4 Things Riley’s First Date? Reveals About Pixar
Every time Pixar releases the home-video version of one of its movies, the studio throws in a new short film—partially as bonus content, but partially as a means of expanding its pool of directors. With the digital release this week of Inside Out (the Blu-ray arrives in early November), that short is Riley’s First Date? Directed by Josh Cooley, who is also co-directing the upcoming Toy Story 4 with John Lasseter, it takes viewers back to the Andersen home, where Riley and her parents navigate her developing social life—along with their inner emotions. We spoke with Cooley and producer Marc Nielson about the process of pitching the story, how Inside Out‘s most generic scene inspired it, and the differences between adolescent boys’ and girls’ brains. (Hint: Boys are dumb.)
Feature-Related Shorts Are Produced on a Tight Turnaround
With next month’s theatrical release of The Good Dinosaur and its accompanying short, Sanjay’s Super Team, Pixar will have produced 17 original short films. But there have also been 10 shorts that are rooted in existing Pixar properties—Riley’s First Date? is the 10th—and which undergo a much different production schedule. “We made the movie in about 10 months, says Nielson. “It’s at least twice that if you’re doing an original film where you have to start from scratch with design.”
Not only were most of the character designs already thought out, but Riley’s San Francisco house in San Francisco was complete, and the film even employs many of the same setups as Inside Out. For example, Cooley says, “Going into Mom’s head is the same camera shot” as in the original feature.
Riley’s First Date? Continues the Tradition of Shorts Featuring Minor Characters
Most of Pixar’s feature-related shorts give more screen time to characters who didn’t get much attention in their respective films. Jack-Jack Attack centers on Kari the babysitter as she contends with the Parr’s youngest son from The Incredibles; BURN-E fills in the plight of a robot locked outside the Axiom in WALL-E; and Cooley’s previous short, George & A.J., follows the retirement home employees tasked with getting Carl out of his home in Up.
For Riley’s First Date?, Cooley pitched a couple of ideas—“one of them being having the kid at the end of the movie show up again, because we only see him for a split second.” Working with a team consisting mostly of fathers with daughters helped give that minor character, now named Jordan, the perfect plot. “Our editor, whose daughters are out of college, said, ‘Just wait until the first boy shows up,’” says Cooley. That sparked questions of how Riley’s parents would react: “If this kid just shows up and dad has no idea who he is, your mind goes crazy. Who is this person? What are they doing here? Already the voices in your head are talking.”
Like It or Not, the Inside Out Dinner Scene Was Popular
The dinner scene featured in the first Inside Out trailer is perhaps the most generic scene in the film from a story perspective, but it does some necessary heavy lifting by introducing the complex visual language of jumping into and out of characters’ heads.
And, Cooler and Nielson maintain, the scene played a huge part of both Inside Out’s plot and the movie’s popularity. “That scene probably changed the least over the making of Inside Out,” says producer Marc Nielson. “It stayed consistent the longest and played really well for audiences, even in storyboards.”
The hectic juxtaposition also became the basis for a comedy-heavy short—between Riley’s dad and Jordan as they converse for the first time, and Riley’s mom trying to figure out from Riley if it’s actually a date. “People were like, ‘We need more of that in the feature,’” says Nielson. “But you’d kind of have a seizure if the whole movie was like that. It works great in short form.”
Jordan’s Simple Mind, Like the Original Movie, Is Based on Science
Unlike Inside Out, which portrays Riley’s mind as rapidly evolving through complex combinations of emotions, Jordan is comparatively simple; in his one moment during the feature, his Headquarters is in Code Red after encountering Riley for the first time. His emotions are similarly immature in First Date, and that’s no accident. Cooley played Jordan’s disaffection for comedy, but notes that, developmentally speaking, “boys are behind. It felt right to have him be catching up, to have his mind act like a kid does.”
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