John Lasseter Says Disney/Pixar Wants More Diverse Characters

John Lasseter Pixar Diversity
Andreas Rentz/Getty

At a Monday afternoon press conference for the new animated film “Inside Out,” John Lasseter said that Pixar and Disney are making a push to tell stories about more diverse characters.

“It’s very important to us … to have female and ethnic characters,” said Lasseter, the Disney Animation Studios/Pixar chief. “It’s grown in importance over time. As you’ll see in future films, we’re really paying attention to that.”

Lasseter revealed that when he started in animation, it was an industry that mostly employed men behind the camera. “We have been seeing more and more women, and more and more people from all over the world starting to work with it,” Lasseter said. “That’s exciting. I think it will get reflected in the characters.”

He cited Disney’s 2016 release of “Moana,” about a Polynesian princess, as an example. “It’s pretty spectacular,” Lasseter said. “I guess most people think of fairy tales as European fairy tales. We’re trying to reach out and find origins of legends all over the world.”

Lasseter made these comments after a reporter asked if Pixar would ever release a film with a black protagonist.

“Inside Out” is set in the mind of a young girl, as her emotions — such as Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — embark on an adventure after her family moves to a new home. “It’s really nice to go to work and your job is to tell everybody everything’s great,” Poehler said.

The film was inspired by director Pete Docter’s daughter, Elie, who was 9 when she did a voice of the girl in 2009’s “Up.” He found that as she grew older, “she was a lot less energetic and reserved,” and remembered thinking: “What’s going on in her head?”

The film relied on scientific data about emotions and thoughts. “We did a tremendous amount of research to get the details right,” Lasseter said. He explained how the voices in a Pixar movie are recorded before they start on the animation, so the actors are able to influence the feel of their characters. “I believe in all of Pixar history, this is one of the most talented and amazing casts that we had,” he said.

Kaling said she wept when she read the script. “I’m not asked to do many things,” said Kaling, as she explained why she had to develop her own material. “It’s very specific the way I look and talk,” Kaling said. The star of “The Mindy Project” said she was most moved by the fact that the story gave a voice to a demographic — young girls — that often don’t headline their own movies. “I remember being an 11-year-old girl,” Kaling said.

“Inside Out” premieres out-of-competition on Monday night, and opens in the United States on June 16.

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  1. Sean Dawson says:

    “What’s diversity?” ” I believe it’s an old, old wooden ship.”

    I am tired of diversity. i am tired of everything i watch trying to socially engineer media to placate every single digit minority with equal representation. “Why some people might feel left out if there’s no Polynesian transsexual amputees in it.” I think that’s why Mad Men was such a hit. No one wants to return to the racism rampant in the 50’s and earlier, but there’s something attractive to watching a time when no one gave a damn if a week or two went by with no brown faces on Ed Sullivan or the Gong Show. The hand-wringing makes me sick.

    • Amber Yates says:

      Disney needs to make more family oriented films that AREN’T racially homgenous that have a little black girl or a non white as the main character.

      Think films like Inside Out but NOT with a little white girl as the main character but more a ethnic child just living life and being the focus of the disney filmy.

      Think films like The Incredibles but don’t make the family white. They should do a film on Frozone and his family.

      Less racially homgenic films like Moana and more films based in the melting pot that is America.

      We have NEVER seen a young black boy or girl have a simple magic adventure or anything and I don’t understand why!

    • says:

      you’re a complete tool and you need to shut up.

  2. Juan says:

    They apparently grabbed the cast of Inside Out by searching “out of work NBC stars” on Google.

  3. Dean says:

    Maybe we’ll finally get that Latina princess that Disney executives promised was in the works three or four years ago.

  4. Veronica says:

    Talking about diversity, would be interesting to see how or if Lasseter would have responded if a reporter had asked will there ever be a gay/lesbian leading character? But then I guess that question and scenario would be way too controversial.

  5. cadavra says:

    You want female and ethnic? Bring back Cleopatra Jones!

  6. John Galt says:

    That’s great John now how about going back to actual good writing like Pixar was known for before Disney too over and started sucking it dry with sequels

  7. Paul says:

    Treasure Planet, Aladdin, Pocahontus, Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, The Emperor’s New Groove and the Princess and the Frog all had elements of diversity and many of their modern films have had strong female leads, but glad Disney is going from paying attention to this issue, to “really paying attention” to this issue.

    • Sara says:

      Jungle Book, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Brother Bear and Big Hero 6 had diversity as well so I think Walt Disney Animation has been long good with this but of course more is better! It is more Pixar and other animated studios I have problems with especially with the amour of female leads (partially the reason other companies do not have as much diversity as WDAS is because they use more animal leads but the voice actors could be more diverse…)

  8. Diversity seems to have to find its way slowly, slogging first in comics and novels, then TV, feature-length cartoons and eventually feature films (drama) when a new generation of white people are ready for that — keeping in mind that said people will produce such product and decide if enough white people will buy the product to make it profitable for the corporation. A lot goes into “diversity”.

  9. Jean says:

    How nice to see Disney realize they need more diversity. What took them so long?

  10. Dan Castelan says:

    Disney’s recent hits consisted in Diversity since 2009 (More from Walt Disney Animation than Pixar).

    In the Princess and the Frog, we got not only first American Princess but the first African American Princess. Also to mention that it was the first WDAS film to take place in a more classical/modern approach of America.

    Tangled, was the first successful CG film for WDAS, They featured the most Dynamic Couple since Aladdin and Jasimine.

    Wreck it Ralph was the first non musical to reach high success since 101 Dalmatians. Also telling the story of acceptance through an adult and a child.

    Don’t need to say anything on Frozen.

    Big Hero 6, is the most successful non musical Disney has produced. Bringing unknown Marvel characters out in the sun, and featured the most racially diverse cast ever.

  11. Jen Hannon says:

    Bravo; it will make a big change from the below. In fairness, it was Disney more than Pixar, but if any more princesses are saved by marrying the prince, I might go spare.

    Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack
    Who lived with his Mother who was surely on crack
    For she sent him off to the mart one morning
    While she stayed in bed snoring and snoring
    Dreaming of her saviour Mr. Prince Charming
    Am I the only one who finds that alarming?
    Alas it seems so for I am surrounded by Disney
    And they seem intent on taking the Mickey!
    They’re milking the old stories for all they can get
    But what lessons are they teaching our little suffragettes?

    Well let’s start with Rapunzel who is locked in a tower
    She sits there and dreams for hour after hour
    She has a step-mother by the name of Mother Gothel
    I’m not sure, but I think she works in a brothel
    She’s quite crafty ‘cos she needs Rapunzel’s hair
    But Rapunzel just wants to get the hell out of there
    Finally Rapunzel escapes but she needs Flynn Rider
    Of course she does, he’ll be a good provider
    He has a white steed and he’s a bit of a grafter
    And they lived Happily Ever After!

    Then there was Ariel, the Little Mermaid
    She found true love, but I was dismayed!
    She gave up her scales and at one stage her voice
    My oh my, what a costly choice!
    So, we’re saying a man is worth being speechless?
    I’m sorry but in my book that’s completely facetious!
    When she gave up her family for the fairy-tale wedding
    My heart filled with an awful sense of dreading
    Not to worry, Eric is full of laughter
    And they lived Happily Ever After!

    Ah yes, there’s Mulan, who was quite the fighter,
    Hurray, I think I’m in love with this writer!
    Her Mammy prays to the ancient ancestors
    That some nice boy will capture her heart and dance her
    all the way to the top of the marriage aisle
    And wait there for her with a big wide smile
    Mulan breaks down barriers and saves the whole city
    But at the end of the day here’s a Samurai who looks so pretty
    Oh these princesses are getting dafter and dafter,
    And yes they lived Happily Ever After!

    Moving to the Middle East, I think I’m in for a feast
    When Princess Jasmine escapes the Palace so policed
    But she goes around all day flaunting her belly
    Then meets a boy who makes her legs go to jelly
    He takes her off for a jaunt on his magic carpet
    And she is smitten, while her father waits at the parapet
    Aladdin has a cute little monkey, his name is Abu
    Jasmine is bitten by the love bug, that’s quite a coup
    Her father relents and comes down from the rafter
    And they lived Happily Ever After!

    Spare a thought for poor Cinderella, who lived in a house
    With only old rags for clothes, not even a blouse!
    And two evil step-sisters who hissed and jeered
    While Cinderella was covered in ashes; incredibly smeared.
    Imagine her surprise when her Fairy Godmother arrived,
    And got her to the ball, so she didn’t feel deprived
    There she met a handsome prince, and danced quite a lot
    But when the clock struck twelve, one slipper she forgot
    When the step-sisters found out, their relationship was draughtier
    But who cares, for they lived Happily Ever After!

    Snow White was kicked out of the family castle
    for causing her Step-mother such beauty hassle
    She wandered the forest and found a gaff
    With seven small men, I’m not having a laugh!
    She was happy to take care of their every need
    as long as every evening, they brought her a feed
    All went well ‘til she ended up in a glass box
    But then a handsome prince kissed her, that sly fox
    That brashness must surely head for disaster
    But no, they lived Happily Ever After!

    Now Belle was a dear that’s plain and simple
    When she laid eyes on her father, she got two big dimples
    Daddy got lost in a storm one frightful night
    When he met the Beast, oh what a terrible fright
    At the same time there was a bang on the door from Gaston
    Belle stifled a yawn at the sight of the brawn
    Belle went to live with the Beast, as you do
    The Beast fell in love before she cooked him a stew
    He begged her for a kiss so he could draft her
    And yes, they lived Happily Ever After!

    And now we’ve come to the end of this little ditty
    to find Sleeping Beauty who fell asleep so swiftly
    that the entire castle was placed in lock down
    By a jealous woman, ah that’s not a shock now
    ’til one day, in galloped a fine handsome prince
    I know you’re starting to get my drift
    You can’t swing a cat for the princes and witches
    Really I’m finding it all a little too kitsch-ish
    Anyway, the prince cut through the bushes and kissed Aurora
    And hurrah! They lived Happily Ever After!

    • Dan Castelan says:

      Well to be clear, Rapunzel and Flynn fell in love on the trip where at first, they didn’t get along. Mulan had interest in Shang, but she was disguised as a man, and when he finnally had a chance to speak he said, “You fight Good”. Then there is Jasmine, who do everything Aladdin could do +1. Let alone they had the most interaction out of any of the Disney Couples.

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