Two years of work were on the line, as were millions of dollars. There was a lot of pressure, too, as animated films had been in a creative and box office slump. In 2012, Director Pete Docter (who also created the hits “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.”) was called to a meeting at Pixar’s headquarters with their Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter. They were going to discuss the progress of the upcoming movie “Inside Out.”
Lasseter pulled out his notebook for the screening.
Docter said, “We’re not going to show you a screening today because the film is not working.”
Docter said it was a scary, unhappy time. He figured he was on the verge of being fired. He wondered if should quit then and there. He was struggling to figure out a way to make this story work. It’s a difficult story for a Pixar film, too (like “Up” and “Wall-E”).
The idea is that an adolescent young lady named Riley and her family are moving to a new city. The storyline takes place in her mind with Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness running the show. These emotions keep her safe or make her stand up for what is right or whatever. The characters get lost in places like Abstract Thought or Long Term Memory and are on a journey to get back in charge to help Riley navigate the difficulty of moving.
Trying to figure out why the film wasn’t working, the director took a walk. He realized that all the emotions were at the controls for a while except Sadness (for obvious, Disney-type reasons). He realized he had to let the Sadness run the mind sometimes because now the complex emotions could make a connection with everyone in the audience. Since that little hiccup was fixed, the film has garnered award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and is getting “best picture” buzz for an Oscar.
Just the idea of this movie (set to be in theaters June 19) has already made a connection for me. In large part because of a Bible study I attend where we recently went through Galatians 5. See, just the thought of Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness fighting for control of Riley’s brain reminds me of the back and forth battles I experience in my own life that chapter 5 highlight.
See, in my mind’s animated movie, there would be two armies competing for control of me. The first, the flesh, would have all sorts of characters. You know, one character would be, well, hmmm…let’s just say my animated movie wouldn’t be approved for all audiences. Anger would be a star. Jealousy, too. Idolatry would make an appearance. Greed would show up. There’s not even room for all of these characters to be named. One would have to just be called “Things Like These.”
The other army would be approved for all audiences: I’d think Love should be a star. Joy, too. I like to think Peace would be an all-time beloved character. Patience would be a necessary supporting actress. Kindness would have a lot of meaningful cameos. Goodness and Faithfulness would have prominent walk-ons. Gentleness and Self-Control would be scene-stealers, too.
And the whole movie they go back and forth. The Flesh wants to keep throwing garbage around my feet while I’m trying to run a race. They want me to stumble and fall so they can put the Yoke of Slavery back on me. The Spirit wants me stand firm in the midst of it all. That army would be fighting for my freedom.
Truth be told, when my movie isn’t working, well, it’s because I choose…yes, I choose…to let the army of the Flesh run the show. It usually results in scary, unhappy times. It’s a movie I don’t want to let people screen.
When there aren’t hiccups and the film “works” it’s because I choose to let the Spirit show the fruit. There isn’t any garbage to stumble through and keep me from running well. I’m free to love God and love my neighbor well. It’s a movie that, for lack of a better term, “works.”
And, when you think about it, there’s a lot more than two years of work at stake in our choices. There’s really even a lot more than millions of dollars at stake. We put our lives out there as an original, unfinished work of art…
…where all our “Inside” choices will have “Out” manifestations…
…hoping that people will screen our movies and see what an abundant life of freedom looks like…
…and want to come to know our Chief Creative Officer.
What could possibly be more important than that?