While most people have been waiting for the parade of sequels to roll out this year, I’ve been interested in seeing what Disney and Pixar have up their sleeves with Inside Out. Like WALL·E, I think it’s going to be one of those movies that kids love because it’s cute, but adults are going to attach themselves to even more. It tells the story of a little girl named Riley and what she goes through as she moves to a new place. More importantly, we get to hear about it through the voices inside her head. A cast of colorful characters inhabit her head, like Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader and Amy Poehler, The Office’s Mindy Kaling and Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black — who fittingly plays her anger. What makes this movie even more interesting is that we aren’t just invited inside Riley’s head, but her parents’ as well.
That’s where Lori Alan comes into play. She plays Riley’s mom’s sadness, and is a talented voice actress who has been a part of our lives for years as a prominent voice on Spongebob Squarepants since the start. That’s only two notches on her impressive list of characters, so let’s get to know more about Lori and get inside her head a bit.
Kendra: As someone who has been told her whole life she has the perfect voice for cartoons, can you relate to that? Were people always saying, “Hey Lori, you know what you should do…?” because when you first got into acting it was more in front of the camera.
Lori Alan: My parents were actually voice actors in the DC area, so I grew up in a crazy theater household. There was a lot of storytelling, singing, and voice acting, so it only seemed natural for me to do both on camera and VO. Going off to NYU and then performing with Groundings East (Gotham City) I then realized I had this crazy cavalcade of characters in my head and there wasn’t a lot of animation in New York, so I headed off to Los Angeles where, lo and behold, I could bounce between TV and animation.
Your background in improv has to have something to do with that. Do you think people looking to get into voice acting should take some improv classes along the way?
YES YES YES MANDATORY!!! You must be fast on your feet and free thinking and be able to go from one character to the other in a session, so improv training is a necessity to give you that confidence and flexibility.
With that, you’ve worked on some pretty notable shows. Two long running ones actually — Spongebob and Family Guy. At this point, are you tight with the casts of those shows?
I just recorded Spongebob yesterday — we had to stop a million times from laughing. We are like one big happy family still, it is so fun to be in the booth together! I work with the cast of Family Guy often. I couldn’t ask for a crazy more talented group of friends and colleagues.
You’re also in the new Pixar film Inside Out, but this isn’t your first time with them and Disney. You were in the amazing and should’ve-won-best-picture-at-the-Oscars Toy Story 3. Did that movie destroy your tear ducts like it did the rest of us? And, will Inside Out be nearly as emotional?
Yes, I’m seeing the eye doctor first thing Monday morning! The movie Inside Out is equally a tearjerker. All Disney/Pixar films are so beautiful and take you on quite a journey. The Toy Story series took us through our childhood and beyond, and Inside Out shows us that all of our emotions — sadness, anger, fear, joy — whether we like them or not — make us who we are, and that’s what resonates with everyone.
Really quick and then back to Inside Out. Robin Williams is credited for making it cool for a-listers to be in animated movies back when he did Aladdin. As a leading voice actor, what are your thoughts on that — should actors like that stay in front of the camera?
There’s a place for everyone! For example: Richard Kind as Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend, had me in tears… in other words, if they are a good celebrity voice actor.
Now you’re playing Sadness inside the mind of the mom in Inside Out, played by Diane Lane. If you could be a voice inside any other celebrity’s mind — who would it be and why?
I would want to be Joy in Caitlyn Jenner’s head to keep her happy so that she can keep being a role model to the LGBTQ community.
On the flip side, when you are having a bad day, who would you want inside your head?
At the Lori headquarters here’s my cast. Joy would be my dog, Frankie, because he bounced from couch to couch and lap to lap with sheer abandon. My other Dog, Harry, who has a huge huge heart and could always handle my sadness, I think he would fit the bill. Gwen Stefani would be my disgust because she is just too cool and she doesn’t care. Fear would be Betty White who is fearless… making me unstoppable. Christopher Walken would be my anger — I have a short fuse and he would be much cooler than me at blowing his lid by using a COWBELL! #cowbell #extrapointsforgettingthisreference.
Lastly, we’re a site that celebrates fandom. Is there one thing or celebrity that you totally geek out over?
I would geek out over all of the girls from Pitch Perfect 2, especially Rebel Wilson. Fat Amy, I love you!