When it comes to the whimsical world of Pixar, we’ve all come to expect a number of certain things going into the theatre. The studio set its template way back with Toy Story, and has been refining it ever since, taking the audience on a visually stunning journey of emotions.
Insert Inside Out, where the story is literally a journey of emotions.
As much as I’ve come to expect “feeling all the feels” when I watch each of Pixar’s adorable, animated characters embark on their classic hero’s journey, nothing quite prepared me for Inside Out.
The entire story takes place in the mind of Riley, a hockey-loving, 11-year-old girl whose memories are compiled mostly of happy ones. Managing the “headquarters” of her brain is Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black).
Riley’s emotions and orb-like memories, paired with a series of “islands,” like Goofball Island, Family Island, Friendship Island, etc., make up her personality.
The story focuses in on Joy and her quest to keep Riley happy. But when Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, her head goes through some changes – the major one being that her memories can switch emotions, which they seemingly have never done before. This is discovered after Sadness touches one of Riley’s core memories, changing it from happy to sad.
During an attempt to keep Sadness under control and Riley’s core memories intact, Joy and Sadness end up being thrown out of Riley’s headquarters and into a maze of her long-term memories. The two opposites have to find a way to work together and make it back to Riley’s frontal lobe before she runs away, back to Minnesota.
What’s so captivating about Inside Out is how the story weaves so seamlessly back and forth between an epic journey with over-the-top, colourful characters, and a simple story of a little girl dealing with a big, new change in her life.
When Riley attempts to run away, it’s because – literally – Anger, Fear, and Disgust are manning the desk.
And then there’s a scene where her imaginary friend, Bing Bong, sacrifices himself in order to allow Joy to make it back to headquarters. This part is so heartbreaking, for a moment I thought the writers were more sadists than geniuses. However, as emotional as it is, it beautifully illustrates the less definitive moment humans go through when we lose our goofy little quirks, and transition from kids to teenagers.
While the striking animation and unique plotline is enough to make this movie fantastic, it also sends a message that both kids and adults often need to hear: it’s ok to be sad.
Underneath the seemingly standard buddy quest for Joy and Sadness to get along, there’s a much larger realization spelled out for those of us who look at being sad as a debilitating emotion. Only after Joy allows Sadness to take the reigns does Riley begin to grow as a person. For the first time, Riley creates a memory that’s fused together with both joy and sadness, and suddenly, her memories hold more weight and meaning.
Humans have a silly way of trying to figure out how our heads work, and this movie spells it out in such a beautiful, comical, and logical way. We tend to complicate and over-think our problems, and to watch them play out with such simplicity is more than entertaining. It’s therapeutic.
Whether you’re a kid watching it as a fun, charming movie, a parent watching it as a cute glimpse into your child’s head, or just a person watching it, reflecting on what it was like to be 11, Inside Out is truly a remarkable story that anyone and everyone can appreciate.