Prepare to give Sadness full control of headquarters!
Back in 1995, Pixar revolutionized animation in ways no one had ever imagined with the first CG animated feature film, Toy Story. Regardless of how impressive the technology was at the time, the reason why Toy Story and so many of Pixar’s other films continue to be beloved and cherished by both children and adults alike is because they always emphasize story, characters, and emotional investment. Pixar had been on a continuous winning streak with a slew of emotionally complex family-friendly films, sweeping the Best Animated Feature award at the Oscars for over a decade, with films like Up and Toy Story 3 even going on to receive Best Picture nods. But with Cars 2 becoming the studio’s first critical and commercial dud, and Brave being a sub-standard, conventional retread of tired Disney tropes, it seemed as if Pixar began to forget what exactly made its movies so special in the first place. With Inside Out, Pixar has gone above and beyond in order to reclaim its former glory.
Inside Out centers on Riley, an 11-year-old girl who’s undergoing some significant life-changes, and the emotions that live inside her head, who each influence her current emotional state: Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), along with Riley’s childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind).
A stellar lineup.
Let’s get the obvious things out of the way quickly so we can spend more time discussing what truly makes this movie as special as it is. The animation is gorgeous — no surprise there. The voice acting is top notch: every voice fits the personality of the character, and never once do they feel out of place. Again, not surprising from a Pixar film.
While the concept of personifying emotions has been done before, the film does so much more than just that. More than merely an examination of how emotions operate, Inside Out explores several other aspects of psychology, from dreams to abstract thinking to forgotten memories, in ways that are not only funny and creative, but also extremely intelligent representations of such concepts. For as consistently entertaining, clever, and inventive as Inside Out is throughout, it’s not until you discover the beautifully poetic life messages that the film has to offer that it elevates itself to a much more personal and emotionally resonant level.
“Um… would you be alright with me taking over for the next hour or so?”
While characters such as Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Bing Bong might be the ones most people will instantly latch onto due to their highly animated (no pun intended) personalities, the character who truly makes this film as impactful and as psychologically profound as it is, is Sadness. Much like in reality for most people, the character of Sadness is treated as nothing more than a burden — a stupid, useless emotion that has no purpose in life and only makes everything worse. The real negative of that notion, ironically, is that so many people don’t realize how instrumental it is to allow themselves to experience sadness. These hard-to-articulate ideals are something I have always taken closely to heart. Seeing a movie convey the essences of those ideas so perfectly was more than enough to bring tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.
While it may feel cheesy and expected to say that a movie about emotions makes you feel emotions, Inside Out unquestionably earns the right to that statement. It is a beautiful, funny, and emotionally mature outing from Pixar, and come next Oscar season, Inside Out will undoubtedly be joining Up and Toy Story 3 as one of the few animated movies to be nominated for Best Picture.
Article by contributor Mike Pisacano. For more Pixar-related articles on LaserTime from yours truly, check out my thoughts on why Toy Story 4 shouldn’t happen.