They first collaborated on “Up” in 2009 and now they await the release of the even more ambitious “Inside Out,” which drew raves in Cannes. During my recent Pixar visit, we discussed the tough journey and what it’s like protecting Docter’s vision.
Bill Desowitz: What was it like working with Pete the second time around?
Jonas Rivera: We were up at Skywalker Ranch having our first sound meeting, and I pulled out my satchel and took out my laptop to take notes, and Pete pulls out this one-pound bag of Brach’s jelly beans. It’s like a Chris Farley movie, right? He said, “You want some?” Who is this guy? That’s him. And that’s pretty cool and pretty rare.
BD: Like Jimmy Stewart. And he hasn’t changed a bit over the years. So what was it like early on?
JR: When he pitched it to me, it did feel like it had a little bit of “Toy Story” in that it’s an ensemble cast and that it could be the same kind of no brainer if we personified these emotions right: Of course, that’s what Anger looks like and how memories work!
BD: It’s another challenging story but they always seem to come at the right time when you can handle it technologically. In this case, with RenderMan coming up with geometric lighting for Joy.
JR: I know: the workforce and the technological force and the creative force since the time that I’ve been here have always managed to deliver what the directors want. They’ve been limited but it’s pretty remarkable. One of the interesting things about this movie is the way Pete directed even early on. He’d say, “I want them to feel like this” or “I want the tone like this, I hope it has this texture.” So it was challenging to get art and technical to harmonize to figure out what he was after. It does look otherworldly to me but hopefully believable.
READ MORE: Why Pete Docter’s ‘Inside Out’ Was So Tough to Make Into Must-See Pixar
BD: And the five emotions are certainly more cartoony-looking.
JR: Pete drove that with Shawn Krause and Victor Navone, our supervising animators. They wanted someone in dailies on the Cintiq to draw over. There’s not a shot that doesn’t have some sort of drawn on top of it to pull ourselves away from the anatomy-based, model behavior to more graphic caricature. Our medium doesn’t lean that way but I have to credit Disney with what they did with “Tangled.”
BD: Talk about the impact for you as the producer when Pete took a sharp storytelling turn in the middle of production to change the antagonist from Fear to Sadness.
JR: Well, it was one of those good news/bad news. Good news in that it’s part of my job to find that very narrow space between applying pressure and blocking pressure so Pete has enough runway to make the decisions you need. At a certain point, the dam breaks and I can’t do it. We were very close to that point when that happened. I think we were weeks away from a screening. And so you could imagine, as cool and supportive as Pixar’s been, I’ve gotta go to John Lasseter, who’s got three other films stacked up and things at Disney, and my boss, Jim Morris, and go, “Not only do we not have a screening, we’re not gonna be ready for another six weeks and we’re changing it…But don’t worry.” It was a hard conversation but it was a worthy conversation.
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