Inside Out

Release: Friday, June 19, 2015


Written by: Pete Docter; Meg LeFauve; Josh Cooley

Directed by: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen

Spoiler alert: Inside Out is an emotional rollercoaster.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s another kicker: it’s being extremely well-received. But you probably already know that. Pixar’s latest can’t escape comparisons to the studio’s paragons of the late ’90s and early 2000s, and why should it even try? The likes of Toy Story and Up may have the nostalgia factor working for them but it’s hard to recall a(n animated) film that embraces such an abstract concept like trying to personify emotions while ostensibly marketing it to a young audience — an audience, mind you, who unfortunately may not fully appreciate the value thereof. Inside Out could very well be that rare experience where the attendant adult viewer gets more out of the film than their children.

Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) is 11 years old and her father has just taken a new job, relocating the family from the comforts of their Minnesota home, where she learned to play hockey, to the unfamiliar urban sprawl of San Francisco. The transitional period is ripe for displaying the emotional development of a child trying to come to terms with what’s happening to and around them.

For as long as Riley can remember, Joy (Amy Poehler) has defined who she is. But there are other feelings now coming into play: there’s Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (a perfectly cast Lewis Black). Inside Out jumps into the recesses of Riley’s mind to create an endearing, if not simplified, model for how emotions dictate our responses to certain situations. In crucial moments, it refocuses attention on Riley’s exterior as the emotions manifest themselves in her facial expressions.

Having been a part of Riley from a very early age, Joy likes to run things in ‘Headquarters.’ It’s never a good thing when Sadness happens to touch a memory, each of which are wrapped up in color-coded, spherical orbs that roll down a track and are stored on a kind of library shelf. The other emotions wittily banter amongst themselves, determined to find their roles. At headquarters they have at their disposal Riley’s core memories (look, but don’t touch!), and they oversee a landscape that includes five different personality ‘islands’ as well as Imagination Land, Abstract Thought and a revolving door of indefinable (at least to those without a degree in psychology) characters and features responsible for shaping Riley’s mental state. Perhaps the easiest one to embrace is the Train of Thought.

Inside Out balances out ambition with a focused, decidedly simplistic conflict. Once again Pete Docter proves that with profoundly touching, universal themes comes Pixar’s responsibility to present them with narrative clarity and an obligation to avoid convolution. Or boring the viewer with cliches and lazy execution. The internal struggle (literally and figuratively speaking) occurs when Joy and Sadness are ejected from Headquarters after Sadness touches one of Riley’s core memories, tinting it blue accordingly. In an effort to prevent further damage at the hands of Fear, Anger and Disgust who remain at the control center, the unlikely pair must journey across this whacky landscape and restore balance. In the process, Joy realizes that she’s not the only emotion with a crucial role to play in the shaping of Riley’s future; every emotion is necessary. Even Sadness.

Laden with gorgeous animation and sparky personality — Black may be the best suited to his character given his generally blustery personality — Inside Out manages to strike rare emotional depths with its portrayal of a young child torn between feeling hopeless and hopeful. San Francisco, particularly her first day at her new school, throws her a curveball she’s not ready to swing at. And yet, thanks to the film’s unique perspective, we see she’s ultimately equipped with the tools to overcome. This is the stuff that perhaps those who have already endured the turbulence of childhood will identify with easier. But let’s get one thing straight: moving, at any phase in one’s life, is a challenge. And before you believe the film has covered all the bases, it hints at the next major stepping stone: adolescence.

Of course, younger viewers come to see animated films for more than the bright, shiny colors and goofy characters. They come to entertain their imagination, to laugh and feel all kinds of feely things, physical manifestations they can’t exactly explain for themselves. Kids understand well enough that Andy moving on from Buzz and Woody and all of his toys doesn’t create the best feeling in the world; they feel melancholic and maybe even pure sadness.

Inside Out boldly tackles that very phenomenon, breaking new ground by defining and giving character to core emotions that will eventually (and hopefully) transform generally happy children into well-adjusted adults. The ambition is probably too much for a lot of younger viewers to grasp, and I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t smart enough to get it. It’s just too natural to think that the average 11 year old won’t appreciate that Inside Out is an uncommonly perceptive production. They won’t realize how lucky they are to have a film like this at their disposal, at least not until they’ve grown up a bit more.

Recommendation: An emotional masterpiece, Inside Out gives some of the studio’s finest a run for their money in terms of conceptual complexity and character depth. Give this one a few years and making comparisons among Pixar’s classics will become an even more interesting conversation. Take your kids to see it of course, but be prepared for a quality and moving experience yourself. This is a film loaded with surprises. One of my favorites of the year. 

Rated: PG

Running Time: 94 mins.

Quoted: “All right, make a show of force. I don’t want to have to put the foot down . . .” / “No, not the foot!” 

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36 thoughts on “Inside Out

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  4. So glad to see you liked this so much! For me, the thing that counts against it? Animation. We’ve discussed what it is to get me to watch one. Maybe ONE DAY I will get to it lol, though it does sound pretty good 🙂


    • Whoops, overlooked this comment. Probably a hundred others too, Miss Zoe! You’ve come by and given DSB your full and undivided attention — so nice!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      I can understand your reluctance to go see something that’s animated. As you can tell they don’t often make it onto my blog, and I have to make sure that the ones I do go see are actually being praised by critics I quite trust. In the case of this, I was afraid it was going to be vastly overhyped, but this was truly good stuff.

      Do you like Toy Story by any chance?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No problem, this is what happens when I play catch up once in a blue moon xD

        Then you know what I mean!

        I am a MASSIVE Toy Story fan, I even saw the last one in cinema (!!!!!!!!!!!), but I have not watched them in years. I have watched two animations in the last four years, both for Cara’s blog xD I know, I am terrible.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Haha, well you know what you like! I can’t say animation is my go-to genre. If we want to call it a genre. I guess it’s more a style. There’s far more crap than there is good stuff. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Watched this in a preview screening a couple of days ago and loved it. Pixar has officially rediscovered its mojo. As always mate; this review tells it like it is and is damned hard to argue with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark thanks a lot for that man, motivational words indeed. I’m in the process of hopefully converting DSB into a money-making prospect so I apologize for my lack of contact recently. With any luck there’ll be some new contributions to this site within a week’s time. Getting pretty excited.

      As for this film, I couldn’t be more excited to have bought tickets for an animated flick. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that. Inside Out truly has lived up to the crazy hype, hasn’t it?


    • I eagerly await your thoughts! This is great, great stuff. It’s such a hit I’m surprised it didn’t get a global release on the same day. But I believe the wait will be worth it!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pixar reaffirms why they’re the best animated studio out there making animated films. Inside Out is a welcome return to cinema par excellence for the Pixar studio.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All the sentimentality I have for Toy Story is one day going to be matched by that I will have for this one. Inside Out is a complex, emotionally rich, and visually breathtaking achievement. It’s great.


    • It was incredibly emotional. I got pretty choked up at the end there; not so much *the* moment I think most people have been, but all the same I think the power of this film is something that grown ups will appreciate more, but kids are sure to have a fun time with it. I think it’s a strength of the movie that it embraces older and younger generations alike. I don’t know how Pixar keeps doing this.


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