Pete Docter: “Vice Versa is the most ambitious project in Pixar history”

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This very moving animated film returns this Sunday on W9, at 9:05 p.m. When it came out, we met its director, Pete Docter, who has since become Pixar’s boss.

Pete, you are the only one of the original Pixar authors who have remained. Brad Bird and Stanton are gone, you haven’t. Why ? I acted selfishly. I stayed at Pixar because I like it. I like what we do. I work with great people and tell stories that are meaningful to me. And then… I work with John Lasseter. A guy who pushes you to give your best. A guy who sublimates you. It’s not an easy world out there. It’s Hollywood. And we realize that it’s still incredible to do what we do.

Pixar loves Miyazaki, Shining, James Bond …

Do you feel a responsibility? Yes: we must encourage young artists. We have to find them and give them the opportunity to tell their stories. Talents from other countries, no more girls.

By staying, you also preserve the DNA of the company? Yes, the company has changed over the years, but the heart is still the same: the desire to tell a good story. It’s not that we allow artists to keep their projects, it’s that we force them to remain masters and responsible for what they tell. John Lasseter is an artist, but he is also the CEO of the company and he launched the company in a new direction. It is a unique business.

Why we cried in front of Vice Versa

Why stay in the animation rather than going in the live? Because that’s what I like. I grew up watching animated films. I like this. Not just the manufacturing process (which I find fascinating), but also the characters you can create. Animation has the power to take you to fantastic worlds much more easily than live. And then the characters we can create, everything we can tell… My brain thinks in cartoons and in animation. You can show what you want with the volume, the speed… John and I love cartoons. Chuck Jones, Tex Avery… We worship them. In Vice Versa, we had a good reason to be inspired by these guys. The emotions are very extreme so we used the techniques we learned as kids.

With Vice versa, the idea was to get Pixar back on track? We didn’t try to do anything other than a good film. John and I have only one ambition, even when we’re doing a sequel: to create something new. We approach all our films as if it were the last, as if we were going to stop. This is what keeps us bold.

We talked about a creative desert at Pixar No. We always had one ambition: to make the best films. Sometimes these films seem less good to some. This one for example, three years after the start of production, we still told ourselves that it would not work. But because the right people worked together, it worked. There is no guarantee. No magic formula. When you start a movie, you enter a tunnel. And nothing says you’re going to come out on the other side. Pixar’s thing is having great ideas, but that doesn’t automatically make great movies. That’s the job: turning good ideas into good films. And it is hard.

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Where did the film come from? Watching my daughter. Small, she was open, energetic, always in a good mood. And then, one day, everything changed: she shut herself up and I wondered what the hell was going through her mind. This is where the story started.

Why did you choose the spirit of an 11-year-old girl? My daughter is Riley’s direct inspiration. We did extensive research with psychologists. The result of this research is that among all strata of humanity, 11-13 year old girls are the most socially receptive. It’s very clear in high school: they are attentive to everything, pick up the messages sent by everyone. How many times have I heard my daughter say to her friends: “No, but you’ve seen how she looks at me, that one!” »? … The conclusions of science thus came to consolidate me in my intuition. Suddenly it was getting super important to take pre-teen hypersensitivity as a playground.

Discover Pixar’s “easter eggs” in Vice Versa

The film is an intense brain experience… A bit like Charlie Kaufman was doing a children’s cartoon. Ahah, I love Charlie Kaufman. At first, we didn’t really worry about whether the children could assimilate such abstract concepts. The idea was too good, and because it’s animation, we could physically “change” the fate of our emotional characters during the film … Then we launched the research I was telling you about. Young children only understand the physical world. They understand what three apples represent, but not the concept of “three”, until a certain age, when this information becomes available … Abstract thoughts have just developed in the minds of our young audience (this is i.e. from the age of 6). For us, that was enough. A high-concept story like that of Vice Versa constantly plays with gags and very intellectual constructions, but nothing would stand without this strong and moving relationship between Joy and Sadness. Which allows us to dramatize the process of the passage to maturity, to grasp this essentially indomitable feeling that is melancholy …

Is it a film for children or for adults after all? Adults will cling to their teenage memories. The teens will identify with Riley and the younger ones will be more sensitive to the comedy and the quest of Joy who seeks to join the headquarters. Finally, that’s what we hope.

The film has nothing to do with the universes usually described at Pixar. This is the studio’s intention: to find little-explored playgrounds. Vice Versa is our most ambitious project to date. The hardest part was finding the right balance between all the emotions to reflect what life is all about. Often times of joy are tinged with sadness and vice versa.

Visually, what were your references? Lots of scientific imagery, especially brain images. Before realizing that it was necessary to represent the spirit more. The idea was not to draw blood vessels but concepts: thoughts, memories, emotions, imagination … We therefore sought to give an organic character to the drawings, without being too crude. For the emotions I wanted them to resemble the sensations they convey. For Joie we started with a star because it is luminous. For Sadness it was a tear, for Anger a brick, for Disgust a broccoli and for Fear a nerve.

Vice Versa deciphered by a doctor in cognitive neuroscience

The first one that occurred to you? Anger. at once.

Interview Gaël Golhen

After Monsters, Inc., Up there, Vice-versa and Soul, Pete Docter no longer has a project as a director

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