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Conversing with Mark Labberton

Conversing with Mark Labberton offers transformative encounters with leaders and creators shaping our world. Each episode explores the intersection of Christian faith, culture, and public life, providing listeners with valuable insights and practical wisdom for living faithfully in a complex world.
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Now displaying: June, 2024

As president and ambassador of Fuller Theological Seminary, Mark Labberton takes the occasion of his travels to speak with a broad spectrum of leaders on issues at the heart of the seminary's mission.

Jun 25, 2024

“All of our emotions are there for a good reason. They’re positive. They want to help. And a little anxiety is good. … All of society is saying, ‘Get rid of emotion. It's awful. It's evil.’ It's not true.”

In this episode, Mark welcomes Pete Docter, executive producer of Inside Out 2, and the Oscar-winning director of Monsters, Inc., Up, and Inside Out. Pete joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1990 at twenty-one years old as its third animator, and is now Pixar’s chief creative officer.

Mark and Pete discuss the ins and outs of Inside Out 2, including its themes about emotion, psychology, adolescence, and the discovery and acceptance of who we are. Pete reflects on the power of music to convey unconscious meaning, alongside the subtle and sophisticated animation techniques used by Pixar today. We learn about the new emotion characters (including Anxiety, Embarrassment, and Ennui), as well as those that almost made the cut. And Pete comments on the spiritual and moral dimensions that Inside Out 2 is able to explore.

About Pete Docter

Pete Docter is the Oscar-winning director of Monsters, Inc., Up, and Inside Out, and chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios. He most recently directed Disney and Pixar’s Oscar-winning feature film Soul with producer Dana Murray and co-director Kemp Powers, which is now streaming on Disney+.

Starting at Pixar in 1990 as the studio’s third animator, Docter collaborated on and helped develop the story and characters for Toy Story, Pixar’s first full-length animated feature film, for which he also was supervising animator. He served as a storyboard artist on A Bug’s Life and wrote initial story treatments for both Toy Story 2 and WALL•E. Aside from directing his three films, Docter also executive produced Monsters University and the Academy Award–winning Brave.

Docter’s interest in animation began at the age of eight, when he created his first flipbook. He studied character animation at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California, where he produced a variety of short films, one of which won a Student Academy Award. Those films have since been shown in animation festivals worldwide and are featured on the Pixar Short Films Collection, volume 2. Upon joining Pixar, he animated and directed several commercials, and has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature–winners Up and Inside Out and nominee Monsters, Inc., and Best Original Screenplay for Up, Inside Out and WALL•E. In 2010, Up also was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Show Notes

  • Continuity and discontinuity in Inside Out 2
  • Pete Docter comments on the main character/setting of Inside Out series: Riley and what’s going on inside her head.
  • Some psychologists think there are 27 emotions
  • Puberty and adolescence
  • New emotions: Bringing Anxiety, Embarrassment, and Ennui (Boredom) into the picture
  • Anxiety as the new protagonist
  • Changing body and outgrowing an old sweater
  • Riley’s pimple: “That was something that Kelsey Mann, the director, was big on from the beginning. He would say, we were so used to seeing characters represented in this perfect, idealized way. And yet, when we look at the mirror, we realize, ‘Hey, I don't measure up to that.’ That was kind of the message of the film from the beginning—is learning to accept yourself. You know, the flaws and all, because that's so much of our civilization is measuring ourselves against others. And especially that period in time growing up, you're suddenly socially aware, and where you fit in or don't.”
  • From family to friends as the dominant group
  • “All of our emotions are there for a good reason. They're positive. They want to help. And a little anxiety is good. Lisa L'Amour, who was a consultant on the film, her big thing is like, all of society is saying, ‘Get rid of emotion. It's awful. It's evil.’ It's not true.”
  • Researching the psychology of emotion for the film, and experimenting with various emotions as characters
  • Anxiety as subtly controlling
  • Schadenfreude almost made Inside Out and Inside Out 2 as a gag.
  • Anxiety is not directly related to puberty.
  • “Who are we? What are the things that make us who we are? Is it just our experiences, our beliefs, our actions that we take? And all of those start to get folded into the film.”
  • “For me, the creative process is all about the nitty gritty details.”
  • “So really that's just what I'm trying to do is for us in that room, as we're making it: Are we engaged? Are we emotional?”
  • The complexity of guilt and shame
  • Learning that sincerity—the truth of the character—is the key
  • Special Effects work in Inside Out 2
  • The subtle and sophisticated storytelling device of Riley’s eyes.
  • How digital animation works today—more like a puppet than a drawing.
  • Music as an unconscious communicator
  • Dr. Paul Ekman: Emotions are largely under the hood.
  • Soul (2020) and the philosophy of dualism as a Greek concept
  • Embodied souls—a colliding, intertwined, inseparable reality
  • Understanding the instrumentality of the brain
  • The amazing amount of goodness that Pixar has injected into the world
  • Pete Docter on working with Amy Poehler, Tony Hale, and Maya Hawke
  • “Our emotions are really on our team.”
  • Fear as a dominant emotion for the era we live in
  • Joy vs Sadness or Joy vs Fear
  • How Pete Docter’s faith informs his approach to Inside Out
  • “One other little bit of research we did that I was shocked by is that there's apparently a part of your brain that lights up especially when you watch animation.”

Jun 18, 2024

“Reconciliation and reparations were never supposed to be two opposite things.” The Church is called to be a repairer of the breach. Drawing on the prophetic texts of Isaiah and Nehemiah, Brenda Salter McNeil joins Mark to discuss her latest book: Empowered to Repair: Becoming People Who Mend Broken Systems and Heal Our Communities.

Together they reflect on the Church’s responsibility for social justice; the call to engage politics for the common good; the nature of systemic injustice and systemic change; empowerment and mutual investment in change; and the importance of moving closer to injustice in order to become a “repairer of the breach.”

Brenda Salter McNeil is a leader in the international movement for peace and reconciliation. She is an Associate Professor of reconciliation studies in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University, where she also directs the Reconciliation Studies program. She also serves on the pastoral staff of Quest Church in Seattle, WA. She is the author of numerous books on Christianity, reconciliation, and racial justice. Follower her @RevDocBrenda.

AB

  • Mark introduces Brenda Salter McNeil
  • Learn more about Empowered to Repair: Becoming People Who Mend Broken Systems and Heal Our Communities
  • Isaiah 58 and “As If Worship”
  • Isaiah 58:11-12—“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt. You shall raise up the foundations of many generations. You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
  • Repair and reparations
  • Brian Stevenson: “Real reparations would mean to repair what was actually broken.”
  • “We want to see justice. We want to see change. … Reconciliation and reparations were never supposed to be two opposite things.”
  • Why the Old Testament prophetic book of Nehemiah is relevant to the church in this political moment: “I wanted to use a narrative in scripture that showed us how do you actually organize people. That it's not just enough to preach about it on Sundays, there's a way that we've got to bring a diverse coalition of people together and show them that we can rebuild what is broken around us.”
  • “How do we retain our identity and our dignity?”
  • How asking the right questions can generate empathy and motivate action
  • Nehemiah’s Prayer of Confession
  • Honest confession, just telling the truth
  • Brenda’s son Omari’s social post: “We are always left saddened but not shocked. This will happen again. Another black queen or king doing what should be considered a regular activity will be killed just because. Black people will express outrage while everyone else will continue on relatively unchanged. We'll exclaim, hashtag Black Lives Matter, and we will get countless comments about, What about all lives matter? I'm looking at you, white evangelical churches. The shock will wear off for the rest of the world and we'll be left to rebuild again by ourselves. This cycle is so ingrained in the Black American narrative that we have learned to quickly spring into actionable next steps because we've done this before and we will do it again. We've had no choice but to normalize the trauma and carry on. So to those who wonder, I have no hope that I or my future children will ever live in a world that is quote unquote equal or totally safe or fair, even though I will always fight for it. Sadly for me and so many others, I lost that dream as a little boy.”
  • Our own humanity is being diminished in every act of injustice
  • Is systemic change possible?
  • Individualistic vs communal lenses
  • The need to get proximate to injustice in order to become a repairer
  • When does proximity help? What causes proximity to stick and create change?
  • Empowerment and mutual investment
  • The work of justice is ultimately God’s work
  • Fannie Lou Hamer’s activism
  • James Baldwin: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”
  • Doing what we say
  • “We might not change everything, but in our little corner of the world, we can make a difference in that spot and people get to see a glimpse of the kingdom. And that's life changing.”

About Brenda Salter McNeil

Brenda Salter McNeil is a teacher, preacher, and leader in the international movement for peace and reconciliation. Her mission is to inspire, equip and empower emerging Christian leaders to be practitioners of reconciliation in their various spheres of influence. She is an Associate Professor of reconciliation studies in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University, where she also directs the Reconciliation Studies program. She also serves on the pastoral staff of Quest Church in Seattle, WA. Dr. Brenda is recognized internationally as one of the foremost leaders of reconciliation and was featured as one of the 50 most influential women to watch by Christianity Today. She is the author of Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0, A Credible Witness: Reflections on Power, Evangelism and Race (2008), The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change (2005), coauthored with Rick Richardson, *Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now,* and her latest book, Empowered to Repair: Becoming People Who Mend Broken Systems and Heal Our Communities.

Jun 11, 2024

Anne Snyder joins Mark to discuss the need for deeper listening in the work of genuine encounter and exchange in public life. They reflect on the contributions of public theology to contemporary life, the values of Christian humanism, and the mission and vision of Comment magazine. They also announce an exciting new partnership between Conversing and Comment.

Anne Snyder is the editor-in-chief of Comment magazine, which is a core publication of Cardus, a think tank devoted to renewing North American social architecture, rooted in two thousand years of Christian social thought. Visit https://comment.org/ for more information.

For years, Anne has been engaged in concerns for the social architecture of the world. That is, the way that our practices of social engagement, life, conversation, discussion, debate, and difference can all be held in the right kind of ways for the sake of the thriving of people, individuals, communities, and our nation at large.

Anne also oversees our Comment’s partner project, Breaking Ground, and is the host of The Whole Person Revolution podcast and co-editor of Breaking Ground: Charting Our Future in a Pandemic Year (2022).

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