It's a beautiful afternoon at Pixar's Emeryville campus, located just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco's bustling downtown, and Pete Docter is tired. The Academy Award-winning director of Disney Pixar's Up has spent nearly six years developing his latest film, this summer's Inside Out. It's a couple of months until the film's release, and Docter's demeanor reminds one of a marathon runner's determination with the finish line in sight. "In the end, this turned out to be the most difficult project I've ever worked on," he confesses.
Don't blame production problems; the long gestation of a project like Inside Out was mainly due to the film's unique concept. Docter's daughter --who served as the inspiration for the goofy, happy character of Young Elie in Up-- had entered that stage every kid eventually reaches, the moody period that precedes middle school. Docter came up with the idea of making a film about that change in his daughter by telling a story that would take place inside the mind of a girl going through that same transition. "Watching my daughter and a lot of kids go through this, including myself, there's a childhood joy that goes away once you're exposed to the brutal reality of the world. It's a rite of passage, and there's something beautiful and necessary but sad about that loss," he says.
When Docter approached Jonas Rivera, his producing partner in Up, with the idea in late 2009, Rivera immediately responded to it. The two pitched the concept to Pixar's chief creative officer, John Lasseter, as a movie that would balance two interconnected narratives: the girl's real-life experiences and the story taking place inside her mind. Lasseter immediately connected with the idea, and that's when the challenge began.
"What didn't?" answers Docter when asked what exactly made it so difficult to get the film off the ground. "The characters: what do emotions look like? The setting: what does the mind world look like? These two stories that connect to each other was really tricky, because usually what you have are several different subplots that connect in different areas, but this was on another level."
"It took brute force to get this movie made," agrees Jonas Rivera. "You get a concept and believe in it --but that's little more than a tagline on a movie poster. Then you need to dramatize it, and this movie is basically two movies that need to be woven together. That's just the narrative part of it. For the visual part of it, what would this world look like? What does the mind look like?"
"It took over a year and a half of work to get it out of the concept stage. Even the way people would refer to it around the studio; they'd always say it was a great ‘idea.' I needed to have them say, ‘movie,'" says Rivera.
The eureka moment in crossing the bridge from concept to film, according to Docter, came as soon as the project came together as an ensemble comedy. The film features a large cast, including the central family --Riley and her parents-- who move cross-country from the idyllic (albeit frigid) suburbs of Minneapolis to San Francisco. Inside Riley's mind, the narrative is driven by an ensemble of characters that represent her emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black).
"I think I called her Optimism in that first pitch," Docter says, referring to the character now known as Joy, who emerged as the film's lead from the outset. "I thought of it as an ensemble comedy, so that was always the intention as we cast and wrote it, and she was always the one driving character.
"Any movie is about relationships, and Joy was hard to land as a character," he continues. "Even later when people were acknowledging it as a movie, they would say, ‘I don't like Joy. I'm not rooting for her.' That was bitter medicine to swallow since she's our main character! But she's a tough one to write for; you can't make her too chipper, and getting Amy Poehler was just a huge pivot point for the film. She had the ability to know how much enthusiasm to balance with little bits of sarcasm and undercutting."
In early drafts of the script, Joy was paired with Fear as the two embarked on a journey deep within Riley's mind. During development, the decision was made to replace Fear with Sadness --changing the focus of the story to become more about Joy's journey and relationship to Riley's emotional state. Weaving the two narratives together proved to be crucial in making the story work.
"We found out that the more we connected the two stories, the better both of them became," Docter says. "We cared more about Riley's story if her decisions affected Joy's journey and vice versa. We had early stories with plots including traumatic events, and Joy's journey, like in Lord of the Rings, was about going to go destroy that memory. But that didn't really affect Riley at all, so we really searched for ways to design the world that connected both characters more fully."
Linking the two narrative strands was an important priority for Ralph Eggleston, the film's production designer. "If you don't care about Riley, you'll never care about her emotions," he says. Since the bulk of the film technically takes place inside the mind (and not the brain), Pixar's creative team had a range of options to consider in how they wanted to go about distinguishing Riley's real world with her interior one.
"One thing we found most interesting between the two worlds was the contrast between them. We wanted to come up with a visual language that could clearly define these worlds, but at the same time separate them. The outside world is based on real locations, so it's imperfect and flawed. The inside world is imaginative; it can look perfect because it's virtual," says Inside Out's director of photography, Patrick Lin.
The film's color palette reflects that approach, depicting foggy San Francisco in muted colors while Riley's interior world is dominated by bright, saturated hues. Each of Riley's emotions is assigned a color, and the creative team briefly considered having each of them change color throughout the film, according to Eggleston, "because different colors mean different things in different cultures." The idea was ultimately scrapped at the worry that family audiences would find the fluctuating character colors too confusing and disorienting.
Inside Out producer Jonas Rivera cites Eggleston as responsible for developing the characters' distinct look. "I go back to Toy Story with Ralph Eggleston," says Rivera. "He really loves the classic Disney animation, and we talked a lot about Fantasia; we wanted light to be abstract and play a little bit differently. Ralph was the one who came up with the idea of energy, something that we couldn't necessarily build on a model, the characters as these sources of light. If you get the right people, you know they will mine in the right wells to bring great work."
The effect Rivera refers to is the effervescent look of Riley's emotions. The ensemble inside Riley's mind lacks the gummy aesthetic of other CGI characters, instead exhibiting a sort of fizz (think of the bubbles rising from a champagne flute), an idea that Eggleston says was inspired by the sort of sparklers you might encounter on the Fourth of July. Eggleston's team worked on the effect for eight months in order to perfect it for Joy's on-screen presence.
For Docter, the film really started to take shape after getting positive feedback from one of their early scenes, one involving a dinner-table argument between Riley and her parents. Docter refers to its first screening within Pixar as a big moment during production. "We showed people what the movie could be and everyone reacted positively. That was a big turnaround for us." An early version of the scene was screened for exhibitors at CinemaCon and CineEurope last year, eliciting a tremendously strong reaction from those in attendance: those entering Disney's presentations at the two conventions walked in thinking about Star Wars and walked out talking about Inside Out.
Part of what makes Pixar films so successful around the world is the studio's commitment to detail when handling international versions. Family films like Pixar's are traditionally dubbed in foreign markets, making it easier on kids who don't feel up to reading subtitles. Pixar's hands-on approach doesn't only influence international casting, it can also modify visuals and key plot points in the film.
"We've got an international team in our post-production department, so we look at movies very early on and spot for things ---wherever there is a plot point, signage, a graphic, or a line of dialogue that doesn't directly connect-- we flag and try to correct it. Some things work and others don't," explains Rivera. "For example, in Japan there is no real translation for ‘train of thought.' We couldn't really do anything about it; it's central to the story, so we're hoping they just accept it as a train that goes through the mind. But wherever we can, we try to add pieces of flair-dialogue and signs and those things. In this one, during the dinner scene, the dad is distracted watching hockey in his mind, and in Latin America and Europe that's actually going to be soccer. We even thought of going in and working on specific uniform colors, but there were too many variants. We told our markets to reach out to their local sports announcers so we can include them in that scene, because even though it's quick, they pay off and help make the movie feel more authentic." That collaboration also helps in securing that the right local talent in each market is tapped for a role in each film. "Lewis Black is a great example," says Rivera, referring to the hot-headed comedian playing Anger. "It seems like every country has someone like Lewis Black."
If Disney's glimpse of the film at last year's CinemaCon was like a tantalizing appetizer, the studio decided to serve the full main course at CinemaCon 2015 by closing its presentation with a screening of Inside Out presented in Dolby Vision. It made for a curious sense of déjà vu for those in attendance. For the second year in a row, people walked into Disney's CinemaCon presentation thinking about Star Wars. Once again, they walked out talking about Inside Out.
By Daniel Garris
Jurassic World continued its record-breaking pace on Monday with a first place daily take of $25.34 million. The Chris Pratt led 3D blockbuster sequel from Universal and Legendary declined 56 percent from Sunday's performance. Jurassic World registered the third largest unadjusted Monday gross of all-time; behind only 2004's Spider-Man 2 ($27.66 million) and 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($26.78 million), both of which were aided by a holiday frame. The previous high-mark for a non-holiday Monday gross was the $24.49 million first-Monday take of 2008's The Dark Knight.
Jurassic World has grossed a massive $234.15 million in four days. That represents the largest four-day domestic start of all-time, as it tops the $226.34 million four-day take of previous record holder 2012's Marvel's The Avengers by $7.81 million and 3.5 percent. In comparison, The Avengers fell 67 percent on its first Monday to gross $18.90 million, though obviously Jurassic World is at an advantage in the midweek comparison from opening in June as opposed to May (a factor which in turn makes the film's record breaking opening weekend performance even more impressive than it already is).
Given both strong word of mouth and strong daily percentage holds thus far and no new direct competition for action fans the rest of June, Jurassic World is in tremendous shape to continue to impress in a very big way as it goes forward.
Fox's Spy placed in a distant second on Monday with $1.74 million. The Melissa McCarthy led comedy was down 60 percent from Sunday and down 42 percent from last Monday. While Spy has grossed a respectable $58.29 million in eleven days, the film also continues to perform below its lofty pre-release expectations. Spy is running an underwhelming 22 percent behind the $74.74 million eleven-day take of 2013's Identity Thief and 9 percent ahead of the $53.58 million eleven-day gross of last year's Tammy.
Warner's San Andreas took third place with $1.15 million. The Dwayne Johnson led 3D disaster film fell 63 percent from Sunday and a sharp 57 percent from last Monday. Clearly San Andreas has lost major momentum since Jurassic World entered the marketplace. In the bigger picture San Andreas remains a strong performer as it continues to exceed expectations with an 18-day take of $120.27 million. That places the film 17 percent ahead of the $102.52 million 18-day take of 2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Focus' Insidious: Chapter 3 claimed fourth with $0.997 million. The third installment of the low-budget horror franchise from Gramercy and Blumhouse Productions was down just 46.5 percent from Sunday and down 54 percent from last Monday. The eleven-day take for Insidious: Chapter 3 stands at $38.38 million. That is on the low end of expectations and places the film a slim 2.5 percent behind the recent $39.38 million eleven-day gross of Fox's Poltergeist.
Pitch Perfect 2 rounded out Monday's top five with $0.724 million. Universal's successful musical comedy sequel starring Anna Kendrick was down 53 percent from Sunday and down only 22.5 percent from last Monday. Pitch Perfect 2 has grossed a very strong $171.84 million in 32 days. On Monday Universal announced that Pitch Perfect 3 is scheduled to be released on July 21, 2017.
By Daniel Garris
In one of the most stunning and remarkable box office performances in memory, Universal and Legendary Pictures' Jurassic World absolutely demolished expectations this weekend with a $208.81 million debut. In the process Jurassic World set a new all-time opening weekend record, as it topped the $207.44 million debut of 2012's Marvel's The Avengers by $1.37 million. On Sunday the fourth installment of the long dormant blockbuster franchise had been estimated to open a bit below The Avengers, but ultimately broke the record thanks to a stronger than anticipated Sunday hold. Jurassic World marks only the second film to ever open with at least $200 million and opened a comfortable $17.54 million ahead of the recent $191.27 million start of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In addition to setting a new all-time record, Jurassic World shattered the previous opening weekend record for the month of June, which had been held by 2013's Man of Steel. Jurassic World opened a massive 79 percent stronger than the $116.62 million opening weekend performance of Man of Steel and did so without having the advantage of opening over Father's Day weekend that Man of Steel had. Jurassic World also easily topped the $147.19 million debut of Furious 7 earlier this year to become the largest opener ever for Universal. The Jurassic Park franchise has a history of record breaking performances, as both 1993's Jurassic Park and 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park also broke the all-time opening weekend record at the time of their respective releases.
A number of factors helped contribute to the break out performance of Jurassic World this weekend. Thanks in part to the 14-year gap between the film and 2001's Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World was able to build off of the legacy and nostalgia of Jurassic Park without being weighed down by the less enthusiastic reactions to The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. The film was also helped out by being the first Jurassic Park film to be aided by higher priced 3D and IMAX admissions (an estimated 48 percent of the film's grosses were from 3D engagements), by the presence of Chris Pratt fresh off his success with last year's Guardians of the Galaxy, by a very strong marketing campaign and by being the only new action-adventure film for audiences throughout the entire month of June.
Jurassic World opened with $81.95 million on Friday (which included an estimated $18.5 million from Thursday evening shows), fell 15 percent on Saturday to gross $69.63 million and declined 18 percent on Sunday to take in $81.95 million. That placed the opening weekend to Friday ratio for Jurassic World at 2.55 to 1, which is exceptional when dealing with grosses of this size and is a very strong early sign for the film going forward. Jurassic World received a strong A rating on CinemaScore. In addition to strong word of mouth, Jurassic World will also be aided going forward by the Father's Day holiday next weekend and by the lack of direct competition for action fans until Paramount's Terminator Genisys enters the marketplace on July 1.
The audience breakdown for Jurassic World was nearly evenly split between genders (52 percent male, 48 percent female) and skewed towards moviegoers 25 years and older (61 percent).
Jurassic World makes Universal's strong 2015 performance even stronger, as it now leads a slate that has already included Fifty Shades of Grey, Furious 7 and Pitch Perfect 2. Universal's grosses for 2015 to date surpassed the $1 billion mark this weekend and currently stand at $1.044 billion. The studio will look to continue its roll with the release of Ted 2 on June 26 and Minions on July 10.
In other box office news, Fox's Spy placed in a distant second with $15.61 million. The Melissa McCarthy led comedy was down one spot and 46 percent from last weekend. There is no doubt that the softer than anticipated performance of Spy thus far is at least in part due to the break-out performance of Jurassic World this weekend. Spy has grossed $56.55 million through ten days of release. That places the film an underwhelming 20 percent behind the $70.96 million ten-day start of 2013's Identity Thief.
Warner's San Andreas claimed third place with $10.81 million. The Dwayne Johnson led 3D disaster film was down an understandably sharp 58 percent, as the film clearly took a direct hit from the arrival of Jurassic World. Despite this weekend's hold, San Andreas continues to significantly outpace expectations with a strong 17-day take of $119.12 million. With the launch of Jurassic World now out of the way, San Andreas could stabilize going forward, especially with the aid of Father's Day next weekend.
Focus' Insidious: Chapter 3 landed in fourth place with $7.31 million. The third installment of the low-budget horror franchise from Gramercy and Blumhouse Productions was down one spot and a very sharp 68 percent from last weekend. The film's second weekend decline was quite expected given the added presence of Jurassic World and that 2013's Insidious: Chapter 2 fell 66 percent in its second weekend. Insidious: Chapter 3 continues to perform on the low end of expectations with a ten-day take of $37.38 million.
Universal's Pitch Perfect 2 rounded out the weekend's top five with $6.40 million. The successful musical comedy sequel starring Anna Kendrick was down a slim 15.5 percent from last weekend. Pitch Perfect 2 easily had the weekend's strongest percentage hold among wide releases and was aided from playing as a double feature with Jurassic World at many drive-in locations. Pitch Perfect 2 has grossed a significantly stronger than expected $171.11 million in 31 days.
Warner's Entourage followed in sixth place with $4.19 million. The theatrical version of the HBO comedy series continues to display significant front-loading, as it was down 59 percent from last weekend. Entourage has grossed a lackluster $25.72 million through twelve days of release.