This past summer, Pixar released Inside Out, which is no doubt their most successful movie (both critically and financially) in years. The computer-animated film about emotions running around inside the head of a young girl captivated audiences, as evidenced by the box office pull of over $800 million worldwide.
Now with the Blu-Ray release of Inside Out (hitting shelves today), we thought it would be exciting to sit down with one of the driving forces behind what made Inside Out such a phenomenon, even by Pixar standards.
Richard Kind voiced the lovable, if not a little affable, imaginary friend who cried tears of candy in Inside Out. Bing Bong, the combination of a dolphin, cat, and even some cotton candy, was one of the chief comedic characters in the film, but he also turned out to be one of the most heart wrenching (for reasons I won't spoil, of course).
In this interview, we spent some time with actor Richard Kind to uncover some of the secrets behind what made Bing Bong such a memorable character and what it's like to offer your voice talents to a company like Pixar. There's even some light talk about a future Pixar movie called Cars 3.
According to Ronnie Del Carmen (co-director of Inside Out), you were approached specifically to voice Bing Bong, and you said yes, obviously. What was it about the character that drew you to making this decision?
You have got the story exactly right, except...all Pixar has to do is say, “Would you do this?”
And I’d say “Yes.”
And then I’d take a look at the script. I love these guys personally. The world adores their product. Who would be dumb enough to say, “No,” when you are in the hands of the greatest minds and talents for what they do? Why would anybody even think of not doing this? It was very easy.
Now let me tell you what then happened. I understand that I was their first choice. I understand they came to me. When they were writing it, they could hear me, and my voice, and everything. First take of recording, they’ve never heard me do it. They only have it in their heads. And I have to do it. What if what I’m giving them isn’t what they like? Then we got some problems!
I was very lucky. It’s a very nerve-wracking thing to do, the first take of the first recording session, because they’re now hearing the voice for the first time. I would have much preferred auditioning, so that when they heard it, they’d say, “Yes! That’s what we want. Come on in and do the job.” But I didn’t audition.
However, my initial reading brought gales of laughter because I think they laughed at what they heard, and they laughed because, I think, out of relief that what they had heard all along in their heads was indeed what was delivered to them in the recording booth. So, that was a godsend.
Did you have any influence in developing Bing Bong’s character?
Oh, of course! When it comes to life, it’s a very thrilling thing. But that’s what art is all about. There are no finites in art. Art is infinite. So, they hear it, they know the attitude, and then all of a sudden, they get it.
You probably love certain Marvel comic books, and sure enough, it gets made into a movie. And oh my gosh it’s better than they even thought it would be! You know, like Jurassic Park. We’re all excited to have a third sequel, especially after not such a good second one. And it’s even better than you even thought! So that’s sort of what it is.
Since the film’s release, Bing Bong has had a lasting effect on moviegoers, myself included. Many people thought he was the best part of the movie and consider him one of the best characters ever made by Pixar. Do you agree with the idea that Bing Bong is one of, if not the greatest Pixar character yet?
Look, he’s a great guy. The minute I started voicing him, I adored this guy. I thought he was hilarious. I loved the purity of him. He’s fun!
The best compliment I got was from when Frank Oz sat next to me during the screening. When the movie was over, he looked at me and goes, “You’re Ed Wynn.” Ed Wynn is who I loved when I was kid. Out of all the characters, I suppose I wanted to be Bert in Mary Poppins, but really, I wanted to be Uncle Albert. That’s who I wanted to be. Uncle Albert sang to me. And here is Frank Oz saying, “You’re Uncle Albert.” And I was! Uncle Albert laughs so much, that he can fly! What a purity that is. And that’s Bing Bong. He laughed so much, he could fly.
So imagine recording that and having that emotion and that energy and that joyousness every time. It’s exhausting when you’re going four hours doing it, however, you’re not in the coal mine. You know, you’re not digging anything or doing heavy work. It’s fantastic.
The marketing for Inside Out completely left Bing Bong’s story arc out, including his voice. Why do you think Bing Bong was such a big secret before the movie released?
I can tell you exactly. Because these guys are sly and smart. And they know exactly what they’re doing. And they told me, because they like me very much, and they didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
Ronnie did tell me that I would not be part of the publicity campaign before the movie came out. And they didn’t even have to offer me an explanation. Whatever they want, that’s fine. That’s great. But then everybody told me, “We think this is sort of an ace in the hole. We don’t want people to know about it. We want this to be our little secret. Our secret weapon. And so that’s what we’re going to do."
And I said, “Of course, of course.” And then they all went to Cannes Film Festival, which…when am I ever going to be able to go to Cannes Film Festival? I felt like sort of the child in the corner with his head hung low, but they were absolutely right. They were wise to keep me out of it. I was a surprise, and I actually think it enhanced my performance because I was a surprise.
Maybe if they put you in Cars 3, you can go to Cannes Film Festival then…
There you go, sure.
You’ve voiced a character with Pixar before, but you’ve also found a lot of success on TV and movies. Which do you love more, acting or voice acting?
Oh, it’s all the same. Although, I can say that theater acting is not the same as film acting. Theater acting is my favorite, but it’s not as lucrative, so therefore, you have to go in, and you have to do TV and movies and voices. But theater acting is where I am most fulfilled.
Right, you were in The Producers.
I’ve done five broadway shows. I’ve done play after play after play. But nobody sees it because the audience is so limited. The most you can do is 1300 people a night versus 13 million people a night.
Would you consider doing a live show, maybe on NBC?
Oh, God yes. I like to act! It’s what I like to do. I love what I do for a profession. Somebody once said an actor’s job is to look for work. But an actor’s vacation is when he’s working. I do believe that.
Do you have any imaginary friends?
No. I do not have an imaginary friend. I probably imagine that people like me more than they actually do, but nonetheless, I have no imaginary friends.