Mindy Kaling, Jonas Rivera discuss making of ‘Inside Out’
By Ruhee Patel
Feb. 11, 2016 4:32 p.m.
In 2012, Bill Hader told Mindy Kaling he was involved in a secret Pixar project involving emotions when they were shooting the pilot episode of “The Mindy Project.” Initially jealous, Kaling said she later gleefully told Hader he wasn’t so special anymore when she too was added to the cast of “Inside Out” a year later.
Kaling joined the film’s producer Jonas Rivera for a Q&A, following a screening of “Inside Out” at the Billy Wilder Theater Wednesday night. The event was presented by the Hammer Museum and is a part of The Contenders 2015, a film series organized by The Museum of Modern Art.
Pixar’s “Inside Out” was originally released in June and tells the story of a young girl named Riley’s emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Kaling) – as they try to guide her through her new life in San Francisco.
During the event, Rivera and Kaling discussed everything from developing the movie’s main themes and characters to the Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film, all while joking and teasing each other.
The Q&A began with Rivera mentioning how Kaling ended up weeping when co-director Pete Docter first pitched the movie to her.
“(Kaling) said something along the lines that, “The fact that you guys are trying to make a movie that tells young girls it’s hard to grow up, but it’s okay to be sad about it is really profound,’” Rivera said.
Second-year applied math student Emily Yamane said Kaling’s views on the film stood out to her because she knew Kaling was a feminist.
“She said this (movie) is a great way to show that it’s okay for girls to be emotional,“ Yamane said. “And when (Rivera) said that (statement) was putting everything they want together it was like – click – it was a perfect way to sum the movie up.”
When developing the characters, Rivera and Docter reached out to scientists and psychologists to better understand how to personify emotion. Dr. Paul Ekman taught them that emotions are clinical and physical and have specific jobs. For instance, Rivera said anger is fueled by social justice and fairness, while fear is for protection.
“We thought, since (Riley) is an 11-year-old girl, (Disgust’s) job is to keep her from being socially poisoned,” Rivera said.
For character design, Rivera said Docter wanted the characters to appear how they would feel. Character art director Albert Lozano eventually based the emotions on different basic elements: Joy as a star, Sadness as a teardrop, Anger as a briquette, Fear as a raw nerve and Disgust as broccoli.
Third-year sociology student Sharlena Tien said hearing about the process that brought the emotions to life was probably helpful for people who are interested in screenwriting, especially from a characterization standpoint.
“’Inside Out’ was just really well thought-out in that (the creators) were able to take all the complexities of human emotions and internal mechanisms and link them together into a personified representation,” Tien said.
Rivera also discussed Disney-based Easter eggs that audiences may not have noticed like music from “The Haunted Mansion” playing during a scene in which Riley has a nightmare about her new house.
At its core, “Inside Out” is a love letter to the creators’ daughters. Rivera said he and Docter compared the film project to getting a tattoo.
“This thing is going to be on you forever, so you want everyone in it or around it to be someone you love, like Kaling,” Rivera said. “Everything you hear is something that meant a lot to us as filmmakers, parents and people.”