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John Lasseter Says Disney/Pixar Wants More Diverse Characters

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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