It’s been over two years since we were graced with a Pixar film in theatres. So, naturally, the anticipation and expectations for Pixar’s newest film, Inside Out, have been through the roof. Does Inside Out live up to Pixar’s stellar legacy? Let’s just cut to the chase: Yes. A million times yes.
Inside Out tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who enjoys a happy and peaceful upbringing in Minnesota where she plays hockey and spends time with her friends and parents. As a result, her memories – which are stored on the film’s second stage, her mind – are predominantly happy. Inside her mind, we meet Riley’s five dominant emotions who live in the brain’s control center: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).
But, when Riley’s dad (Kyle MacLachlan) gets a job out of state, the family has to move to San Francisco. Riley tries to stay positive; however, the move catches up to her and she has an emotional breakdown in front of her new classmates. This embarrassing experience becomes a “core memory,” a memory that is one of the most important and essential to making up Riley’s personality. Up until this point, all of Riley’s core memories have been yellow (corresponding with Joy’s color), so the appearance of this sad blue memory upsets Joy, who wants to shelter Riley with only joyous memories.
Things continue to snowball when Sadness touches one of the core memories and gets sucked up with Joy into the long-term memory part of the brain. With Joy and Sadness gone, Anger, Fear, and Disgust take the reigns. Riley becomes a disconnected version of her former happy self and begins to lash out at her parents. Complete opposites and stranded together, Joy and Sadness must learn to work together to travel through Riley’s brain in order to restore her to her former self before it’s too late.
Inside Out is an absolute delight and is a true return to form for Pixar. The film’s concept is incredibly unique and original, which seems almost taboo nowadays from parent company Disney. The concept is expertly executed and delivers at every turn, which gives hope that Pixar may still yet be the original concept beacon shining bright in a sea of sequels, remakes, and repurposed ideas.
While on the surface the film is about Riley and her changes, more deeply it’s about her emotions, particularly Joy and Sadness. Joy is an absolute delight, despite her controlling disposition to be Riley’s dominant, if not only, emotion. Sadness is a sluggish, unconfident bump on a log, who is a thorn in Joy’s side. But, through the movie, Joy realizes the importance of all the emotions in Riley’s life, although they may be different than her and not her ideal.
Before your eyes, the viewer sees parts of Riley’s personality crumble away forever as she sinks into depression and fears that she will be stuck there forever. The film’s message is important and eye opening: the experiences we have in life have the ability to drastically change who we are, for better or for worse. The hope is that we can overcome and through the journey become a better person. Inside Out will be an especially important film for children and adolescents in that it will help them to better understand and process the rocky road of life.
Since Inside Out is about the brain, it provides the filmmakers ample pastures to have fun with the source material. We see concepts such as trains of thought, imaginary friends and boyfriends (a personal favorite), abstract thought, and the production of dreams. It also beautifully and cleverly depicts how our brains process and store information, memories, and thoughts over time. It makes sense that, in a film about our various emotions, the viewer doesn’t just experience one emotion and laugh the entire time; get ready for a true emotional roller coaster.
Director Pete Docter is not only able to expertly convey the complex theme of growing up and how our personality evolves during that process, but he’s also able to package it with a great story with hilarious moments, great dialogue, and a lot of heart.
Inside Out is Pixar’s most imaginative and inventive film to date, hands down. But, be warned, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will want to go back into the theatre to see it again and again.
Morgan is an Arizona native who's had a lifelong passion for animation. Her favorite animated films are Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and The Iron Giant. She earned an MBA in Marketing from Arizona State University and now runs her own business where she coaches and trains entrepreneurs how to launch, grow & scale successful online businesses.