20 years ago, Pixar released their very first animated feature in Toy Story, which came after they had already garnered praise and awards with a catalogue of animated short films- one of which (Luxo Jr.) came to be integral to their studio ident. Since then, be it in short or feature length form- the studio has become a powerful name in animation and has hardly put a foot wrong. Be it a family of heroes, living toys or a waste disposal robot on an adventure, Pixar have prided themselves with projects that are fun, passionate and emotional. But after the studio’s first- and thus far only- critical failure (albeit it made tonnes of money) Cars 2 (2011), some have said the studio has not been at their most magical. However that all changed this past summer, with a film that came with smaller expectations than other Pixar projects but floored critics and audiences alike. Inside Out is knockout animated entertainment and once again shows how Pixar are master puppeteers when it comes to the audience’s heartstrings.
Before the film started in cinemas (and included here in the special features) the cute short film Lava preceded it, which is a musical short about the trials of love in its different forms. In many ways this was the perfect way to ease audiences into a very emotional frame of mind because that is literally what Inside Out is all about. The film centres on a young girl called Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and quite literally takes us inside her head. There we meet her emotions- Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). The emotions work together in the headquarters of Riley’s conscious mind but when something goes wrong with some of Riley’s core memories and her life becomes more turbulent than ever, Joy and Sadness find themselves trapped outside headquarters and must return before Riley’s head becomes a far less bright and enjoyable place to be.
So often with animated features, people say the plot is nothing special and it is the likable characters and visuals that power things forward. However we seem to be entering a golden age of animated cinema whereby sophisticated visuals are constantly going hand in hand with memorable characters and an astounding story. And Inside Out is just that, a breathtaking tale of humanity that easily connects to every possible aspect of the viewing audiences emotions. The endlessly colourful visual output and the creative set pieces that this film boasts (the different towns of consciousness in Riley’s head) are breathtaking. And the tone of the film is well served by Michael Giacchino’s reliably classy score. Meanwhile the script backs the gorgeous aesthetics up with a powerful and relatable story of a young girl in crisis, internally and externally. This is a dramatic and heart-filled offering which in turn knows when to be enjoyable, upsetting and heart meltingly adorable.
The characters all serve a purpose with no wastage, even some of the lesser focused on emotions (especially Anger) act as either comic supporting acts or important cores to the story. The voice work is energetic all round with Poehler’s Joy acting as the movie’s pulse but the real heart (and the film’s hidden jewel) is Phyllis Smith’s Sadness and the character highlights one of the film’s central messages of how something special can often come from the most unexpected places. The emotions themselves are fun, endearing and cleverly constructed characters but many audiences will perhaps come away with fondest memories of Bing Bong (Richard Kind)- Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend. A Seuss-like creation, the pink character is a hilarious aspect to this multi-faceted animated masterwork, which comes with a huge gut punch of an emotional scene later in the film. Trust us, it is heartbreaking.
Both Riley’s external and internal journey’s combine to give Inside Out an original and wickedly ingenious story that toys with different animated styles (in one brilliant sequence), notions of what it is to be human and even cinema satire (Dreamland is a dead ringer for Hollywood). Doctor and del Carmen have helmed a mighty story here that is chock full of innovation and wonder. Yet the real power of Inside Out is not its visual vitality, its warm characters or even its original design and imagination, the film’s greatest achievement is that it connects to literally every viewer in some way. No matter your race, social standing, age, height, gender or personal problems, you will all find something here that gets inside your heart and mind. The kids might say this is “totes emosh”, we’ll simply say it is heart swelling and beautiful animated cinema that deserves every success it has achieved.
Special Features: Trailers / Featurettes / Lava Short Film / Deleted Scenes / Audio Commentary / Behind-The Scenes Features
INSIDE OUT / CERT: U / DIRECTORS: PETE DOCTOR, RONALDO DEL CARMEN / SCREENPLAY: PETE DOCTOR, MEG LEFAUVE, JOSH COOLEY / STARRING: AMY POEHLER, BILL HADER, PHYLLIS SMITH, RICHARD KIND, LEWIS BLACK / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 23RD