The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
One of the top pop cultural heroes to come out of the 1980s gets his due in this reverent, nostalgic collection. Through the combined efforts of Mattel and Dark Horse, comics veteran Tim Seeley and his co-writers, this hefty retrospective walks readers through He-Man’s decades-long rise from the toy sensation of 1983 to perennial entertainment icon.
Clocking in at 320 pages packed with artwork, the book runs through He-Man’s appearances in toy lines, cartoons, film and comics up to the present-day DC titles. The book’s curators manage to present a fair balance of familiar imagery with more obscure pieces, facts and topics. Covering 35 years in a major property’s life is no easy feat, especially with armies of fans to please, but few could be disappointed with this effort.
Pete Docter tests Pixar’s creative limits with 11-year-old girl. By Tom McLean.
Ellie Docter led a normal, very happy childhood — much to the delight of her father, Pete Docter, director of such hit Pixar movies as Monsters, Inc. and Up. But something changed when she turned 12: Her goofy, fun personality took a turn toward monosyllabic answers with outbursts of anger and disgust.
None of which is anything unusual or new for parents to have to deal with, but when Docter thought to himself, “What’s going on in her head?” it ignited an idea that began a demanding five-year journey that ends with the June 19 release of Inside Out.
“I had pretty sparse elements at the very beginning,” says Docter. “I had a concept of a kid and ... inside (her head) you’d see the emotions. I didn’t even know which ones were there or what the kid was doing or anything like that. It was just kind of the basic concept, and then from there it grew — and along the way we took a lot of dead-end wrong turns. But that’s the usual process.”
Inside Out tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley and the emotions that live in- side her mind: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. When Riley and her parents move from Minnesota to San Francisco, her typically happy outlook begins to change as Joy and Sadness find themselves flung from her mind’s Headquarters to the far corners of her mind and have to find a way back. It’s a journey that takes them through lands like Abstract Thought, the movie-studio confines of Dream Productions, to a trip on the Train of Thought and into the depths of the Subconscious.
Docter — who reunited with producer Jonas Rivera under the ever-present eye of chief creative officer and executive producer John Lasseter — says at the start they looked into a lot of research into how the brain and emotions work and change through a life. What they learned suggested Docter’s instincts were pointed in the right direction.
“Psychologists told us that out of everyone on Earth, there’s no more socially attuned creature than an 11- to 15- or 16-year-old girl,” says Docter, who also wrote the screenplay with Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley. “They’re just so dialed in to all social cues and reactions and so we felt like, it’s based on real life, the science is reinforcing that, I think we’re at the right place. And there must be something for me that I haven’t quite put to bed about growing up and the difficulty of that that makes it still intriguing to me.”
A Difficult Birth But a concept is not a story, and coming up with one was difficult. It’s a process that had more than one filmmaker at Pixar invoking the word “nervous” when considering how Inside Out might be received when it’s released.
One such crewmember is production designer Ralph Eggleston, who says the extraordinary number of changes the film went through made it difficult to see how everything would fit together.
“The idea itself is so intellectual and I never felt I completely got a footing on the conceit of how the world works because there was so much churn,” he says. “Pete and I would have talks, and he’d be feeling the same thing, and we would just have to say this is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. All we could do was
“I once said it was like roller-skating drunk on marbles while spinning plates,” he says of coming up with a color script for the movie. “We probably did 200 designs on Headquarters before we settled on where we were.”
Design, color and texture were key to differentiating the film’s various settings. Minnesota, for example, features pastel colors and patterns. As Riley and her family travel further from Minnesota, the environments become more disconnected, shown via zigzag patterns of train tracks and electric wires.
The biggest technical challenge was creating the effervescent look each of the emotions has in the film. Proposed by art director of characters Albert Lozano, the idea was to give Joy the zip of a sparkler or the bubbly look of a glass of champagne.
“We worked for about eight months to get that idea working, and we got it to work but we were literally on the verge of not being able to do it because it was too expensive,” says Eggleston. “We didn’t plan to have it on any of the other characters out the door because of that. We got it to work, and we showed it to John Lasseter and the first words out of his mouth were: ‘Great! Put it on all the characters!’ And you could hear – thud, thud – the poor technical guys hitting the ground.”
Comedic Conflict Casting was a key element, with Docter’s instincts leading toward the emotions being a comedy ensemble. “If you have Anger, who feels like you should go out and hit people, and Fear just wants to run away, this is a great way for characters to really bump up against each other in opposition, which is what comedy seems to be largely about,” says Docter.
The process started with simple moviemaking concepts: actors who fit the characters and didn’t sound too much alike. Docter says he had proposed casting comedian Lewis Black as Anger as an example of what he was thinking — only to have Black agree to do the role. Former Saturday Night Live star Bill Hader was the first to be cast, as Fear. And former The Office actress Phyllis Smith was cast as Sadness based on a suggestion from Rivera, who had liked her in Bad Teacher.
“That was a key to unlocking that character,” says Docter. “Up to then, we had thought of her as ‘wah, wah!’ — kind of on the nose. And thinking about her as more insecure instead of straight up sad ended up being a real turning point for us.”
Settling an internal debate about whether Disgust should be disgusting or act disgusted led to casting Mindy Kaling, and Amy Poehler perfectly personified for the animators the idea for Joy.
“Once we got Amy Poehler’s voice in there it really solidified who this character was,” says supervising animator Shawn Krause. “Pete had been saying, ‘I see her as kind of Bugs Bunny and I see her as rascally.’ I was treating her at first more like Peter Pan, as spritely and kind of lighter than air. No, she’s grounded, she’s rambunctious, she’s devilish. They didn’t want her to feel like happiness; she’s more infectious and inspires fun and joy.”
Krause personified this in a walk cycle test for Joy in which the character stomped around with enthusiasm and a bit of mischief instead of floating along blissfully.
“It was surprising but also sort of perfect because she was earthy and grounded,” says Docter. “Those kinds of moments are what keep you going on a project for five years.”
Other cast members include Kaitlyn Dias as Riley, with Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan playing her parents.
Ideas in Motion Krause says one or two animators were assigned at the beginning of production to each character to develop a style for them to move.