Spotlight on Filipino Co-director Ronnie Del Carmen and His Much-talked-about Pixar Film, ‘Inside Out’

by HFPA May 22, 2015

Ronnie Del Carmen and wife Tess

One of the most talked about films at the 68th Cannes Film Festival is Pixar’s animated film, Inside Out, which is set in the mind of a young girl, where her emotions such as Joy, Anger, Fear, Sadness and Disgust run amok.

The out-of-competition film is the second Pixar film to appear in Cannes. The first one, Up, came to Cannes in 2009. For both films, Filipino animator-turned co-director, Ronnie Del Carmen was involved. He was Story Supervisor in Up and is now co-director in Inside Out.

Co-directing with Pete Docter, the 55-year-old soft-spoken and humble filmmaker was excited to be back in Cannes. He said, “I am very proud that Inside Out is in Cannes. It is quite an honor. I am very lucky to be involved in both Up and Inside Out.”

Inside Out is only one of two animated feature films that had its world premiere in Cannes. Screening out-of-competition and having its world premiere as well is director Mark Osborne’s Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince).

Accompanied by his wife Tess in Cannes, Ronnie told us, “I am so glad that people will finally watch it. I have been keeping it a secret for five years.”

Based on the idea of Pete, the movie features the voices of Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (Anger), Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Kaitlyn Dias (Riley Anderson), Diane Lane (Riley’s mom) and Kyle MacLachlan (Riley’s dad).

So how did this University of Santo Tomas alum, Cavite-born animator get the prestigious job of co-directing a Pixar film, we asked. “I worked with Pete in Up as a Story Supervisor,” Ronnie disclosed. “After finishing that movie, we worked on little things and then he invited me to be his co-director for Inside Out. It’s just that simple. And I said yes.”

We told Ronnie that when we talked to Pete and producer Jonas Rivera, they said that he was in charge of the emotional scenes in the movie. “That is pretty good,” he said and smiled. “I think that is what I did for the movie. I did many things in the movie. I created moments. I designed. I wrote and I worked with Pete. Together, we figure out where the story is going, how the characters are progressing. We have a story crew that we both work with – the design part and all the other stages of making the movie. I am a partner to Pete. I am there when he needs me. I go in advance to the other departments and try to figure out if he wants to move on and do that. It’s been a great run.”

So how did he feel when he saw the end credits with his name there as co-director, we asked. “I am always amazed that my name is up there,” Ronnie revealed. “I worked in this industry for almost 25 years in animation. I love all the movies and people I worked with. That is quite an honor to be directing a movie. It is very humbling because all of our work is done behind the scenes. You don’t see us. Our stories are manifested in these characters and the story and the movie that you see. But I would like my parents to see it. I would like my kids, my friends and people back home to see it. I feel that I am graduating to another level. Even as a kid, I have always loved and admired people who work on these movies. I want to tell everyone that I helped making this movie. I am very proud of this moment as a Filipino.”

Ronnie admitted that when he did Inside Out, he had to recall his growing up years in Cavite, Philippines. “Pete recalled his growing up years in Minnesota while I recalled my childhood in Cavite,” he disclosed. “I would tell him how my life was when I was growing up there. We both also have kids and so we talked about our experiences as parents of our little girls.”

Ronnie revealed that the last time he visited the Philippines was early this year. “I was on vacation,” he said. “We went to Palawan. It was wonderful, beautiful.”

He added that he also went to visit his alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas (UST). “I love going back to UST,” he admitted. “The school looks great. The kids are beautiful. You can see all that hope and a lot of joy in their faces. My wife and I were walking on the grounds. We met there. We were classmates. We walked the same streets where we walked. We felt like it was just yesterday when we were like these kids. I visited the school, the College of Fine Arts building. It felt like a coming home of sorts. It was like going there and experiencing that energy of their creative journey beginning.”

Since this movie took five years of his life and now that it is finally done, how does he feel? “I have been telling people it’s like I have been holding a secret for five years,” he confessed. “It is a relief that it is finally finished and it is going to be shown to the world. But five years is a long time to be making anything. I am very proud of this accomplishment. It is the hardest movie I have worked on. I wish movies are easy to make but when the result is like this, I would do it all over again.”

And his advice to the young, aspiring animators and filmmakers?

“Keep on telling stories,” he said. “I wish story telling is a subject not only in high school but also in college.”

And if he were to advice his younger self, what would he tell him? “I would tell my younger self not to be disheartened by the challenges of life. We were very poor for a long time. There was a lot of bad luck that happened. I wish I could tell him tell me a story. Don’t stop drawing or writing. You have to stick to what you love to do.”

As for his next project, Ronnie simply replied, “I don’t know what is next for me. I am at the mercy of good fortune and good collaboration and the best wishes that the world could send me. If I really have good luck, I will be making movies until the day I die.”

Janet R. Nepales