If you have had the opportunity to watch the wonderful documentary, The Pixar Story you will perhaps have some sense of the work that goes into the films produced by those working at Pixar. Recent lacklustre efforts aside (Brave, Monsters University) Pixar films are so exhaustively prepared that the films have rapidly transcended its young audience remit and are simply excellent films in their own right.
Their latest effort, Inside Out, is truly stunning, both in terms of visuals and narrative and emotional depth. The film’s central conceit is simultaneously wondrously simple and complex. The film imagines that each person’s emotions are controlled by anthropomorphic representations of the following emotions: joy, fear, disgust, anger and sadness. These emotions sit at a control desk in which they decide how their prescribed human will navigate their daily life.
The film focuses its attentions on Riley, an 11 year old whose life, thus far, has been predominantly joyful, largely due to the efforts of lead emotion Joy (Amy Poehler) herself, whose only ambition and desire is to ensure that the young Riley has a good day. Joy has been pleased with the success of Riley’s life up to this juncture: working happily with the other emotions but maintaining overall control to ensure that the happy moments outweigh the sad, or fearful. Until this point in her young life Riley has little to worry about, but this changes when her father’s job compels the family to move to San Francisco. Joy, along with the other emotions struggle with this new challenge, trying to maintain Riley’s emotional well being proves to be difficult when she is removed from her friends, and her familiar surroundings.
The sheer depth of Inside Out is not only impressive, but truly profound. Take for instance Riley’s first moments of life: it is Joy that is with her first, moments before Sadness arrives in order for Riley to signal her physical needs and wants. Pixar is suggesting something rather wonderful here: there is little need initially for baby Riley to signal any other emotion that joy or sadness, it is only as she develops and grows that her emotional needs too develop.
Similarly, the decision to signal Riley’s personal development into the person she is through ‘islands’ including ‘goofball island’, ‘friendship island’ and ‘family island’ is quite beautiful,; suggesting that the person that you become is inherently influenced by those that you connect with.
Some may and have critiqued Inside Out for its perceived failure to truly connect with a young audience, but that entirely misses the point. Inside Out is not a film that is simply aimed at children, and to comment as such is to diminish its achievement.