The Player: ‘Inside Out’ game creates worlds that Pixar couldn’t get into the film
Pixar’s “Inside Out” goes deep inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley Anderson, theorizing where memories old and new reside. But to hear co-director Ronnie Del Carmen tell it, the filmmakers initially had plans to go even deeper.
Only so much, however, could be squeezed into the 90-plus-minute film. But there’s hope for the scenes that were axed early in production — and no, we’re not talking sequels (at least not yet).
Speaking last week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Del Carmen said moments that couldn’t make the film were used to inspire the “Inside Out” portion of the “Disney Infinity 3.0" video game, which will be released later this year for all major game consoles. The result is a game that expands on the universe of the film to tell an original story separate from the film.
“A lot of those things that were in the research mode or workshop mode that we couldn’t fit in the movie, we let them in on,” Del Carmen says of working with the “Disney Infinity” team. “Then they get to play with them. It’s great to watch characters go through adventures that we couldn’t do.”
Carmen is particularly excited about a dreamland in the game that will illustrate Riley’s passion for music, one that he says he and director Pete Docter hated to let go. In the film, Riley’s most crucial memories — so-called “core memories” — create personality traits that manifest themselves as islands. Riley’s love of her family, for instance, resulted in Family Island, and her obsession with hockey inspired Hockey Island.
Music Island originally was intended for the film but didn’t make the cut. The music world of the movie was supposed to be somewhat perilous. Any time one of the characters, which are based on Riley’s emotions, would move, there would be a corresponding sound effect.
“If they open their mouth, it’s kind of like a trumpet blast,” Del Carmen explains. “It’s kind of dangerous because the music gets manifested through these objects, so they become obstacles.”
There were other islands that game developers got to preview, but some simply couldn’t work in a game.
“There’s, like, Boyfriend Island,” says senior vice president/general manager John Blackburn of “Disney Infinity.” “Those are the kind of things that were brainstormed. We went through them and said it was hard to make a game out of boyfriends, maybe, but it’s easier to make gameplay out of music.”
The “Inside Out” portion of the vast “Disney Infinity” game is something of a departure for the series. A toys-to-life title in which users place a character on a plastic tray and then have it appear in the game, “Disney Infinity 3.0" also will add “Star Wars” worlds to the mix.
“Inside Out,” however, essentially will be the only game within an “Infinity” game that doesn’t emphasize competition or combat. Disney Interactive executive John Vignocchi says he saw an early cut of “Inside Out” in 2013 and knew then the “Infinity” formula would have to change. Previously, even mini-games associated with, say, “Frozen” emphasized the character’s fighting abilities.
“It was a tear-jerker,” Vignocchi says of the first time he saw “Inside Out.”
“It was in storyboard format, and it was a tear-jerker,” he continues. “We knew that the entire journey had absolutely nothing to do with the typical gameplay patterns we’ve introduced in ‘Infinity,’ especially in the last versions, which were primarily combat-focused.”
Thus, the resulting game is one influenced by more vintage games such as the original “Super Mario Bros.” The “Inside Out” game will be told via side-scrolling worlds and more open, 3D-like sequences. Any of the film’s emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust — will be playable, provided one has purchased all of the accompanying toys.
Each character will come with different abilities. Joy, for example, will be able to jump and hover. Sadness can more easily walk on clouds, and Anger can withstand lava.
“We went back to the old games of yesteryear because they’re incredibly approachable,” Vignocchi says. “When someone sees ‘Inside Out,’ what’s refreshing about it is that it’s different from anything you’ve seen from ‘Infinity,’ and it’s different from a lot of the contemporary games that are out there. It looks more like the games we grew up with.”
There isn’t a typical enemy, per say, in the “Inside Out” game, although characters will have to take down items that disgust Riley, such as vegetables. The story will focus on a journey into the depths of Riley’s mind after a scary movie has scattered her memories. The team of emotions sets out on a trek to track them down and calm Riley’s nerves.
Del Carmen, for his part, cites games like “Journey” and “Ico” as two of his favorites. Each emphasizes exploration rather than conflict. “Journey,” in particular, is about little more than calmly wandering a picturesque desert-like landscape. Del Carmen excitedly exclaimed how “Journey” told its story in unconventional ways.
“No dialogue!” Del Carmen hollered. “I love games that stay with you emotionally.”
That’s the goal for the “Inside Out” title. But unlike the film, the game likely won’t bring you to tears.
“Joy was our primary thing,” Blackburn says. “Most of the things that we’re trying to make you feel are joy or elation or discovery. We don’t want people feeling anger or disgust.”
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