Mann Directs 'Inside Out 2'

Mann alongside the 'Inside Out 2' poster

Northern Michigan University 1998 BFA alumnus Kelsey Mann is directing his first feature film, Disney and Pixar's Inside Out 2, which premieres in theaters June 14. The sequel to the Academy Award-winning best animated feature returns to the mind of the original human character, Riley. She is going through puberty and encountering new emotions on top of the originals introduced in the first film. Actors Amy Poehler, Lewis Black and Maya Hawke are among those whose voices are featured in the film.

In a press conference previewing Inside Out 2, Mann said he drew on his experience as a parent while making the film.

“When I started, my daughter was 13 and my son was 14,” he said. “I'm like this is the exact age I want her to be in the movie. You're always pulling from your lives in every movie I've done here. We're hardwired at this age to start to become really self-conscious. And in part we're doing it because when you're a kid, you've got your parents and your caregivers taking care of you. And eventually, you're going to have to take care of yourself. And that's why we like to push our parents and our caregivers away so we can become independent people that can take care of ourselves.

"And there are worries: ‘What you all are thinking of me? How do I fit in? Do you like me?' It's all about fitting in at that age, and it's part of our design of who we are because if you don't like me, you're gonna banish me. You have to manage it all, which is a big reason I'm making this movie. That's why we ended up going toward the emotions we have in the film now.”

Mann said he wanted the character Joy (voiced by Poehler) to feel overwhelmed by the new emotions that showed up. But the first screening featured nine new emotions—so many it was hard to keep track because they canceled each other out. His first note from that screening was to simplify. The new emotions were whittled down to four: Anxiety, Embarrassment, Envy and Ennui—a fancy word for boredom.

The crew relied on outside experts to realistically convey teenage girls' emotions, including clinical psychologist and author Lisa Demore.

“We also knew that we are not teenage girls and that it might be helpful to hear from people who are, so we created a trust of nine girls that we called ‘Riley's Crew.' They're an amazing group. Every four months we would show the movie, meet with them, have a note session and get their thoughts on the characters, Riley's relationship with her friend group, what's going on with them emotionally, and whether it resonates. Are we getting it right? Or is this true? They treated it like an assignment and really took it seriously.”

Mann earned a BFA in illustration from NMU. While Inside Out 2 marks his first feature film directing credit, he has been involved in many projects. He served as story supervisor for Pixar's Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur and Onward, and was part of the creative team for Disney's Lightyear.

Fellow BFA alumnus Neil Helm (2005) also works at Pixar Animation Studios as a supervising crowds animator. Both were profiled in a 2017 alumni magazine feature (read it here, beginning on page 18). Other individuals with NMU ties working there include Dan Scanlon, a 1987 grad of the automotive service technician program, who serves as vice president of creative and directed Pixar's Onward; and Catherine Apple, a 1984 grad of the pipe welding program, who joined Mann and Scanlon on the Onward crew as lead editor.

According to his online bio, Scanlon joined Pixar Animation Studios in September 2001 as a storyboard artist on the award-winning feature films Cars and Toy Story 3. He made his animated feature directorial debut in 2013 with Monsters University, and received the 2013 “Hollywood Animation Award” from the Hollywood Film Awards.

In his role as vice president, Scanlon is involved in key creative decision-making at the studio and consults on films in both development and production. He served as executive producer on Pixar's Soul.

As a child growing up in Clawson, Mich., Scanlon possessed a love for Warner Bros. cartoons, animated Disney films, and as fate would have it, Pixar short films. His passion inspired him to study film and animation in high school and illustration after NMU at Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD).

Apple joined Pixar Animation Studios in September 2015. As the lead editor, she begins with putting together a story reel with story boards, temp dialogue, temp sound effects and temp music, working closely with the director and head of story. When the scenes are approved by the director, the edit team records and cuts in production dialogue, layout and animation. As the film progresses in the pipeline from layout to animation, Apple stays involved in the cutting changes that are made. The last stage of her role is the mixing stage, where the edit team finishes the sound of the film.

Prior to Pixar, Apple was an assistant editor at a number of studios, including Hyperion Studio, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, DreamWorks Animation, and Disney Feature Animation. She grew up in Marquette and went on to earn a BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.

Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Alumni