Pixar Journeys Into New Territory With 'Inside Out'

The film leaves a mother-daughter team of reviewers pondering long after the movie's over.

Masha Zur Glozman
Masha Zur Glozman
Sadness, anger, fear, disgust and joy - the real stars of Pixar's new film.
Sadness, anger, fear, disgust and joy - the real stars of Pixar's new film. Credit: Pixar
Masha Zur Glozman
Masha Zur Glozman

Although I was once a discriminating viewer able to analyze even the smallest cinematic manipulation, since becoming a mother I find that I’ve become nothing more than a trembling mass of jelly, succumbing easily to emotional manipulation. Just give me a goodbye scene, and I immediately start to sob uncontrollably. Nevertheless I certainly didn’t expect to shed any tears during Pixar’s new offering “Inside Out.”

My daughter Talia and I have been waiting to see the film for a while, ever since the trailer started playing in movie theaters sometime last winter. When Pixar first started out, its people exhibited genius, restoring to commercial animation the greatness that it lost somewhere along the way, and proving not only that computer animation can create images full of life and nuance, but also that it can conjure up the kinds of worlds that can only come to life in animation. But massive success brought about a familiar process, echoing what happened to Disney’s studios during the 1970’s. Becoming mainstream is paralyzing — it subordinates the art to the rules of the genre, instead of using those rules as challenging artistic thresholds to be crossed. Thus we received a slew of films that strictly followed the proven formula of a heroic underdog overcoming every obstacle, with the help of friends, of course. It all became so predictable: the story, the jokes and the endless sequels. What happened to Dreamworks, Blue Sky and other studios began to infect Pixar as well, with movies like “Ice Age,” “Rio,” “Shrek,” “The Croods” and more.

The film we had waited so long to see was preceded by a Pixar short, a cute but strange film bordering on bizarre, about two volcanoes in Hawaii that long for one another, but have a tough time realizing their love. As for “Inside Out,” the film tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, a cute, joyful hockey player, who moves with her loving parents from Minnesota to San Francisco. The move doesn’t go smoothly, to say the least. The old house is scary and filthy, complete with a dead rat in the kitchen corner. The movers get held up for a week with all the furniture. Riley’s best friend in Minnesota has already found a replacement for her, and her father is preoccupied with his new business.

But the real film takes place in “The Headquarters” of Riley’s head, where the five manifestations of her emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger – each tries to do their part, except for sadness (cleverly personified as a chubby emo girl), without truly understanding what they’re supposed to do. Joy, commander in chief, strives to keep morale up, but difficult circumstances and some technical mishaps lead to Joy and Sadness getting lost and embarking on a journey through the depths of Riley’s long-term memory.

Joy operating deep inside the brain of 11-year-old, Riley, in Pixar's 'Inside Out.' Photo by Pixar

“Inside Out” is a stunning psychedelic adventure, funny and exciting. This narrative and visual rendition of neuroscience is pure genius as it explores the difference between memories, core memories, dominant emotions and the various components of identity. The brain is depicted as the amusement park it truly is — sometimes a bubbling, colorful carnival; sometimes a bit desolate and eerie.

Further, the moral of this story deviates from the standard Hollywood outline of “believe in yourself, trust your friends and you’ll achieve anything,” and instead reaches a place that is deep, beautiful and truly smart.

With much of the action unfolding inside Riley’s brain, the film portrays a very honest picture — one that prompts identification with Riley herself, and her parents. That the film’s emotional climax — I shed tears all over the place, like an anime character. When we left the movie theater, we realized that we were incessantly examining ourselves according to the methodology of “Inside Out,” watching Joy and Anger rise and fall, understanding what prompts Disgust, Fear, and why we actually need Sadness sometimes. This kind of combination of laughter and tears, fun and depth, gives rise to thoughts that follow you long after the movie is over. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a commercial children’s film that manages to accomplish that.

Nine-year-old Talia’s review of the film:

The movie is about a young girl named Riley, and we see all of the voices in her head. The voices are called Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. In the Headquarters, they start to lose control as one core memory falls, and Sadness almost touches it. All kinds of strange things happen: At first, Joy and Sadness get lost on the boulevard of memories, and later they meet Bing-Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend. Then Bing-Bong brings them to the Land of Imagination, and they almost become two-dimensional, only shape and color. I don’t want to tell the rest of the plot, to keep the viewer in suspense.

Riley’s family is very cute. Her parents are always taking pity on her, and sometimes they go too far to make her happy. I liked the movie, because it was very cute, funny and suspenseful. There were scary parts, but it was mostly funny, like a scary comedy.

Before they made the movie, the creators consulted with neuroscientists, and that influenced the viewers, because they might think that it’s real. But there’s no way that it actually works that way, because cells that can think is a little weird.

In my opinion, there are a million other emotions, not just Sadness, Anger and Disgust and all that if I needed to choose the five emotions that run the headquarters in my head, I’d say that they are fear, sadness, joy, anger, and shyness. Imagine shyness as being really small and pink. Who is in charge in my head? Shyness. I get very shy all the time. There are also benefits to being shy. It keeps you from doing silly things, because you get embarrassed.

The moral of the movie, in my opinion, is that you shouldn’t try to run away from sadness too much, because then you won’t know that you’re suffering, and no one will be able to help you, and you’ll get stuck with suffering.

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