The joke has been that Pixar movies are able to make us cry about things we generally don’t give two craps about — old toys, bugs, fish, Scotland. Pixar proved that beyond a doubt this summer when it released Inside Out, a movie that’s literally about the emotions vying for control of an 11-year-old girl’s mind. (What if FEELINGS HAD FEELINGS!?!?!) But the reason Pixar keeps doing movies like this is because it can, and it does them very well (those cars with faces notwithstanding). Inside Out might be their crowning achievement.
Of all the Pixar directors, Pete Docter’s work has skewed the most sentimental. Monsters Inc. is one of their cutest films, and we don’t need to talk about how much Up reduced us all to sobs within the first ten minutes. His movies are also some of the most conceptually adventurous, creating a whole world of monsters and closet doorways, and a world in the clouds with giant birds and dogs that can talk and fly fighter planes. With Inside Out, he and his crew created what is probably the most expansive and varied setting of them all: a child’s brain.
Inside Out is about a little girl named Riley whose life gets turned upside down by her family moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. Inside her mind are her five emotions: Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader). They try to keep their girl balanced and generally happy, or at least that’s the way it used to be. All of this new turmoil isn’t helping things, especially when Sadness starts touching things, like the Core Memories, which have to remain happy all the time. Maybe.
Facing a lot of challenges and uncertainty, Joy and Sadness get lost in long term memory and have to find their way back to headquarters while Anger, Disgust, and Fear rule how Riley acts on her first day of school. Along their journey, Joy and Sadness come across Riley’s long-lost imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), and see things like Dream Productions, Abstract Thought, and the dreaded place where memories go to be forgotten.
Inside Out is itself kind of an abstract thought: what if emotions had to learn to accept other emotions? It’s pulled off beautifully, though, from beginning to end. Each of the mind’s mechanisms make perfect sense in the context of the story, like when Riley goes to sleep, Joy and Sadness have more time to get where they’re going, and having the Core Memories on islands that shouldn’t be touched, but sometimes are. And the lesson is not that we need to keep Sadness away, but that we need to embrace being both happy and sad as we get older, because once-happy memories can become sad and that’s okay. It’s a surprisingly mature messgae for a movie ostensibly for kids
This is one of the most gorgeous movies I’ve seen all year, and while I don’t think it’ll win Best Picture, I think Disney/Pixar ought to submit it in that category, and not for Best Animated Feature, which it would win in a landslide. Is it all about just winning more Oscars? Or is it about getting people to recognize that animation can be, and should be ,just as viable a medium as live-action movies? That’s what I’m saying, and I’m stickin’ to it.
The extras on the Inside Out Blu-ray are very good and informative. On the main feature disc, you have the short “Lava,” which played in theaters. I’m not the biggest fan of Lava, but it’s there. We also have a fun short called “Riley’s First Date,” which about Riley’s dad dealing with a boy coming over. There’s a featurette called “Paths to Pixar: The Women of Inside Out,” which interviews several of the women who worked on the film in different aspects and about their journeys to where they are. “Mixed Emotions” explains how each of the five emotions in Riley’s mind got their look and distinct personalities. Disgust was the hardest to find, it turns out. There’s also an informative commentary track by director Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen, along with some other pop-in crew people.
There’s also a separate extras disc with even more good stuff. There’s a featurette called “Story of the Story” that explains just how difficult it was to make this movie, and how different things were at certain points. Once, Joy was kind of a jerk and she went on the journey with Fear and not Sadness. It’s pretty fascinating. There’s a featurette called “Our Dads, the Filmmakers” about the daughters of Docter and composer Michael Giacchino, who made a documentary about what their fathers do at work. There are also featurettes on the sound effects, the film editing, and getting the mind itself right. Deleted scenes, which in this case are really just storyboards with voices, show how different the movie might have been.
Once again, Disney/Pixar puts out a release that gives fans all the information they could possibly want. Absolutely pick it up.