‘Inside Out 2’ Director Says Film’s Focus on Puberty and Anxiety Is ‘Incredibly Brave and Bold’

First-time feature film director Kelsey Mann dug deep into his own emotions while making “Inside Out 2.” As he imagined a story about the confusing journey we all go on through puberty, he knew he would need to add new emotions to the ones from the first animated hit — so Anxiety, Envy, Ennui and Embarrassment join the fray in main character Riley’s developing mind. At the Annecy Animation Festival, Mann will appear at a special screening of the Pixar film June 14 and will serve as Disney Art Challenge jury president. The theme of this year’s event will be “Adolescence: So many emotions.” He spoke to Variety about the new film.

This was your first feature film. How was it to sit in the director’s chair?

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This is the first time I’ve directed a feature film, but I’ve directed at the studio before. I did it for a “Monsters University” short called “Party Central.” That was the first time I had ever directed anything at Pixar. This was the first time I’ve sat in the director of a feature film chair, and it’s been a dream come true to be able to have that opportunity. There’s a lot of pressure that comes along with it, obviously. I tell people I’m making a movie about anxiety for a reason. The great part is that when I worked in the story department, which is how I came into Pixar, you interact with a couple other departments like editorial, and layout and art. The greatest part about being able to sit in the director’s chair is I get to work with all the different departments. That’s incredible because there’s so many amazing people that work here.

Did you develop any new ways to help different departments work together and stay focused on your vision for “Inside Out 2”?

That can be difficult because on an animated movie everything is so separated, so we’re trying to create more overlaps as much as we can. I was just talking with someone in lighting about trying to get to their work earlier in the process so that the layout department can see how they’re lighting the scene, so that they know where to put their cameras based on where the lighting is. In the past it has been very separated — the camera will be figured out and then they light it. But we’re trying to push more and more overlap, so that we can see that together as much as possible because it’s such a collaborative art form. The more that we overlap, the better the movie is going to be.

This film is all about the emotions of adolescence. How did working on this film make you reflect on your own middle school years?

It’s helped me. I really wish I had a movie like this when I was growing up because I know you’re going through a lot at that age. And a lot of the time you think it’s only you that’s going through it, that no one else is going through it. I knew that was a big opportunity with this movie. We can make this big film that goes out to the world to tell a lot of people that they’re not alone.

I wasn’t sure if the studio would be able to make a film like this but that changed when I pitched it to [Pixar chief creative officer] Pete Docter, who’s an incredible leader at the studio. He understood what I wanted to do from the very beginning. I think it’s incredibly brave and bold what we’re able to put out into the world.

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