Inside Out


When civilisation falls and mankind has nothing better to do than sit around bonfires in a dystopian wasteland and discuss “best of lists”, when the conversation inevitably comes around to Pixar you’ll surely hear all the usual suspects thrown up for consideration – a Toy Story here, an Incredibles there and then someone nervously suggests Cars 2 and is summarily clubbed and eaten…
However, if you do find yourself in such a dark timeline, throwing your hat into the ring with the confident suggestion of Inside Out should help you survive the vast majority of this list based, Mad Max style existence without barely any clubbing and certainly no cannibalism inflicted upon your person.
The reason? Even bloodthirsty, Pixar obsessed cannibals from a futuristic barbarian wasteland knows that Inside Out is utterly freakin’ flawless.


Young Riley is fast approaching her teens, but instead of enjoying life as an uncomplicated eleven year old who loves hockey, her life has been upheaved by the fact that her family has decided to uproot themselves and move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Needless to say, this naturally causes a stream of conflicting emotions to cascade through through her head – but what are the emotions that are running through the heads of her emotions?
Meet Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger, the emotions that man the control panels in all of our heads and define all of our feelings and memories like it was a highly stressful nine to five and top dog in the office is undoubtedly Joy, an eternally upbeat emotion who rules over the other emotions with a chirpy, cheerful fist. Certainly, the other emotions have their parts to play; Anger is good for tantrums, Disgust is perfect for being picky and Fear is almost pathologically careful; but no one has really figured out what Sadness is for except moping in a lump in the corner – but during the trauma of Riley’s move, tension between Joy and Sadness ratchets up a notch when the frowning emotion accidently turns an all-important core memory from a happy one to a sad. This starts a chain reaction that sees both Joy and Sadness accidentally transported from the control room, all the way over to the other side of Riley’s mindscape which causes numerous problems.
Left with the three emotions who are least qualified to help her process her feelings about all this monumental change, Riley is in great danger of slipping into depression, or worse yet, feeling nothing at all and no matter what Fear, Anger and Disgust try, it just makes matters worse. It’s now up to Joy and Sadness, along with forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong, to make the perilous journey back through abstract thought, the subconscious and the dreaded memory dump before a despondent Riley runs away from home. But all of this will be for naught if Joy can’t let go of the control issues she has that hold the control room in an iron grip and let other emotions take the wheel.


Without a shadow of a doubt, Inside Out us about as emotionally complex as kid’s movies get and while this rainbow candy coloured epic can be candidly boiled down to “feelings have feelings”, director Pete Docter gives us a ferociously intelligent movie that ingeniously hides its huge intellect behind a stunning buddy movie that boasts near bottomless invention.
Nevermind the fact that the movie’s central message is essentially “it’s ok to be sad” (a truly mind blowing concept for a lot of adults to process, let alone a child), or the fact that it breaks down multitudes of complex psychology in order to pull off a plot twist or even a throwaway joke, Inside Out digs deep in its quest to move us to laugh, cry and openly wonder how on earth this movie is supposed to be for children.
Take our lead character, Joy, a perennially positive, pixie haired go-getter voiced by Amy Poehler at the height of her Parks And Recreation powers who, if created by any other studio, would undoubtedly be an uncomplicated protagonist who’s mission statement is to keep that smile affixed even during the darkest moments. However, Docter understands that Joy, in her desperate acts to keeps things unnaturally happy, is a actually a total control freak, who passively aggressively gaslights her comrades into getting her way and it is she who is dire need of the life lesson, not Sadness.


Elsewhere, the movie tackles some extreme, heart breaking stuff – not unsurprising considering it contains an eleven year old wrestling with depression – but possibly none more harrowing than the fate of Richard Kind’s initially excruciating imaginary friend, candyfloss/elephant chimera, Bing Bong, whose gut punching sacrifice ranks extraordinarily high on the all time list of Pixar’s emotionally scaring moments. However, these moments if piledriving heaviness are skillfully balanced by some incredible humour that comes armed with some of the most sublime running gags Pixar’s ever hit us with that contains everything from an imaginary boyfriend generator (he’s from Canada, naturally), to a reoccurring jingle that gets stuck in everyone’s heads, to (best yet) the reveal that both of Riley’s parents also have the same console manning emotions lurking in their heads and the mother’s repeatedly use a fallback memory of a Brazilian helicopter pilot everytime dad messes up.
The voice cast, refreshingly free of any stunt casting, is on point with such names as The Office’s Phyllis Smith and Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Kyle Maclachlan and Diane Lane all doing sterling work and the visuals are obviously on point with the emotions seeming to have the look of glittery, cosmic felt and vastly complicated concepts being smartly realised by some nicely intuitive world building.
But all the praise in the world simply can’t eclipse the sheer scope of what Pixar has accomplished here and has produced a movie that not only excites, entertains and moves people, but Inside Out has another, incredibly valuable life as a tool to teach young people (and some old) exactly how to articulate and recognize emotions during a period in their lives where pinning down exactly what they’re feeling and how to process it is virtually impossible – you can’t say that about Shrek The Fourth or whatever number the Ice Age movies got up to…


An absolutely incredible achievement in animated filmmaking, Inside Out may be, conceptually speaking, Pixar’s greatest movie to date that nails its complex themes while still delivering all the goodies the studio regularly delivers.
Thank you Pixar, it’s been emotional.


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