Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out is a movie positively overflowing with ideas, concepts, and gags (both visual and verbal). In fact, it’s a movie that doesn’t even stop wowing us when the movie ends—there are even some extra bits during the closing credits. And with a movie that is so warmly packed with imagination, there are obviously things that had to be left out, abandoned or severely truncated. These ideas aren’t necessarily the best ideas the film’s creative principles came up with, but they do offer a fascinating look at the process. As co-director Ronnie Del Carmen recently told us, “I think the best of what we have ended up in the movie.”
We talked to several of the filmmakers (including del Carmen) about things that almost made it into Inside Out but didn’t quite fit. In some alternate universe, maybe there’s a version of Inside Out playing with all of these scenes intact.
Warning: spoilers follow.
The Idea Fields
One of the juicier ideas, at least from a design point, was something called the Idea Fields, where images burst forth from Riley’s imagination, rising out of the ground like planets. “For the idea fields, we thought there would be a place where new ideas would be cultivated,” co-writer/director Pete Docter explained. “Ideas have to come from somewhere. So there’s probably an equivalent of farmers way, way out there. We also thought, at the time, that paradigm was more like a city and headquarters was like city hall, in some way. And then the most densely populated areas were in the center and then the further out you got to fields and more rural and eventually into the wild lands. So the alternative is that if you went the other way, you’d essentially get to the subconscious—the untamed wilderness.” Producer Jonas Rivera added that they even had a great gag cooked up for the design. “There was also this idea of a checker or something. Like he’d check whether or not they were good or bad ideas, like checking fruit at an orchard,” Rivera said.
More Imaginary Friends
As far as breakout characters in Inside Out go, it’s hard to top Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend (voiced by Richard Kind). Bing Bong is an amalgamation of animals, with a body made of cotton candy. And while he’s super incredible, at one point, there were even more imaginary friends that joined in the fun. “One of the ideas was that she would have a set of imaginary friends,” del Carmen said. “She had Mrs. Scribbles, which was always a crayon drawing. Then there’s the corner sun. You know when they draw a sun on a paper and even if he moves into full-frame he’s just a pie-slice of sun. And they’re always frequenting the railway system of the train of thought, because they’re not needed anymore. They had their heyday, like vaudeville actors who used to play big theaters but after the invention of TV and movies, they’re out of work. So after we developed them to the point that they wanted to come to the rescue of Bing Bong, their other imaginary friends.” While we would love even more Bing Bong or Bing Bong-like characters, this definitely feels somewhat overstuffed and you can understand why it was cut.
Riley Goes Inside Headquarters
In the great Art of Inside Out book (our copy currently features a giant doodle from Pete Docter inside its front cover), there was a single image that really captured our imagination: it was Riley, the troubled 11-year-old girl at the heart of Inside Out walking around inside of Headquarters (where her emotions do their work). “I don’t know why we started there, but we did,” Docter admitted. “That was one of the first plots: Riley was asleep. She was having some sort of emotional issues and she feels a hand waking her up and she wakes up and there are these weird creatures there and they’re her own emotions. They had lost something … They had some excuses that had Riley coming into her own mind and solve some issue, although I don’t remember what it was.” There’s another image in the book that features Joy outside of Headquarters and sitting on Riley’s shoulder. “There was also this tangential idea where Joy would come out. There’s a beautiful illustration where she’s on Riley’s shoulder,” Rivera said. “I remember Ronnie saying that the movie would start where you were going over these mountains but it was really her bedspread. And Joy would come out and peek at her while she was asleep, but then she had to go back to work.” Docter was still trying to remember what storyline contained all of these tangents. “It may have been that Joy got lost and the other guys came out to find her. I think that was it,” Docter said a few minutes later. “It was all trying to represent what we talk about in regards to our kids growing up—that childhood Joy kind of disappears for a little while. And you wonder, What happened? I think that might have been it.”
Inside Out is atypical in the sense that it doesn’t feature a traditional villain. But it did, at one point. If you walk around Pixar these days, through a corridor filled with Inside Out concept art, you’ll see a bunch of images of Gloom, an emotion character who was also the movie’s heavy. “It was a kind of malevolent kind of tar that overtook everything,” Docter said. “We had different versions where it was personified or not. But then the difficulty with that was: how do you solve it? If it was just Joy or somebody hoses it off. Like how do you get rid of depression? That’s a really tangle-y thing to talk about.” Ronnie del Carmen echoed this sentiment: “It could either be a darkening in the world, like storm clouds or it could be a character, who has an agenda, who not only exists but wants to keep on existing or maybe rule. And when it became that character, it started to tell us that this looks a lot like depression. And when we were looking at that, we were feeling uncomfortable about that. Because depression tends to go into a clinical situation and when that’s the case, there’s no choice in the matter and you have to create situations outside that would actually cause that. It seemed like it was going to be a much, much darker movie in all aspects.” How would it be dark? Del Carmen explained, “Because you’d have to make it clinical and understand that and that takes the story away from the emotion characters. They have no latitude in that. You’d have to save the patient. It’s a life or death situation.” Docter was careful not to play into this line of thinking too much. “You don’t want to demean anyone’s actual emotional issues, so ended up moving away from that,” Docter. Added Rivera: “It was kind of neat. It felt very Miyazaki-esque. But it just didn’t go where we needed it to go.”
Balloon Animal Horror
Bill Hader voices Fear, one of the emotions inside of Riley’s head. But he also had an “additional story” credit for Inside Out and spent a few weeks in the Pixar writers’ room. When we asked him about material that he had written and that had been cut, Hader went into a vivid description of a sequence that had been set in the Subconscious. Apparently there had been even more to the Jangles the clown sequence that would have been even creepier and more awesome. “We had this forest of dental equipment. I remember that,” Hader said. “Joy had to run through that. And the clown made balloon animals and threw them and they started running at her and the balloon animals were catching on the equipment and going off.” We agree; that sounds incredible.
During the closing credits for Inside Out, we get an additional glimpse inside the mind of some secondary characters, including a pizzeria employee, Riley’s teacher, and a barking dog. But there was a time when they went inside another animal’s thought process during that sequence. “We also visited a goldfish’s head,” del Carmen said. “You go inside and there’s a console but there’s no buttons. There’s no emotion. It’s just blinking lights. It was fun but the goldfish didn’t make it in.” Like many people’s pet goldfish, that idea seemed to have died pretty quickly.
Train of Thought and Stream of Consciousness
There’s a pivotal moment when Joy and Sadness journey into the subconscious, a dark place where the aforementioned Jangles the clown resides. But how they got there used to be very different. “We used to have the Stream of Consciousness running below and go into Subconscious, so it felt like a pleasant river ride that becomes the River Styx and then becomes the Pirates of the Caribbean ride from hell,” del Carmen explained with a laugh. Just hearing him talk about it, you could sense that it would have been a really special sequence. “It felt really fun and creepy but we had no time to put it in the movie,” he said.
Additionally, there was more to the Train of Thought than made it into the movie. As it stands, the Train of Thought is a train that delivers things to Headquarters (during Riley’s waking hours). It contains things like memories, facts and opinions. But at one point there was a gag built around just the idea of your own meandering personal train of thought. As del Carmen explained: “The Train of Thought used to be one of those things that we wanted to explore—what happens when you lose your train of thought? So the joke was that you would get on the train and the sign would say, “Dream Productions.” But as soon as you got on the sign would change. It’s like, “That’s not where we wanted to go.” And it jumps the tracks and zigs and zags and ends up in the wrong place. It’s kind of haphazard. You have to enjoy the ride.” And enjoy the ride we did.
Inside Out is in theaters now.