Directed: Pete Doctor & Ronaldo Del Carmen
Cast: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black & Mindy Kaling
Back in 1995 when the world was engulfed by denim Walt Disney joined animated forces with a Californian CGI company called Pixar and released their first combined feature film. The Acadamy Award winning Toy Story snuck onto our screens when nobody was looking. Since then Pixar have released a further thirteen films including two Toy Story sequels. Their fifteenth feature film is now in cinemas and Inside Out is set to be just as popular and successful as their previous animated offerings.
Brought to the screen by the same director as the equally emotional Up (squirrel!), it is easy to expect a lot from Inside Out, and you won't be disappointed. The production pedigree is obvious and the film does an admirable job of evoking the very emotions it is portraying.
The film focuses on Riley, an 11 year old girl. Actually, it focuses on the interior of her mind and the emotions that work their. Inside Riley's head, and everybody else's head, five core emotions control their responses and how that individual navigates life. As the makers stated when they pitched the film 'Riley is the setting rather than the main character'.
According to Inside Out these core emotions are Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger. Led by Joy these anthropomorphised characters toil to ensure Riley stays happy. All is going swimmingly until Riley and her parents leave their idyllic Minnesota home and travel to a new home in San Fransisco. Everything is different. And there is broccoli on pizza. Ew. Riley's emotions work to keep her happy during these changes in environment. New people, new school, new home as well as growing up in general and at the same time Sadness seems to be getting more prominent. Things gets more complicated when Joy and Sadness get lost in the recesses of Riley's mind leaving Fear, Anger and Disgust as her only option for emotional response. Sadness and Joy have to journey back to Headquarters via various sectors of the mind to ensure Riley can deal with situations appropriately and the different domains of her mind do not shut down.
Previous outings for Pixar have had a universal appeal covering a variety of ages and Inside Out is no different. There are layers within the films plot that will appeal to a plethora of audiences. The playful animation, Riley's long forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong for example and visual design such as bewitching Imagination Land will charm younger viewers whilst the storyline around Riley's predicament and maturing will appeal to those of a similar age who relate to the situation. The nostalgia aspect will appeal to adults who have been through the maturation process, along with cultural jokes that are aimed at a more mature audience. This is evident in the Memories Library of Riley's mind, set out like a brain, where minion style workers manage her memories. Every so often they will send up an ad jingle to the forefront of Riley's mind for no reason. It is these life observations that make Inside Out so widely appealing. There is a familiarty to the plot that will feel cosy many Pixar fans. Although the film is arguably the first unique and inspiring Pixar animation since 'Up' there is still the conventional narrative that follows an unlikely and superficially incompatible duo, in this case Sadness and Joy, on a journey where they learn to like and accept each other. This was evident in 'Toy Story', 'Finding Nemo' and 'Up' and it gives the film a comfortable and established feel that the audience will connect with whilst still being kept interested by the fresh perspective.
The film explores how the mind develops and changes as we mature and it does it in colourful and otherworldly detail. Directors Doctor and Carmen do an admirable job of explaining a complicated process in a way that makes it appear simple and accessible. The fact Riley only has Anger, Fear and Disgust to react with acts as a catalyst for her psyche to change. Parts of her psyche begin to collapse and become abandoned like derelict buildings only to be replaced by more relevant and typical of a maturing young girl. The islands that make up aspects of her personality collapse and are replaced by fresh new ones that signify her changing personality and interests.
The main message from the film is an important one. Inside Out shows us that sadness is OK. It shows us that it's ok not to be happy all the time. Recognising the need for sadness is healthy and it helps to have a well rounded view of life. Sadness adds to nostalgia and helps us to deal with situations appropriately. As Sadness comes to the forefront of Riley's mind she is able to express her feelings appropriately and to re-connect with her parents. This is a poignant message for children and adults alike.
The emotions themselves are brought to life by talented actors who inject humour and feeling into the film. Poehlers Joy has just the right amount of bounce without becoming annoyingly perky. The currently omnipresent Hader is hilarious as fear whilst Kaling injects some teenage 'tude to Disgust. They bounce off each other wonderfully adding some office comedy to the film.
Inside Out is destined to be a seminal film, offering a multitude of options for assignments and dissertations for both film and psychology students. Displaying charming and magical imagery with poignant observational and cultural elements the film will appeal to all. Allow the film to suspend reality whilst you delve into the mind, and allow emotions to take you on a journey through your psyche.