A swashbuckling return to form for Pixar Animation Studios which in the last few years had been through a rough phase while trying to recover from the very first failure it tasted back in 2011, Inside Out arrives as a strong jolt of freshness from the talented minds responsible for groundbreaking classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille & WALL·E, begins the studio’s long-awaited resurgence towards its lost glory, and in the process also reaffirms why Pixar is the most beloved, respected & greatest animation studio on the planet.
One of the most original, creative, intelligent, stunning & brightest ideas to come out from Pixar’s repertoire in a very long time, Inside Out is an amalgamation of everything that has contributed to the famed studio’s rise to its now celebrated status, for their latest feature brims with ample dosage of an intriguing concept, engaging storyline, incredibly rich characters, sincerely felt emotions, gorgeous photography, breathtaking animation, stellar voice-cast & evocative score, and to top it all, it manages to find just the right balance between all of these aspects to succeed as a film that delivers on most fronts.
A heartfelt tale about the very difficulties of growing-up, Inside Out follows Riley Anderson, a young girl whose life hits a bumpy road when she is uprooted from her Midwest life in Minnesota after her father begins a new job in San Francisco. Like everyone else, within her mind are five manifestations of her emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust & Fear, all of whom work together to influence her actions & memories. But when Riley struggles to adjust to her new city, house & school, conflict ensues within her mind as every emotion tries its best to help her navigate through this tough phase while Joy tries to keep things positive.
Co-written & directed by Pete Docter, Inside Out hits a third consecutive home-run for the director of Monsters, Inc. & Up, for it not only works as an inventive & imaginative feature film from the creative filmmaker but also succeeds as one of the most ambitious & audacious film projects undertaken by Pixar. However, the real breakthrough isn’t in the film’s reimagining of what goes on in the mind when emotions take over but its execution on the film canvas, at which it does an excellent job. The script wonderfully intertwines the two storylines set within the same picture; one concerning Riley while other following her five emotions.
It is quite evident that an extensive amount of research was done beforehand to bring its story to life in an accurate manner, scientifically. The entire depiction of thought process or the different personalities existing in the mind or how short-term memories are transformed into long-term memories are some of the many things that make an instant impression. Also, these elements are further coated with Pixar’s patented ability to think outside the box in an effort to introduce such complex ideas to its viewers in an easily relatable way. Even the emotions are cleverly imagined, designed & rendered on the screen, and it’s quite easy to identify them from their shape & colour alone!
The technical aspects are as refined as every other Pixar film. Production Design team does a spectacular job in creating the world for the emotions to reside in & has a simple enough structure that doesn’t require much explanation for how it works. Cinematography makes expert use of its camera to illustrate the actions taking place inside & outside the mind. The colour palette makes fab use of five different hues, each associated with a certain emotion, whose shades are applied to the whole world within the mind. Editing unfolds its narrative steadily & its 94 minutes runtime flies by. Lastly, the background score by Michael Giacchino is no match to his earlier soundtracks for Pixar films but it’s fitting, mesmerising & beautifully evocative.
The voice cast comprises of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind & others, and continues Pixar’s tradition of putting together an ensemble that infuses new life into its animated characters. Poehler voices Joy; Riley’s main & most vital emotion who’s the presumed leader of the emotions, and tries to keep Riley in a happy state. Smith is the voice of Sadness whose purpose other emotions are unable to comprehend. Black is in as Anger yet he’s the one who provides the most comic relief. Kaling is Disgust & does a good job in her given role, while Hader’s voice represents Fear. And out of these five emotions, the ones who end up impressing the most are Joy & Sadness, for Poehler & Smith, thanks to their spot-on chemistry, are the soul of Inside Out.
But despite getting most things right, Inside Out isn’t without its flaws as there are a couple of elements that don’t really work out in its favour. First is its attempt at humour that aims for a childlike tone yet ends up feeling quite childish at times as if the writers were trying too hard to provide it a funny dimension and while the story packs some genuinely amusing moments, much of its slapstick humour comes off as forced. Also, there’s a friction between its juvenile-oriented humour & its subject matter that happens to be more inclined towards grown-ups, which hinders the overall enjoyment on few occasions.
On an overall scale, Inside Out is without a doubt Pixar’s strongest output since Toy Story 3 that promises a roller-coaster ride of emotions to viewers of all ages & effortlessly delivers it. The story has all the ingredients that this studio is best known for, including their uncanny ability to balance the emotional weight of its drama with outrageous moments of comedy, and is an instant classic that will be cherished for decades to come. While the optimism that Joy is able to find in the smallest of things instantly makes us smile, it’s the depiction of Sadness & why it’s as pivotal as every other emotion is the element that leaves the most lasting impression. In addition to that, the thorough & thoughtful depiction of how any particular emotion can trigger an unexpected behavioural change never fails to amaze. All in all, this is the Pixar I fell in love with & it’s immensely satisfying to watch this remarkable studio get back on its feet. Because the world is certainly a much better place with Pixar in it. So don’t miss out on the chance to meet the little voices inside your head, for Inside Out is an essential viewing of the year.