When Pixar are at their best, and arguably they haven’t been for the last few years, they manage to tap into something deep within us all and touch both young and old alike. Whether it’s the opening montage of Up, the opening half an hour of Wall-E, or those closing moments in Toy Story 3 Pixar have given us some of the most magical moments in cinema over the last 20 years. Moments which have buried themselves in the consciousness of popular culture, elevating Pixar head and shoulders above the rest.
Pixar have often worked so well because they do tap into feelings that we can all relate to- the attachment to our childhood, the fear of the monsters in the closet etc. This time around they have gone straight for the jugular, opting to use an 11 year old girl, Riley, not as the key character in the movie but rather as a setting for the key characters in the movie.
The protagonists in Inside Out are the emotions in Riley’s head- Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger and Disgust, all of which come with their own little quirks and nuances. One day Joy and Sadness are accidentally removed from headquarters and end up lost in the outer regions of Riley’s long term memory. Their mission is simple, they must get back before all hell breaks lose, every moment they are away Riley begins to lose a little bit more of herself and her life begins to crumble. Having just moved school Riley is at a loose end and without her two main emotions there to keep her in track things can only get worse.
Inside Out works on a number of levels and perhaps one of the most astonishing is the correlation between the actions the emotions in Riley’s head have and the way that plays out in the real world. On one hand we have this gorgeously crafted world inside her brain, where every little detail has been thought out and on the other we have a very real life drama playing out in the world in which she lives and Pixar have once again managed to blow me away with their genius.
The exploration of things like abstract memory and the sub conscious are ingeniously crafted- turning rather intellectual ideas into something fun and accessible to children whilst also never patronising. Pixar have took themselves up to another level with their ideas here- showing a sophistication that other animations could only begin to dream of. Like they did in Monsters Inc Pixar here have shown off their world building capabilities- building a whole world inside the brain of Riley, with its own functioning systems and characters- all of which have their own little roles. The inclusion of things like the thought train and imaginationland are just the icing on top of a very very sweet cake.
With such a high concept Inside Out could have easily been a disaster, or at the very least it could have alienated children but Pixar have managed to craft such brilliant characters, all of whom are instantly iconic that children will fall in love with them in the same way they have done with Nemo and Buzz Lightyear, it will also send kids home asking their parents the right kind of questions, which is never a bad thing.
Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best films to date and if we’re being honest, that is quite the achievement. Easily one of the best films of 2015 so far Inside Out will entertain young and old alike and is destined to be talked about and rewatched for years to come. Pixar are back at their best, and this is nothing short of a masterpiece.