Still shot from Pixar's Inside Out 2

Joy and Anxiety from Inside Out 2

© 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

All the Feels

Meet an animator who helped bring emotions to life on the big screen in Inside Out 2

Deborah Coleman/© 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Michael Venturini uses software to animate the characters.

Life can be packed with emotions. You might feel joy, sadness, fear, anger, and embarrassment all in one day. No one knows that better than Riley from Inside Out 2. The Pixar movie, which hits theaters on June 14, is the sequel to 2015’s Inside Out. The new film follows Riley, now 13, as she tackles all the complicated feelings that come with growing up. 

What should the characters that represent each of Riley’s emotions look like? That was the challenge faced by Michael Venturini, the movie’s animation supervisor. He spoke with Scholastic News about how he helped bring each emotion to the big screen. 

Scholastic News: Tell us about your job.

Michael Venturini: I oversee a team of animators. I help them research and design characters, including expressions and poses.

SN: What is the animation process like?

© 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

An early version of Joy

MV: It’s like one giant class project where 70 to 100 people take a small piece and contribute to one big idea. A film breaks up the same way a book does into chapters. We call these chapters sequences. We work in groups, with two or three sequences going at once. For one second of film, there are 24 individual frames of animation.

We share our work with the director, who’s the big storyteller. They’ll give us notes, the same way a teacher might give you feedback on your writing for class.

We go through that process until we’ve animated all the scenes in the film. On average, that takes a team of animators about 10 or 12 months. Once that’s done, it gets handed to other departments that put in the lighting, the effects. It takes us about four years to make a movie. 

SN: How did you decide what each emotion looks like?

MV: In Inside Out 2, each character is a distinct personality. We had psychologists come in and share their wisdom about emotions and how they function. Riley’s a little bit older than in the original Inside Out film. As we get older, life gets more complicated, and emotions are driving that. 

We try to get inside the emotion. For example, when you’re embarrassed, you just want to hide. So we put the character Embarrassment in a hoodie so he can hide in it. Anxiety is when you’re stressed. You have that teeth-gritting nervous energy. So we gave the character Anxiety a really wide mouth with lots of teeth, big eyes, and frazzled hair.

SN: How do you bring the characters to life?

MV: The characters are like digital puppets that have a lot of strings attached to them. We have software that allows us to move each of those strings and pose the character. An average main character in our film would have about 2,500 controls, or little strings to pull.

SN: What is the best part of your job?

MV: What I’ve enjoyed most is how each film requires us to research and learn something new to excite our audience. We are, in some small way, a team of scientists. When we made Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, we learned that all fish in the ocean can be divided into two types of swimmers. Working at Pixar, you just collect interesting facts about life.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.

1. Based on the article, why does it take about four years to make a movie like Inside Out 2?

2. Why does Venturini compare the animation process to a giant class project?

3. According to the sidebar, “Relax and Refocus,” how can it help you to talk to a trusted adult about your feelings?

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