Inside Out: all the feels

By Hina Ichigo2

Turning on YouTube, I notice several characters from Pixar’s latest offering crammed inside a Subway advert. “Craving a delicious Subway sandwich can stir up all kinds of emotions!”

Yeah. Emotions such as “I thought Pixar were better than this.”

But it wasn’t just the nauseating product placement that had me worried about Pete Docter’s latest CGI children’s fantasy. The subject of emotionality is one hell of a broad and complex topic – reducing it to the level of a Toy Story look-alike seemed not only risky, but belittling to the entire concept and all its creative potential. I questioned how the five main characters – each one portraying a different emotion – could simultaneously stay true to their prescribed feeling, and yet develop as three-dimensional characters within themselves.

Inside Out, however, proves itself to be up there with the highest calibre Pixar classics. Docter, in keeping with his previous directorial efforts (Monsters Inc. and Up), has produced a fantasy that is simultaneously frivolous and full to the brim with passionate depth: something that will have younger viewers laughing and engaged, whilst immersing older viewers in a world of beauty, intricacy and – most importantly of all – bittersweet emotion.

As with every good, original children’s fantasy, it’s the attention to detail that sets it apart. Taking place inside the mind of eleven-year-old Riley, whose world is unexpectedly shaken up when the family moves house, our conceptual protagonists exist in a control room not dissimilar to the Starship Enterprise’s bridge, complete with control panel and panoramic windows. Outside headquarters lies the vast landscape of Riley’s mind, populated by towering shelves of memories, psychedelic realms devoted to imagination and subconscious, and even a set of Hollywood-esque studios where dreams are acted out and filmed.

The superb backdrop is solidified by how well the analogy holds

The superb backdrop is solidified by how well the analogy holds. Every night when Riley falls asleep, the day’s memories (which take the form of little coloured balls) get sent away to be stored in the memory shelves. Meanwhile, during her REM cycles, dreams are broadcast onto the mind’s eye via a film projector. There’s even a literal ‘train of thought’, complete with disgruntled guards and drivers.

Whilst, to the figurative characters, Riley appears as a huge machine, a thing to be controlled and driven, on the outside she is human and relateable. Docter manages to strike a perfect balance, whereby none of the internal emotions take on the exact personality of their host human, and yet as a team they convincingly represent the essence of their psyche. At times they appear more like guardian angels; at others more like a dysfunctional office clique, but their devotion to their assigned child’s wellbeing shines through: an obvious – but sufficiently original – Toy Story parallel.

Easily the film’s biggest triumph is the interaction between Joy (voiced perfectly by Amy Poehler) and Sadness. Initially sceptical of her purpose, Joy frequently shuns Sadness and tries to keep her at bay. The film’s dénouement comes about upon Joy’s revelation that, actually, being sad at times has its uses, and the result is both heartbreaking and touching. Only Pixar, with its superior wit and depth, could ever hope to produce such a forward-thinking happy ending to a children’s film, where tears are not a sign of weakness or malice, but one of solidarity, of emotional wholeness. It is hard to imagine a preteen coming-of-age film with a more perfect message. Pixar, once again, have set the bar incredibly high.

Complemented by flawless visuals, a rock solid cast and gripping storyline, Pixar have succeeded in creating something fun, philosophical and ultimately beautiful, with moments of laugh out loud humour and tear-jerking rawness. And with the team’s discovery of a ‘puberty’ button in the final scenes, it seems highly likely we may be treated to Inside Out 2.


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