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June 06
2024

ISSUE

Summer 2024

EXPANDING THE MIND FOR INSIDE OUT 2

By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Disney/Pixar.

The red button labeled puberty, which was introduced in the original film, gets activated in Inside Out 2

The red button labeled puberty, which was introduced in the original film, gets activated in Inside Out 2

Inside Out explored the psychological implications of a tween forced to deal with her family moving to another part of the country and having to leave her childhood friends behind. Filmmaker Pete Docter observed that sadness is as essential to the human experience as other emotions such as joy, anger, fear and disgust. Nine years later, Pixar releases Inside Out 2 under the direction of Kelsey Mann. “Inside Out ended with such a great line, which was Joy saying, ‘After all, Riley’s 12 now. What can happen?’’’ director Mann notes. “They had set up the new console, and there’s a little thing on the console that says ‘puberty,’ and they had no idea what it meant. I had a great opportunity to see what I wanted to see next as an audience member, and what I wanted to see was that puberty alarm going off!”

Expansion was important to the cast and character design. Joy has to deal with Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment and Ennui. “The original Emotions were simple shapes – Anger is a block and Sadness is a teardrop,” Mann observes. “I wanted to expand the cast and vocabulary of shapes. Figuring out what those shapes were was a fun challenge. I wanted a tiny and giant Emotion!” A common factor was discovered when making a list of sequels that Mann admired. “They open doors of the world that were just off-camera that I didn’t know were there. The Stream of Consciousness was something interesting that we didn’t get to see in the first film. Early on, [Animator] Ralph Eggleston did some beautiful paintings of what the Stream of Consciousness could look like; he called it the Northern Lights in water. Then, adding the fun of what Riley is thinking about appears and floats by so you can literally see what she is thinking! We have a whole beat where she is suddenly very hungry and all of this food goes floating by the characters. Successful sequels don’t repeat but grow and change. The concept of puberty went perfectly with this because it’s all about change.”

“The original Emotions were simple shapes – Anger is a block and Sadness is a teardrop. I wanted to expand the cast and vocabulary of shapes. Figuring out what those shapes were was a fun challenge. I wanted a tiny and giant Emotion!”

—Kelsey Mann, Director

The Real World has a more muted color palette

The Real World has a more muted color palette

Technology is all about change, too. “The Emotions are made of particles, and there were a lot of weird tricks that they had to do to get that look back in the past, which didn’t work anymore,” Mann remarks. “They had to reinvent new ways to get that look back to the original film.” Story is paramount at Pixar. “Everything we create here is a visual effect because there’s nothing there. I don’t think people fully appreciate the amount of work that it takes to make these movies because you don’t get anything for free,” Mann adds. One environment pushed the technology when it came to integrating effects, simulations and lighting. “The Belief System lives underneath Headquarters in the Mind World,” explains VFX Supervisor Sudeep Rangaswamy. “It’s this cavernous space with waterfalls and Memory Spheres floating around in it. There are these Belief Strings which can be plucked, and when you pluck them it says a belief that Riley has. We had to figure out what these strings look like, the plucking behavior and how the light changes when you pluck these strings. It was many different elements coming together that would have been difficult to achieve in the past. We had to develop new procedural ways to do the waveforms that happen when you pluck the strings, and also the interactive lighting effects.”

Joy interacts with a memory sphere found in Riley's Belief System.

A literal and figurative representation of Riley suppressing her emotions, in particular Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust.

A literal and figurative representation of Riley suppressing her emotions, in particular Joy,Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust.

Joy interacts with a memory sphere found in Riley’s Belief System.

Hair proved to be the common technological challenge for each of the new Emotions. “Anxiety has got this hair that sprouts out from the top of her head in all different directions, and that hair can be used also for acting,” Rangaswamy states. “When she gets particularly anxious, it will straighten up and look alarmed. The animators had controls to be able to adjust the placement of the hair, like guide controls, then the simulation had to work on top of that. There are also these special hairs that are made of tiny discs because all of the Emotion characters are made of these particles. That was a big challenge for the character, in particular, being able to get a performance out of her hair because it was such a big part of what she is like. Ennui is often leaning over in droopy poses. You are working against the simulation where you’ve got her hanging over a couch but wanting to preserve this swoopy shape at the bottom of her long hair that isn’t totally physically correct. Envy is small but has a larger portion of hair on her than a lot of the other characters. Managing the volume of hair was important, and we also had to make sure the performances where she’s moving her hair around looked good. Embarrassment is often covered up, so hair was less of an issue with him. He’s got a big hoodie, so with him the challenge was a simulation issue of having the big hoodie garment wrap in a way that was appealing but realistic to the contours of the character.”

Musical instruments were visual references for the Belief System, which is located directly underneath Headquarters

Musical instruments were visual references for the Belief System, which is located directly underneath Headquarters

The Stream of Consciousness concept art by Jason Deamer.

The Stream of Consciousness concept art by Jason Deamer.

Maintaining consistency with the characters is critical, considering the number of animators working on the project. “We make a bunch of documentation at the beginning of a show and update it throughout as we figure out the character more,” remarks Directing Animator Amanda Wagner. “Each character has their own model sheet that tells you who the character is. If Kelsey had given us any sort of notes on what Anxiety means as a character, we’d put that information there. Any little rules that are specific to that character, or even if there’s video reference from the voice actors, we’ll link that so people can easily find all of the on-model information. Then we also built animation libraries for all of the characters so that people can stay on model and only have to worry about their acting. It gets them maybe 50% of the way there.” Even the Emotions exhibit a range of their own emotions. “We’ll be, ‘How would this character look angry but still be their core emotion?’ Ninety percent of the time they are their core emotion. Anger can still be happy, but what would an angry happy be?! The Emotions are interesting in that they still have emotions on top of their emotion. The older characters are a little easier because we can be like, ‘Does this feel like the Joy from the first movie, but elevated a bit more to go with the new story?’ We have to figure out these new characters from scratch. How do they move? How is the animator going to want to move them? All of the different characters have various languages on how they move. Sadness is droopy. Joy is more upright and always has a flowy line of action. What you have to think about with the new characters is, what is their main silhouette and how do they move?” Wagner says.

A key indicator of Anxiety's emotional state is her hair.

A key indicator of Anxiety’s emotional state is her hair.

Separating the Real World from the Mind World is the camera language; the former is imperfect and grounded in physics while the latter is perfect and virtual. “On Inside Out 2, we took some of the language that was developed on the first movie and decided to push it even further,” remarks DP, Camera Adam Habib. “One of the first differences that audiences will probably notice or feel right away is that the movie is in widescreen. When you have this ensemble staging, it’s more fun to check in with a lot of them in the same frame without having to cut. Based on that change, we also decided to push the Human and Mind Worlds’ differences so that the Human World has an anamorphic look. It gives more of that texture of reality, imperfection and physicalness.” Habib adds, “In the Mind World, the characters are so appealing and their shape language is so simple and clean that they look good on a lot of different lenses, but really look nice on wider than you would think. The bread and butter of lenses for the Mind World is a 25mm spherical, and this is on a Super 35 film back. The anamorphic is the same film back but with the 2x squeeze.” Handheld was reserved for a specific emotion. “I wanted you to be able to feel what emotion is driving when you look at Riley in the outside world by the way the camera moves. Anxiety makes you feel that everything has a little bit of an edge to it and is more off-kilter,” Habib notes.

Joy encounters Riley's core beliefs.

Joy encounters Riley's core beliefs.

Joy encounters Riley’s core beliefs.

As Riley starts to feel anxiety, the color orange begins to creep into the color palette.

As Riley starts to feel anxiety, the color orange begins to creep into the color palette.

A cool design challenge was developing what sinking clouds look like inside the mind.

A cool design challenge was developing what sinking clouds look like inside the mind.

Dust was an important atmospheric in establishing the proper mood for Demolition Day at Headquarters.

Dust was an important atmospheric in establishing the proper mood for Demolition Day at Headquarters.

“We’re doing some cool stuff with shallow focus in the third act,” Habib reveals. “There are other moments with Anxiety when we tried to make it a deeper focus look. It’s almost like ‘information overload’ was the feeling I was trying to get. We want to do that in a way that doesn’t distract from the main story, but hopefully, on a subliminal level the information level increases when Anxiety is driving.” There were other photographic opportunities. “What is fun about the new Emotions like Envy and Embarrassment is the scale gets pushed beyond the original film. Embarrassment is huge. Kelsey is sometimes saying that he is the Big Bird of this group of Emotions. Then, Envy is this tiny thing. It was tempting sometimes to go, ‘Should we scale her down or up a little bit?’ But we did a good job of sticking to, ‘He’s supposed to be big in the frame,’” Habib says.

Characters are front and center in the Vault. “You’re going to laugh your ass off!” chuckles Production Designer Jason Deamer. “All of Riley’s secrets have been locked up. She still watches a 2D character called Bloofy who is on a show for three-year-olds and has a crush on a 3D video game character, Lance Slashblade. The characters in the Vault are the fun part because it was outside of what we normally do.” The clouds have a more prominent role in the Mind World. Deamer explains, “We have volumetric clouds in this one. What do clouds look like in the mind? If you do the same cumulus clouds in Florida, it’s going to look real, so we spent a lot of time designing almost playful clouds. We leaned into what a kid would draw, so they’re fun and simplified, but light-penetrating volumes in the sky.”

Director Kelsey Mann wanted to expand the size of the Emotions, which is why he made Embarrassment so big and Envy so tiny.

Director Kelsey Mann wanted to expand the size of the Emotions, which is why he made Embarrassment so big and Envy so tiny.

“I didn’t want to spend another entire movie inside of the Memory Banks because a lot of the first movie is [characters] lost in them,” Deamer remarks. “I was looking for ways to not do that, to do refreshing novel takes on the same world, like being on top of those Memory Banks. In this case, a lot of construction because Riley is changing as a human being. She’s a teen becoming an adult; she’s separating herself from her parents. Construction is a major theme in the design of the film. In the Sarchasm sequence, her mind is expanding so they’re building more Memory Banks. There’s a lot of unfinished shelving that can collapse.” The color palette reflects Riley’s state of mind. “There is zero orange in the film until the first shot of Anxiety, which I can tell you meeting after meeting like, ‘No orange!’ But they were like, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘No orange, damnit!’ From that point forward, whenever Anxiety has an effect on Riley in the Real World as well as in the Mind World, orange shows up,” Deamer notes.

Fear, Disgust, Sadness, Anger and Joy reach the Edge of Consciousness and have to decide whether it is worth the risk to carry on.

Fear, Disgust, Sadness, Anger and Joy reach the Edge of Consciousness and have to decide whether it is worth the risk to carry on.

An extremely complex sequence to execute was the Vault because of the integration of different animation styles. “We had a card based in 3D space to represent where the 2D animation would be and blocked the animation to that in the CG world,” Rangaswamay explains. “We completed a CG version of the shot. then had the 2D animators go in and do the hand-drawn work for Bloofy. That went through a process of shading and texturing on Bloofy to make him sit with the rest of the CG environment. Lots of different pieces moving around there.” Like his predecessor, Pete Docter, Mann shares a similar perspective toward emotions. “With these new emotions, we wanted to make sure it was coming not from an evil place because all of our emotions are in us to help us to survive,” Mann says. “They all have a sense that they are here to help us and that their reasoning is for the love of us as individuals. There are times when we got away from that. There are early versions of this movie where Anxiety was much more of the stereo- typical evil mustache-twirling kind of villain. We realized that we needed to double down on their motivations and why they’re doing what they’re doing.” Conflict is essential to the narrative. “You don’t have a story unless some sort of dramatic thing happens at the beginning of the film, and as long as Joy is our main character in these stories, she’s going to have bad things happen to her!” Mann observes.



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