By Stephen Mayne @finalreel
Amy Poehler is on the up. She’s already emerged as a comedy superstar in America off the back of a number of high profile gigs including Saturday Night Live, the lead role in hit sitcom Parks and Recreation, and as a highly lauded host, along with friend and fellow comedy superstar Tina Fey, of the Golden Globes. In the UK, her profile is lower, though this is not likely to remain the case for long. At the very least, her voice is about to become a whole lot more familiar as she brings the main character of Pixar’s new hit Inside Out to life.
After a little lull in output, Inside Out is a glorious return to form for Pixar, scoring rave reviews and the biggest opening at the US box office for original material. The story follows 11 year old Riley as she struggles to handle a move from the Midwest to San Francisco, but the real magic takes place in her head. There, Pixar have created a rich world where five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear) stand over a console governing every action. Unsurprisingly, the almost ridiculously energetic and upbeat Poehler voices Joy, who must help overcome a number of disasters to get her charge back on track.
Over in the UK to promote the film, Poehler, diminutive in stature but certainly not personality, shared her wisdom on a range of topics from the role to imaginary friends, the animation process and British culture.
Amy on Joy: She looks like Peter Pan, and an anime character, and Tinker Bell and the Jungle Book. She’s the energetic engine of the film.
Amy on getting it right: We had to work to modulate her [Joy] because she has to go through a journey. She busts out of the gate ready to go and by the end of the film, she’s slowed down, gotten quiet, and learned to live in the present. She’s had a range of feelings and emotions. Even though she’s an emotion, she has emotions.
Amy on educating children: The film gives children tools and ways to talk about how they’re feeling which isn’t the direct “how are you feeling?” My boys talk about anger as how he’s a funny character, and by doing so; we can then say “isn’t it funny how when you are angry you don’t listen.”
Amy on playing other emotions: I couldn’t picture any of the other characters being done by anyone other than the actors who did them. However, I think I could do anger, but it would be my own version. I think I could wrestle that up if I needed to. But Lewis [Lewis Black, voice of Anger] is so funny and it’s my kids’ favourite emotion.
Amy on animation: It goes into a weird chamber and lights are put on it and it’s sent to the lab, and then it goes through a colouring machine, and then I think people take a picture of that and run fast. And that’s recorded and the film is made. It’s that simple.
Amy on happiness: Happy is a really vague term, happiness and the pursuit of it. What I love about the film is it reminds us it’s ok not to be happy all the time, no one is, and the pursuit of being happy all the time often gets in the way of change and growth.
Amy on British culture: Growing up in the States in the 90s, we passed British comedy around like it was a secret. We had VHS tapes of The Day Today and Steve Coogan, and you would ask someone have you seen Brass Eye and they’d be like “no”, and you’d be “it’s a pretty cool show in England and I’m the only one who knows about it.” There was a mystery about British comedy because we couldn’t get it. That’s changed, for the better I’m sure, but there used to be this found, wonderful feeling of discovering the comedians over here.
Amy on imaginary friends: I have an imaginary enemy. He’s here and he’s hoping that I don’t do well. He knows who he is.
Amy on Joy as a role model for young girls: The enthusiasm and exuberance she has, it’s what you want and hope for young women. She’s not self-conscious and she isn’t very concerned about what people think of her. That’s super refreshing. It doesn’t suddenly change in your 40s; it’s this constant struggle about who you are and what you want to be. I loved her for that. I love girls that tap into that and women that try to get back to that.
Inside Out was released in the UK on 24th July.