Inside Out 2 aims to reduce the Disney Princess problem

When director Kelsey Mann took the helm at Pixar’s Inside out 2, Pixar chief creative officer Pete Docter had one big suggestion for him. Before becoming CCO, Docter directed many of the studio’s biggest hits, including the original Inside out.

We go behind the scenes at an early press preview Inside out 2Mann told Polygon that the inner world of Inside out in Riley’s mind it would be more ‘cartoonish’ than the realism-based outside world. But Mann says Docter told him the final product: the 2015 one Inside out – didn’t quite land the way he wanted.

“He said, We thought we went far with what we could do with the characters in spirit, in terms of how broadly they moved and animated”, says Mann. “I think we could have gone further. And I kind of regret not stepping that up a bit. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you move on. I remember talking to the whole animation department to pitch the movie and saying that’s what we wanted to do. I feel like we did that a lot in the film – I really tried to push it.

In a still from Pixar's Inside Out 2, a hulking pink figure (Embarrassment) stands behind a worn-out orange figure (Fear) and a large-eyed teal figure (Envy).  Behind them, a jaded-looking purple creature (Ennui) sits on a bench.

Fear mans the console with shame, envy and boredom
Image: Disney/Pixar

That’s especially true when it comes to character design. In the original film, which centers on an eleven-year-old girl and the personifications of emotions in her head, Fear and Anger have distinctly cartoonish designs. Their exaggerated shapes are meant to evoke the emotions they represent. But the emotions embodied by female characters don’t capture that same feeling. Joy, Sadness, and Disgust look more generic, and aside from their bright, jewel-toned skin and hair, they could easily pass as human characters in another Disney or Pixar film. (Joy in particular sparked an important discussion about the long-standing problem of Disney princesses all having the same face, and Pixar following the trend and designing all of its female leads with round faces and button noses).

But that was clear from the very first trailer Inside out 2‘s new emotions would be different. The new film introduces Anxiety, a Muppet-like emotional character with a huge, stretchy mouth and big, googly eyes. She is accompanied by Ennui, who is depicted as a lazy, droopy leash, and Envy, a small mushroom-like blob of emotion. And there’s also Embarrassment, a huge, hulking figure that hides its large face under a hoodie. These four emotions (three of which are feminine) already break the shape of the round face and button nose.

Concept art showing the full range of emotions in Inside Out 2: Anxiety, an orange muppet-like figure;  Disgust, a little green woman;  Joy, a yellow smiling figure;  Shame, a huge, hulking pink figure;  Sadness, a round and blue figure;  Ennui, a hanging indigo figure;  Anger, a red block;  Fear, a squiggly purple figure;  and Envy, a turquoise blob.

Concept art depicting fear, disgust, joy, shame, sadness, boredom, anger, fear and envy
Image: Disney/Pixar

“That was a conscious decision we made,” Mann says. He credits production designer Jason Deamer as the one who really brought these character design discrepancies to his attention. “(Deamer said) Why can’t the female characters have the same design sense? It’s pushed, it’s fun. And we have made an effort to do that.”

“This is animation, not live action!” Deamer told Polygon. “So let’s do what animation (can) do – really emphasize the weirdness.”

After To blush And Lucaboth of which pushed Pixar in a more stylized, cartoonish direction, it makes perfect sense that the filmmakers are behind them Inside out 2 would feel encouraged to embrace a less conventional look. This is an industry-wide trend that has been kicked off In the Spider-Verse, though some studios haven’t been as quick to embrace the move. But film by film, Pixar is slowly welcoming the new.

“The studio is more open to having different directors with different sensibilities come to the fore and want to pursue a very specific look,” says animation supervisor Dovi Anderson.

“Audiences are more ready for that type of animation now,” said animation supervisor Evan Bonifacio. “They won’t be surprised if they see things moving in a specific way that makes them feel like they’re being pushed.”

Inside out 2 will be in theaters from June 14.