Disney and Pixar have this interesting trend of making movies out of the premise of “What if ____ had feelings?” For the most part, their formula works. They’ve managed to create some timeless classics that are delightful, brightly colored, and perplexing in all the right ways. This year’s summer release is Inside Out; a movie that asks, “What if your feelings had feelings?”
Inside Out follows an 11-year old Minnesota girl, Riley, and her family as they move and adjust to new life in San Francisco. Moving can be a perplexing mixed bag of emotions; and that’s personified by five distinct emotional traits in everyone’s head; Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. These five work to keep the minds of everyone functioning, in a control-room style setting. Things get messy after Joy and Sadness are whisked away to the Long Term Memory storage, leaving Anger, Disgust, and Fear in charge of the control room/Riley’s emotions. Naturally, these aren’t the best emotions to be left with, especially when trying to adjust to a new setting where everything can be scary. Getting back to the central control from LTM storage is no small feat for Joy and Sadness either. They’re faced with a wide variety of obstacles that constantly interrupt any hope they have. It isn’t until Joy realizes that she needs Sadness that they start to work together and get back to where they need to be.
Inside Out changes perspective constantly between Riley and her emotions. It’s a dynamic that should be utterly annoying, but Pixar manages to make the jump cuts flow naturally to a point where you never notice that it’s happening. That’s important because it’s something minor that could destroy a movie. Because of this constant jumping, the film never focuses on any one character’s struggle for too long, which gives everything a natural pace that would otherwise have been stagnant at points. What I love about Pixar films is that there usually isn’t a central villain that causes trouble for everyone; there’s no distinct bad guy/good guy. Characters are human (even when they’re not) and show a wide range of personality traits. Struggle usually comes from outside sources or conflict within the self. The same is true for Inside Out. Conflict between Joy and Sadness is what causes them to end up in bad situations, and neither of them are wrong in their perspectives. Then central focus revolves around character growth through self-realization.
Inside Out is probably my new favorite Disney/Pixar movie, which is really difficult to say with confidence because they tend to churn out some wonderful movies (except for the Cars sequels. Seriously, screw those). The level of charm just radiates from every corner of Inside Out. It not only tells a wonderfully crafted story, but manages to be an interesting tool for introducing kids to the concept of how the brain works. Drop what you’re doing and go see this!