Pixar have knocked it out of the park with new film Inside Out (2015), which premièred at Cannes earlier this year. Directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen have crafted a cerebral comedy, loaded with smart, witty humour and a great deal of meta-emotional intelligence. The story opens with the birth of Riley. At the same time, Joy (Amy Poehler) pops into being inside of Riley’s head. Joy is a blue-haired Tinker Bell, bouncing around Riley’s head full of a lust for life.
Joy is shortly joined by Sadness (Phyllis Smith), a turtle-necked mope. As well as these two anthropomorphic emotions, we also meet Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). These walking, talking emotions have the job of crafting Riley’s personality as well as organising her core memories (in a system that looks like a cross between a pinball machine and Candy Crush). There’s a lot of humour to be found in the conflict of emotions, with Sadness mopping about the brain’s colourful headquarters.
Things are running smoothly in the 11-year-old’s brain until her parents decide to move to San Francisco. This sends her emotions into chaos and in a tussle between Sadness and Joy core memories are lost, sending them on an adventure across the brain to get things back on track, leaving Fear, Anger and Disgust in charge of running the show. The world that Docter and Del Carmen have created is incredibly sharp and oft-hilarious. The cerebral theme park that Joy and Sadness travel across is full of wit, where the emotions ride a thought-train and walk through a land dubbed ‘Abstract Thought’, becoming deconstructed the deeper they go in (“Oh no, we’re non-figurative”). The two emotions are also joined by Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), who guides them on their journey that when he bursts into tears cries candies and travels about on a song-powered rocket. The worlds created are reminiscent of those found in Wreck-it Ralph, showing that the Disney side of Pixar have clearly learned from the mistakes of the recent past.
On occasion, we travel into other character’s brains, seeing the inside of the parent’s heads, which makes for a brilliant three- way psychoanalysis of how each person views the same situation. All of this is achieved with the signature levels of emotional intelligence that Pixar are renowned for. The level of detail with which they have created this world is staggering, with each aspect of the psyche carefully thought out, with a personal favourite being a ‘Dream Factory’ – a Hollywood studio set, decked out with film Saul Bass styled posters for nightmares and dreams and rainbow tailed unicorn that struts about the place like a Hollywood A-lister. The success of Inside Out is no doubt in part from reinventing the achievements of the previous Pixar hits. The voices inside of Riley’s head behave in a way similar to that of Woody and Buzz, always looking out for the best interests of the child. It’s quite simply a triumph and one of post-Toy Story Pixar’s best, sitting next to 2009’s Up in terms of heart. The message it gives is also of a beautiful simplicity, teaching kids (and adults) that you can’t be happy all the time and that it’s all right to feel sad.
Joe Walsh | @JosephDAWalsh