In 1995, Disney/PIXAR made Toy Story. It became the first feature-length computer animated film following a group of toys coming to life. Not only that, it also became a massive hit, which led to making two sequels. The toys have gone on some wild adventures, but they had never went to the dark side until years later in Toy Story 3, where they end up in a daycare center that feels more like a prison. Eventually, they end up on an exhilarating escape from the daycare back to Andy’s house before he leaves for college. There has never been an ending that tugged hard on the heartstrings.
John Lasseter and his wonderful team are known to create some imaginative ideas. They brought us through the grass in A Bug’s Life. They showed the friendlier side of monsters in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University. They brought us under the sea in Finding Nemo, and will bring us back next year in Finding Dory. They made every characters cars in the fun albeit formulaic Cars, followed by a disappointing caper in its sequel. They brought a talented rat-chef in a restaurant serving good French cuisine in Ratatouille. They made a strong Scottish princess chose her fate in Brave. They even satirized the superhero genre in The Incredibles.
After 30 years of making short films and feature films, 2015 will be the first time for PIXAR to release two movies in the same year. The first is Inside Out, and the next will be The Good Dinosaur (will be released this Thanksgiving). Following three disappointments, PIXAR finds its mojo in Inside Out. It truly gives the audience what they want: something original, ambitious, imaginative, relatable, funny, and heartfelt. Seeing it three times in theaters makes it something special.
It’s hard to deal with many changes in life. For 11-year-old Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), she would never leave Minnesota.
We go inside her mind where her emotions are in Headquarters using a control panel to guide her actions. Joy (Amy Poehler) has been the leader of Headquarters from the beginning. It’s her job to keep Riley the happy-go-lucky girl she has always been. Later, new emotions are formed:
- Disgust (Mindy Kaling), who is charge of preventing Riley from getting “poisoned; both physically and socially”.
- Anger (Lewis Black) reads newspapers with headlines referring to Riley’s day (“First Day of School”, “No Dessert!”, and so on), and is in charge of making everything fair for her.
- Fear (Bill Hader) is in charge of keeping her safe.
- And lastly, Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is the one who can’t control Riley, at first, because the other emotions want her to stay away from sadness.
Every day, new memories–formed in colored orbs–are created and organized. The most important ones, called “core memories”, are formed to build islands that define Riley’s personality. For instance, Riley loves playing hockey. Ever since she scored her first goal, the Hockey Island was built. “What could happen?” Joy asks the audience as Riley turns 11.
It ends up being that Riley and her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) are moving to San Francisco. Since her father got a new job, Riley tries to get used to living in a new city. The emotions try to deal with her situation. But when a conflict arises between Joy and Sadness, they end up getting sucked through a vacuum and into “Long-Term Memory”. They leaves the three others in charge.
There has never been a movie so ingenious in its storytelling; going back and forth from the HQ to Riley. Writer/director Pete Docter got the idea for Inside Out from his daughter. According to an interview from the Washington Post, she used to have this happy, goofy spirit. But [at 11] she began to move toward being more quiet and more reclusive. Parents feel emotional reflecting the past as they stare on into the present. “Watching my daughter made me sad,” Docter said. “As a parent, I was playing and being a part of that ‘pretend-play.’ And that was going away. That was a big part of the film.”
Indeed it was! After Riley’s first day of school, her parents ask how her day went. With Joy and Sadness not in HQ, the only thing she can do is become frustrated with them. As she storms up to room, they realize there she is changing.
Meanwhile, Joy and Sadness are in this humongous labyrinth trying to make their way back to HQ. They come across
Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s colorfully eccentric imaginary friend from toddlerhood (and one of the most lovable characters in a PIXAR movie) who has a cotton-candy body, part cat, part elephant, and part dolphin. He agrees to guide their way through short-cuts such as the “Abstract Thought” and “Imagination Land”. They end up catching the “Train of Thought”. You can’t help but smile and often get teary-eyed as they interact with one another due to excellent writing. In one emotional scene, Sadness feels sympathy for Bing-Bong as his spaceship wagon that he and Riley use that runs on star-power goes into an abyss where old memories are vacuumed up by Mind Workers and eventually fade. They wanted to go to the moon. He realizes that Riley is all grown up. As he says his last goodbye, later on, he tells Joy, “Take her to the moon” after helping her getting out of the dump with his wagon (Man–the feels).
On the other hand, Sadness comes out more as the hero. Earlier, as Riley is at her new school, she introduces herself to the class. She reminisces her life back in Minnesota, and a happy memory appears in HQ of her playing hockey. Then, Sadness touches the orb which turns the happy memory blue. Riley begins to cry knowing how hard it is to move from one place to another. Later, in Long-Term memory, she discusses about one of the memories involving Riley’s parents cheering her up after losing a hockey game. Her teammates come and cheer her up. As Joy is in the dump, he understands why the memory was blue. So she can be consoled. The moral of the story is you can’t have Joy without a little Sadness. This happens again when Riley comes back home in tears saying she misses Minnesota after changing her mind of getting off the bus (a plan that Anger comes up with). By the end, Riley accepts who she is despite how tough it is growing up.
Inside Out is a movie that kids and adults would discuss about for many generations. To be honest, I think the movie would be appreciated more by adults, especially those who have gone through the tough times in their life. Like with every PIXAR movie, they would like to go back to see what they missed, especially Easter eggs (try to find Nemo). The metaphors and the gorgeous animation make the movie a feast for the ears and the eyes. I’m glad Bill Hader is getting more attention after being a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Starring alongside Poehler, another SNL alumnus, I can’t think of better casting. During the end credits, we ask: What is going on inside our heads?