What Inside Out Was Almost About

As it exists, director Pete Docter’s Inside Out tells a beautiful and emotional story about a change that occurs in all of us as we grow older, but what you may not know is that the plot didn’t always revolve around the Amy Poehler-voiced Joy and the Phyllis Smith-voiced Sadness trying to find their way back to headquarters. In fact, there was almost a point where the film actually had Joy out on a mission that would have had movie-goers likely making quick comparisons to The Lord of the Rings.

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with Pete Docter to talk about his latest film, and one of my earliest questions was about early versions of the plot. Animated movies famously go through a lot of building-up and tearing-down in their story phases, with the finished product looking sometimes very different from the other original ideas. I asked Docter if this was the case with Inside Out as well, and he described what would have been a very different plot for the Pixar movie. Said the director,

Even the mind itself, in early versions, it was a completely different paradigm. We had kind of descension kind of idea, that headquarters was on the top level and they went down, down, down. We even had one version that Joy, there was a bad memory that had been created, and Joy was out to destroy it - to basically throw it into the pit of Mordor.

It’s weird to think of this version of Inside Out, if not only because it likely would have meant that all of the "Riley" stuff that made it into the theatrical cut of the movie would have had to been changed, and made to revolve around a single bad memory. Unfortunately, Docter didn’t give me any more details about the direction of this project, but I could definitely seeing the story having a similar conclusion to the final version: Joy begins to understand the importance of the bad memory instead of just rejecting it, and winds up using it to help Riley develop as a better person.

Of course, as alluded to, this wasn’t the only alternate version of Inside Out that Pixar was at one time developing. In fact, there was a time when the major supporting character of the entire movie, Sadness, was a part occupied by a very different emotion. Docter explained,

We had versions that Joy was paired with Fear, instead of Sadness. That was a whole version there. So you know, there’s tons of things you try.

Can you imagine Inside Out with its more Lord of the Rings-y plot, or Fear taking Sadness’ role? I’m personally quite happy the movie turned out the way it did.

Inside Out is now playing.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.