incredible pitch from Story Artist Rebecca McVeigh, who showed her storyboard bringing the script to life in a very pivotal scene.

In the character design workshop, Production Designer Jason Deamer broke down the design principles used to create both the original cast, as well as the new emotion characters in Inside Out 2. In the virtual camera set scout, we learned a virtual camera tool was used to plan shots and develop the visual language in telling the stories set in the real world or in Riley’s mind. Director of Photography, Layout, Adam Habib, showcased a setup in Pixar’s gamma stage that allows them to walk around a virtual set, as if they were holding a real camera. Lastly, Lead Editor Maurissa Horwitz presented a live example of editing on the film, and then we had the chance to participate in a mock voice recording session. Our full breakdown of the department rotations is coming soon. Below, is the video of my mock recording session as the voice of Joy from Inside Out 2.

Visiting Pixar allowed me to gain a new appreciation for the making of Pixar’s incredible films, and I can’t wait to see Inside Out 2 in its entirety.

Inside Out 2 premieres June 14, 2024.

POC Culture Mock Recording Session for Inside Out 2
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Jorgie is a pop culture fan and contributor at POCculture.com. He loves learning about visual effects, production, film, and art, and how they all come together to make films like Star Wars.

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