Pixar's Inside Out 2 Director Was At Disney World When Auditioning Maya Hawke For Anxiety

After pioneering feature length computer animated features with "Toy Story," Pixar Animation became the gold standard for the medium. But it wasn't just because of the innovative animation style providing a new palette for storytelling. Like the many Walt Disney Animation movies that came in the decades before Pixar rose to prominence, the filmmakers at Pixar had a knack for finding the perfect voices for their characters. Whether it was Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz Lightyear or Patton Oswalt as Remy in "Ratatoiulle," Pixar has always let the perfect voices shine in their work, even if they don't come from the biggest stars. That's especially true with "Inside Out."

In "Inside Out," a stellar ensemble came together to voice the core emotions inside the mind of an 11-year old girl named Riley. Amy Poehler delivered boundless exuberance and enthusiasm as Joy, Phyllis Smith brought an adorable melancholy to Sadness, Lewis Black gave unbridled rage to Anger, Bill Hader quivered and screamed as Fear, and Mindy Kaling brought an air of superiority to Disgust. However, in the upcoming "Inside Out 2," the latter two voices have been replaced by Tony Hale and Liza Lapira respectively, and they're not the only new voices on the scene.

"Inside Out 2" finds Riley navigating the complicated age of 13, where (as we've seen in the trailer) a quartet of new emotions enter her mind: Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) – but definitely not schadenfreude. All four of the new voices are further evidence that Pixar knows how to match the perfect actor to the right character, and that's especially true with Anxiety, who essentially becomes Joy's rival inside Riley's mind. Funnily enough, Hawke landed the gig after director Kelsey Mann auditioned the "Stranger Things" star over Zoom from the Happiest Place on Earth.

The Pixar Animation casting process

Much like anxiety slowly upsets our lives, that's exactly how the character of Anxiety comes to be the dominating emotion that controls Riley's decisions while she's at a week-long hockey camp that could really set her on a promising path into high school. Maya Hawke brings the awkward, troublesome emotion to life in a fast-talking, charming yet subtly menacing way that makes her sudden turn against Joy and the core emotions rather surprising.

In order to find a voice that matched the character, director Kelsey Mann and producer Mark Nielsen went through Pixar's typical casting process. This is the same process that landed them the original "Inside Out" voice cast, providing us with such perfect casting as Lewis Black, a comedian known for his outbursts of angry observational comedy, as Anger.

During a press conference at Pixar Animation back in March, where the studio showed us the first act of the film, Mann recalled "Inside Out" director Pete Docter referencing Black's casting when giving him advice for finding the voices of the new emotions:

"Pete gave me advice, he's like, 'Like Lewis, you wanna cast people that kinda embody that in the characters that they play, but they also are like that off microphone. And Lewis is totally like that even when he's off microphone. So, he's like, 'You want somebody who's like that, who just is that way, just as the way they are in life.'"

With that advice, Mann and Nielsen listened and considered a variety of voices for the new emotions without seeing the actors' faces. Mann explained, "I have a list in front of me that just says Actor #1, Actor #2, Actor #3, and then they go, 'Okay. Actor #1,' and then they just play a bunch of clips. And I go, 'Oh, that's interesting.'" So when the time came to find the voices for anxiety, Mann broke down the process:

"All I do is, I look at the picture, like Anxiety, I'll look at our artwork that we have of her, and then they'll just play. And I go, 'Does that fit? Does that feel right?'"

Anxiety has baggage, and so did Kelsey Mann while on vacation.

After this determination, Mann wanted to have Maya Hawke audition for the role, but in order to fit her schedule, the director had to conduct the interview virtually while he was on vacation with his family at Disney World. The filmmaker recalled having to carry out the audition from EPCOT at the famous theme park, while Nielsen specifically remembered that Mann suddenly had to be ushered out of EPCOT through the Mexico Pavilion and out the back gate in order to hold the audition with Hawke. Mann explained:

"It was awesome. I was with my family, I go, all right, I'll be right back, and then they took me backstage and I went back to some random office where they had a computer with Zoom on it. And I auditioned Maya from Zoom, and she absolutely crushed it. My favorite part was, at the end of it, I talked about what I wanted the movie to be about, and she just immediately connected with it. I think I even cried as she was talking. I walked away and called [Mark] and [he was] like 'Oh my God, she's perfect.' And then I went back into the EPCOT and continued my vacation. It was hilarious."

The rest is now Pixar history, as Hawke landed the role, and she brings life to the wide-mouthed, orange, and meddlesome Anxiety with flying colors. You can even see her character's influence in Riley's life thanks to some inspiration by a certain Adam Sandler movie.

You'll get to see Anxiety and the rest of the new emotions at work when "Inside Out 2" hits theaters on June 14, 2024.