Inside Out 2 montreal concordia emilie goulet interview pixar

Inside Out 2 animator talks about Concordia, Ennui and working at Pixar

“The Concordia film animation program focused on who you are as an artist, your values and what kind of stories you want to tell, which was very useful because at Pixar, you’re hired to bring your own voice to the film.”

Years have passed since the events of Inside Out, one of Pixar’s most beloved films. Now Riley is on the brink of puberty, and with her life and body rapidly changing, a whole new range of emotions fight for control of her psyche. Inside Out 2 follows Riley over a three-day hockey camp weekend as she loses her old sense of self and fights to forge a new one. 

Each Pixar film takes years and years of production before it’s finally released. Each detail is intricately imagined and animated as thousands of artists work together toward one cohesive goal. Animator Emilie Goulet learned her craft at Concordia and has since worked on a number of Pixar films including Toy Story 4, Luca, Lightyear and Soul

Over Zoom, Goulet spoke about what she did behind the scenes on Inside Out 2, including her role working in pre-production on one of Riley’s newest emotions, Ennui. 

Justine Smith: On a project as large as Inside Out 2, what does your role as an animator look like? 

Emilie Goulet: Usually the animator gets scenes, or a couple of scenes — we call them chunks. It’s like a mini-sequence and we’ll animate the characters. We basically bring those characters to life. We get a file with them and then we go from A to B and we have to flesh out the acting and the facial animation. We listen to the dialogue and audio millions of times trying to really understand what’s going on — What’s the emotion? What’s the story?

On Inside Out 2, I had the privilege of working in pre-production, which is basically, before we animate the scenes, we make sure the characters are animatable and are ready to be animated when they partner animators with character artists. The character artist is basically the artist who will build the digital puppet; the model and the skeleton rig inside. As an animator, I move the puppet around, do animation and facial tests to make sure the animators are going to be happy and focus on the acting and performance and not deal with things like the arm moving weirdly or the mouth not doing what they want.

JS: What motivated you to become an animator?

EG: The appreciation of the big screen, comics, Disney and cartoons were always very important in our family. We could watch them whenever we wanted or read comics all we wanted. There were no limits. I really connected with those art forms. When I was in high school, a career counsellor told me about the Concordia film animation program and my mind was set. It was the only program like that in Quebec at the time, now there are more. It was incredible because the program was focused on who you are as an artist and what kind of films you want to make. It was about the person’s voice, their values and what kind of stories you want to tell, which was very useful because at Pixar you’re hired to bring your own voice to the film. You’re working on huge films with tons of people on it, but everybody brings something very unique.

Ennui is a character I really loved. I thought it was funny that there’s a character with a French name, and there was something so interesting about animating a character with a French accent. The emotion itself, I totally related to as well.

Ennui in Inside Out 2 (right)

JS: When we’re talking about this pre-production work, what does that entail? For a character like Ennui, you have to find ways to capture the physicality of the emotion — the heavy hair and head flopping around — while also following the physical logic of that world. How does that work?

EG: As an animator, I won’t necessarily animate the clothing or the hair. That’s a different team and they had immense challenges with the weight of Ennui’s hair. As an animator, I come in first and craft the performance. The fun thing about Ennui is, how do you convey boredom? Compared with a character like Anxiety, who moves all over the place, is super jittery with a lot of movements and tension, I had to keep toning it down. I kept removing and removing until it’s almost just a mouth moving. Her lids are also moving too — but there are a fewer movements to convey the literal weight but also the spirit of what it is to be bored. You feel super heavy because you don’t have energy to move; you don’t want to move, you don’t care.

JS: A lot of your work as an animator and illustrator  is geared towards young people and children. What is it about working for that age group that motivates you?

EG: I don’t do it on purpose. It’s what I want to say in my head and I’m not necessarily talking to kids, I’m talking to people. I hope that I can reach the hearts of people. I remember being a teenager and a kid and feeling like you want to be a part of the world and you want to be taken seriously for who you are. That’s what appeals to me. It’s worth listening to kids and talking with them. It’s not because we have different ages that we can’t understand each other. 

JS: What’s the experience watching the final film like for you?

EG: When I first watch the film, all I’m thinking about are my friends, like, “Oh this person did this. I remember we were laughing when we did this.” The first time, it’s almost as if I don’t watch the movie. It takes a couple of years and then I’m like, “Wow, that wasn’t so bad. That was actually really cool.” It’s easier to let myself lean into the story. ■

Inside Out 2 (directed by Kelsey Mann)

Inside Out 2 is currently playing in Montreal theatres

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