This year celebrates the 20 year anniversary of the first time the world saw a Pixar Studios film. That was Toy Story. Fourteen films later, I am incredibly excited to be talking about Pixar’s latest, Inside Out. I saw this movie, thanks to Fathom Events, accompanied with a tour of Pixar Studios by director, Pete Docter and producer, Jonas Rivera, followed by a Q&A with Docter and star, Amy Poehler. Needless to say, I had a great time.
Inside Out is one of the best Pixar films of all time. I have no hesitation in saying that it is going to hold up for a long time, even though it hasn’t even been released yet here in the US. This is also Pixar’s most imaginative, profoundly creative, and thought provoking film yet. And that can be said about just the screenplay. Inside Out has a great lineup of voice actors as well, led by Poehler.
There are five major emotions that make us who we are, at least according to Pixar. They are Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Mill Hader). Together, they control the main human character, eleven year old Riley Anderson. Riley and her family (who have different emotions too, but we see less of them) are moving from Minnesota to a crummy part of San Fransisco. The rest of the movie takes place in Riley’s mind. When Joy and Sadness get sucked away from the “headquarters” they have to try and find a way back, while Anger, Fear, and Disgust run things in Riley’s mind.
On the surface, this is a semi-typical story of a journey to get someplace and accomplish a mission. But once you go inside… the human mind and emotions are explored ingeniously throughout this film, catering to the children as well as their parents. When Docter was asked how he balanced keeping both the kids and adults entertained, he said he tries to write an adult story, while being aware that children are watching as well. This clearly has worked for many films. There are some jokes that may not be fully grasped by the younger audience, but the humor is so universal and innocent that it works for all ages.
A lot of the story works with and tries to conceptualize memory. How it’s stored, remembered, and perceived when thinking about it. Every time we create a memory, it is made into an orb and transported. A happy memory is yellow, sad is blue, anger is red, and so on. At the end of the day they go to long term memory, where every memory you have ever made is stored. There’s also a pit where all forgotten memories go. It was truly profound the way memory was made into a physical object, and how it influences who we are and who we will be. This film will have such an impact on people that they’ll start to visualize memory this way. I know I would have in my high school Psychology class. I’d love to see what my teacher thought of it.
Much like Toy Story 3, this film is also about growing up and the passage of time. Riley is at an age where her brain and mind are not fully developed yet. Her emotions are less controlled and uncertain. That is why this movie is so important to kids: It shows them how their minds work, it helps them understand their emotions, and it’s also terrifically exciting. It also lets them know it’s okay to be sad. This message had a huge payoff at the end. One that was developing the whole time, that I didn’t even realize till the end. I had a thought about it midway through the movie which bothered me for a while, but it was eventually addressed in the most effective way possible.
We also see how our minds develop as we age. I believe Riley had five key personality traits that defined her and were powered by her core memories. This will get kids to think about themselves; what their personality is and what defining traits they have. We get to see how our actions effect these stations in our minds and our overall character. These grow more and more complex as we experience life and learn from it. There are so many deeps facets of this film to be explored upon multiple viewings and during reflection. I implore you to see it for yourself, dissect all the messages and meaning it has, and judge it based off your own life.
I don’t have kids to relate to this, but I’d imagine that a parent could reflect a lot on this. After the movie, I heard a boy ask his mom what puberty was, after a joke about it was made. She said it was a video game. That made me think about what we decide to tell our children and everyone else around us. I also thought about the five emotions every other person in that theater had. I think at one time or another during the film, each of our emotions were alive and running. Although I’m sure Joy was the most awake in all of us.
I mentioned the voice actors before, and how terrific all of them were. Poehler as Joy is definitely the star (in more ways than one), while the rest of Riley’s emotions are equally funny and endearing. Each character was cast perfectly to the emotions you associate their best performances with. This gave you a sense of familiarity, but also great comedic moments. Kaling and Hader had the least screen time which could have been augmented, yet they killed every scene they had. There are a few other great voices and characters that I won’t give away because I wasn’t aware of them beforehand. I will say that John Ratzenberger is one of them, of course.
The short film, Lava, that preceded was touching, cute, and all told through song. I enjoyed it, but it is not the most memorable short Pixar has done. Inside Out on the other hand is a film I will never forget, and one that is important not to. It is a full force return to form for Pixar, demonstrating the pure genius of the creators and inventors there. They once again, masterfully created a piece of animation that will find a way to impact everyone in the audience, encouraging them to laugh, cry, think, and share a magical experience.