by: Anthony Zangrillo
Pixar’s latest release Inside Out is a wonderful film that will entertain audiences of all ages. Behind a dedicated creative team and an impressive voice cast, Inside Out earns its own pedestal in the pantheon of Pixar legends. The overarching lesson lesson of the film will cause viewers to examine the interplay of different emotions within their daily life. Overall, the film is quirky and funny, while maintaining an emotional heart that ultimately drives the film.
Inside Out follows the five emotions of Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness within 11-year old Riley Anderson’s mind. After the young girl is uprooted from her old life in Minnesota and moved to San Francisco, Riley and her emotions struggle to cope with this new transition. Sadness accidentally causes herself and Joy to get lost within Riley’s long term memory, along with Riley’s most important memories, known as “Core Memories.” As Riley descends into turmoil, Joy and Sadness rush to return to Headquarters to help Riley navigate this new city.
When I first heard the plot synopsis for Inside Out, I immediately thought of the old Epcot attraction Cranium Command. Through its span in the Disney Park, the rookie commando managed a teenage boy’s mental and physical functions in an entertaining, yet informative journey inside the mind of an adolescent. Pixar has not only perfected the premise of this fascinating idea, but they have also crafted a wonderful story that is sure to pull on every viewer’s heartstrings.
In fact, Pixar has paid so much attention to detail that they have created a distinct and creative universe within Riley’s mind. Throughout the film, Joy and Sadness travel through the long-term memory banks, imagination land, abstract thoughts, and even forgotten memories. The film caters substantial attention and characterization to each of these areas of the mind. My favorite location was Dream Productions, where dreams are treated like a live television show made up of the day’s events. Joy even reacts to the Rainbow Unicorn “actor,” as if the imaginary creature was a famous celebrity because the unicorn “starred” in so many of Riley’s dreams.
Each one of the emotions is perfectly cast, and they all have their own scene-stealing dialogue. The creative team explained that casting was crucial to the development of this film. Amy Pholer has the bulk of the performance with the uplifting Joy, yet her demeanor is perfectly contrasted with the ever-gloomy Sadness, played by Phyllis Smith. Lewis Black was a no-brainer for the erupting Anger and Mindy Kaling creates an interesting view on Disgust, through her cool chic attitude. Finally, Bill Hader brings a comedic neuroticism to the ever-cautious Fear. Originally, the creative team struggled in casting Joy, yet the team “struck gold” in landing Pholer and her amazingly positive attitude.
Surprisingly, one of the most fascinating characters was Bing Bong, Riley’s former imaginary friend. By the time the film introduces Bing Bong to the audience, he is down on his luck and resembles a drifting scavenger struggling to survive. This is a creative way to deal with some of the childish memories of Riley’s life. Richard Kind provides a great voice for Bing Bong, who has a shockingly deep character arc with a lot of screen time.
A minor gripe, the film originally struggles to characterize and develop Sadness. Early on, Sadness continually disrupts some of Riley’s memories turning them sad, basically by accident. While a satisfying explanation of why sadness was crucial to Riley’s development is eventually given, I still didn’t completely understand why Sadness disrupted the memories to begin with. Sadness does not seem to totally understand her own actions, having her touch things randomly, even though she should realize it could have negative impacts on Riley. It might have been smarter to not have Sadness be the cause of Riley’s problems, but rather make the sadness a natural result of a move away from home, not an infliction. Still, this is a minor complaint and ultimately doesn’t detract significantly from the narrative.
I highly recommend watching Inside Out. The animation is top notch, and the film will make you want to get lost within Riley’s head. By the time the movie finishes, you will already begin speculating on the possibilities of a sequel revolving around the ever-dangerous “Puberty” button.