The acclaimed director of such modern animated classics as “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” has a new movie coming out this summer, “Inside Out.” A profile in The New York Times today captured this interesting detail of his early life:
As a boy growing up in Minnesota, he dreamed of turning his bedroom into the Enchanted Tiki Room, a Disneyland attraction where animatronic birds serenade guests. So he did. “I harvested some bamboo during a summer trip to California, and my parents hauled it across country strapped on the top of the van,” he said. He powered his version with an air compressor bought with his confirmation money.
“I always felt this awkwardness and shyness, and so I kind of retreated into my own little world,” Mr. Docter said. “That’s part of why I gravitated toward animation. It was easier to draw something that expressed how I felt than to say it out loud.”
Confirmation? Is he Catholic?
I went looking for more information and found this, from several years ago, which is pretty great:
Radix: How has having a child changed who you are as an artist?
Docter: Work-wise, I definitely see things differently. There are things I would find kind of quirky or weird, that might have a tinge of violence to it, but as a single guy, or even as a married guy, I’d think, “It’s funny.” But then when you have a kid, you think, “Oh, he’ll be watching this. I don’t know how I’d feel about that.” As a Christian, having my son has made me even more amazed by the whole Creation, when I watch him grow and start to connect things in his brain. I say, “That’s amazing.” It leaves me speechless.
Radix: How would you say that being a Christian affects how you do your work?
Docter: Years ago when I first spoke at church, I was kind of nervous about talking about Christianity and my work. It didn’t really connect. But more and more it seems to be connecting for me. I ask for God’s help, and it’s definitely affected what I’m doing. It’s helped me to calm down and focus. There were times when I got too stressed out with what I was doing, and now I just step back and say, “God, help me through this.” It really helps you keep a perspective on things, not only in work, but in relationships.
At first you hire people based purely on their talent, but what it ends up is that people who really go far are good people. They’re good people to work with, and I think God really helps in those relationships.
Radix: I know you do a lot of praying, and that’s a big part of the artistic part of what you guys do.
Docter: Yes. You could probably work on a live-action movie that takes maybe six months hating everybody else and you’d still have a film. But these animation projects take three or four years, and it’s really difficult to do without having a good relationship with the people you’re working with.
Radix: Do you ever see yourself making a more explicitly Christian movie?
Docter: Not at this point. I don’t know that that’s really me. I don’t feel so comfortable with that. Even if you have a moral to a story, if you actually come out and say it, it loses its power. Not that we’re trying to be sneaky or anything, but you have more ability to affect people if you’re not quite so blatant about it. Does that make sense?
Radix: That seems right in line with what Jesus’ parables were too. He tended not to come right out and explain, “This is what I was trying to say.”
Docter: To me art is about expressing something that can’t be said in literal terms. You can say it in words, but it’s always just beyond the reach of actual words, and you’re doing whatever you can to communicate a sense of something that is beyond you.
God bless him.
There’s tremendous amounts of soul in all his movies—I dare you to find anything more moving or heart-wrenching than the first few minutes of “Up.” Based on his previous stuff, I can’t wait to see “Inside Out.”
Photo via Wikipedia