Chances are when you first saw Bing Bong, the sweet, fluffy pink creature from young Riley's imagination who, by his own admission, is comprised of cat, elephant, and dolphin (with a body made of sticky-sweet cotton candy), in Disney Pixar's "Inside Out" this summer, it was somewhat of a surprise.
As voiced by Richard Kind, Bing Bong is a character who was largely left out of the marketing for the film leading up to its release. Director Pete Docter and the Pixar brain trust wanted Bing Bong -- and his heartbreaking exit -- to be a total surprise.
"They told me about a month or two in advance that I wasn't going to be in any of the advertising or promotion," Kind told MTV News in promotion of the film's Blu-ray release on November 3. "And I'm fine with it! I thought, 'My God, I'm in a Pixar movie and look how good it's going to be! That's fine. I don't care.' But when they went to Cannes, that was rough. I would have like to have gone to the Cannes Film Festival because when am I going to get to go again with a film this good and on their dime? So I wasn't the happiest guy in the world."
"However, when the movie came out, I threw my arms out and said, 'You know what? They were absolutely right,'" he added. "Once again, they have proven themselves smarter than me."
When we first meet Bing Bong, he's rifling through Riley's memories, hoarding his favorites in his make believe bag. He was a wandering vagabond who wanted nothing more than to take Riley to the moon. Because of that, Bing Bong, with his childlike sense of wonderment and adorable candy tears, quickly became a fan favorite.
"I think there's purity, and I think that if you're a good person, you'll latch onto that purity," Kind said. "His whole existence is there because a 3-year-old girl needed someone's shoulder, and he was there. There's no malice to Bing Bong. There's nothing that he needs. His only desire is to give, and that's a lovely place to be, especially in a world where you need somebody like that. Wouldn't it be great if, as adults, we had that person? You hope for it in friends, but they're never truly selfless like Bing Bong. With him, you're guaranteed that his existence is only for what you need."
This is what makes Bing Bong's tragic exit all the more heartbreaking. Riley's happy-go-lucky (former) imaginary friend ends up sacrificing himself to save Joy, jumping off their weight-saddled magical wagon into the abyss of nothingness down the memory dump. The scene is the biggest gut-punch in the entire film. Poor Bing Bong pays the ultimate price to help save Riley, a girl who has all but forgotten he even exists.
"I actually thinks it's a little cathartic when you cry," Kind said of the emotional response to Bing Bong's death. "You cry out of sadness, certainly, because you've come to love this guy."
"What is really sad is that you are giving up childish things, and that you recognize that you are older and that maturity and knowledge -- it's easier to walk down the shore humming and singing and romping -- and that you have to go back to the reality of the world," he added. "Bing Bong is the nice romp on the beach."
However, according to Kind, Bing Bong's original exit was even more heartbreaking, requiring Pixar to do some strategic trimming for the sake of our tear ducts.
"When I first saw the movie, the scene down in the valley, where the memories have been lost and disposed of, was about 40 seconds to a minute longer," he said. "And I loved it. I actually talked to the producer's daughter who agreed with me and said she didn't like the shorter version as much. The reason why they cut it -- and I think they're sort of right -- was because that earlier version was heart-wrenching. It was absolutely heartbreaking, and I likened it to the scene in 'Bambi' when his mother dies. We don't need to see that again. I think we felt exactly what we needed to feel in that scene."
Kind revealed that some of Bing Bong's more somber dialogue was cut from the final take. "When he finally extends his hand and says 'I've got a good feeling about this,' you had seen a lot more of him during that original scene so that when they're trying and trying and trying to get back, you understand what he's going through," he said. "You see him get a little desperate. It was a lot sadder."
As if anything could be sadder than Bing Bong telling Joy to "take her to the moon for me" as he slowly vanished into the abyss. That particular bit of dialogue, Kind said, "kills me."
"To me, the line that gives me chills every time is, 'I've got a good feeling about this one,'" he added. "That one just hits me right in the chest."
Still, the emotionally profound moment is the defining scene in the entire film -- and the actor's decades-long career in Hollywood.
"Look, I'm an actor. Most actors want to be famous," Kind said. "I don't care so about about it anymore. I want to be respected and appreciated for my work, but there was a time when I all I wanted to do was be famous -- and that, of course, is the difference between stardom and just being an actor. But the fact that I am going down in history like this is a dream come true."
"My character is, in essence, an amalgam of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion [from 'The Wizard of Oz'] because they take Dorothy on a trip down the Yellow Brick Road to see the Wizard, and Bing Bong is taking Joy and Sadness through different islands so that they can end up getting what they need," he added. "Now, I'm not saying that I'm at all like Ray Bolger, but my purpose in the movie, my raison d'etre, is much like his. And Bing Bong will stand the the test of time just like those guys in Oz."
"Inside Out" is available on Blu-ray and DVD now.