Meet the Voice of Bing Bong, 'Inside Out's' Secret Star

Fresh off Inside Out’s record-setting opening weekend, Pixar is now finally unleashing the heartstring-tugging animated film’s secret weapon: Bing Bong, the imaginary friend of Riley who looks like a cross between a cat, a dolphin, and an elephant, and who happens to smell like cotton candy.

As it turns out, the studio didn’t even tell Richard Kind, the 58-year-old actor who voiced Bing Bong, all that much about his character within the context of the film until after he had recorded his dialogue.

Related: Bing Bong: How Pixar Created ‘Inside Out’s’ Breakout Character

“I didn’t entirely understand the story when I was recording it,” Kind said this week, during a visit to the Yahoo Movies studio (you can watch his interview above). “They just said that I was Riley’s imaginary friend, and [that the characters are] stuck in a world. So I did the lines … and then they showed me the first ten minutes of the movie, just before the credits, and you go ‘Wow, that’s the world we’re in!’ That’s when it started to make sense.’”

Still, Kind did keep an eye on the development of Bing Bong over the years, watching Pixar’s animators turn him from pen-and-ink sketch to a more fully-formed, animal-hybrid who helps guide Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) through Riley’s mind. Even with all that time with Bing Bong, though, Kind says he didn’t really make up a new voice for the character, opting instead to lend his normal voice to the helpful character — making the pink imaginary creature sound a lot like a longtime character actor you’ve seen on TV in shows like Spin City and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

“I’m not that talented,” he laughed. “I just did the lines as if I’m talking to an 11-year-old girl, or I was talking to Joy. But I was not an elephant or a ‘catelephant’ or a cotton candy. I was me, talking to her, going, ‘Oh, you remember [me]!’”

Still, Kind developed a certain affection for Bing Bong, in part due to the pink guy’s selflessness.

“A lot of times you’ve got to love your character,” he said. “I love this guy.”