‘Inside Out 2’ Director Says He Never Thought He’d Direct a Pixar Film: ‘It Was Really a Dream’

“It took me a long time to get a job there as a story artist … that’s how I thought I’d retire,” Kelsey Mann tells TheWrap

Kelsey Mann never imagined he’d be sitting in a director’s chair helming a Pixar film like “Inside Out 2” after spending years in the animation field.

“This is what I wanted to do since I was a little kid, and what an opportunity,” Mann told TheWrap during a recent press junket for the sequel. “I never thought that I’d ever get to be able do direct a movie at Pixar ever.”

Mann spoke to TheWrap alongside his producer partner Mark Nielsen, who both shared how it feels to return to a beloved film a decade after releasing “Inside Out.” That’s when Mann reflected on his journey at the animation studio, explaining that he assumed his career would hit a ceiling at Pixar.

“It took me a long time to get a job there as a story artist, which is where I began,” he said. “I really honestly thought that’s how I would retire. So to be asked to be paired with Mark and direct this film, it was really a dream.”

“Inside Out 2” evokes the same therapeutic and adventurous feelings as its predecessor. And just like our emotions have returned, so have Riley’s (Kaitlyn Dias) — Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Tony Hale), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Liza Lapira) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). But now, Riley has officially entered her teen years as a new 13-year-old, and joining to kick off the puberty party are Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Boredom/Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Envy (Ayo Edebiri).

In this next installment, audiences watch Riley as she struggles to handle feelings of anxiety while juggling new and old friend groups at hockey camp. Mann said he knew anxiety was the right emotion to have as the star in the second film because it’s one everyone can relate to. He also reflected on how anxious yet excited he felt signing on to direct the film.

“I’m making a movie about anxiety for a reason — I feel it. We all do on different levels,” Mann said. “But obviously, if I go back to the very, very beginning, when Pete [Docter] asked me to do this, I went home that night, when he asked me to think about it overnight and come back and tell [him]. I went home and thought, ‘OK’ — talking about the first film, I’m like, it’s a really fun movie. It’s a really imaginative movie, and this was the most important one to me. It made a meaningful impact on the world.”

As far as any aspirations for a third film, Mann said he’s got a few good ideas in mind.

“What’s so cool is this world is so fun to play in. I can’t tell you how many ideas that we’ve had in playing in this world, both on the first film, and certainly on this movie that are really great ideas that I’ve kind put on a shelf, like: ‘This is a good idea,’ ‘It’s not right for the movie,’ ‘Let’s add this director,’ ‘That’s a really great idea,’ ‘It’s not right to tell [as a] Joy and Riley story,’” he explained.

Mann continued: “I kind of put it in my back pocket or on this shelf of like something we can use in the future. I think what’s really cool about this is that people want more. I think people lean forward when you say you’re doing an ‘Inside Out’ sequel. They’re like, ‘Really? What? What’s her age?’ They just want to know more, and that’s not true with every kind of world. People lean in and want more. I have no idea where the future is going to go with this.”

“Inside Out 2” hits theaters Friday, June 14.

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