Friday, January 20, 2017

Inside Out 2015

After another related work in Monsters University I had been hoping for something new and different from Pixar and I got it with Inside Out. Like Up and WALL-E, the title was maddeningly vague, and Pixar don't do a whole lot of detailed pre release work, because they don't need to. What I could get about Inside Out made it look like an animated version of Herman's Head.

Herman's Head was a fairly short lived sitcom that focused on average guy Herman and the four 'emotions' that lived in his head. Inside Out does a similar thing, only Riley is an 11 year old girl and she has five people that live in her head and control her emotions, thoughts and memories. They are Joy, who seems to be the leader, Sadness, who the other 4 (especially Joy) seem to try and marginalise, Fear, would have been known as Anxiety in an adult, Disgust, a trendsetter and Anger, a short squat fireplug whose head explodes and catches fire whenever riled up, which is often.

When Riley's Dad gets a new job in San Francisco and takes his family from Minnesota to California, the girl's life is turned upside down. She has to leave her friends and the life she's always known and start all over again at the other side of the country, being 11 and transitioning from childhood to puberty is hard enough without adding that on top of it.

Inside Out did something that I don't think Pixar had ever attempted before, it told 3 stories concurrently. There's the story of Joy and Sadness, accidentally removing themselves from headquarters and having to navigate Riley's mind to get back there and take control again, being helped, or hindered depending on how one looks at it, by Riley's old imaginary friend Bing Bong. An unusual character; a mix of cat and elephant with a bit of dolphin, composed on fairy floss and who cries tears of candy.

Story 2 concerns the remaining 3 emotions, trying to run the show on their own and generally doing quite badly at it, especially when Anger takes the reins.

And the 3rd story is that of Riley dealing with the outside world and her own life, as well as her relationship with her parents. On that note, Pixar finally did some realistic looking people. The temptation would have been to focus on Mum's glasses or Dad's moustache and make them into caricatures, but they didn't. While I think Disney benefited more from Pixar's expertise than Pixar did from Disney's, the partnership between the two may have helped with animating people.

For the first time I think they actually 'killed' a character, with Bing Bong being lost and disappearing in the memory dump. The journey through Riley's mind was an adventure in creativity with abstract thought, the world of imagination, dreams and subconscious all making an appearance, and I almost forgot the train of thought. I did also appreciate Riley's imaginary boyfriend from Canada.

Inside Out took chances and it reminded audiences that the company could still produce intelligent, amusing films that appealed all both children and adults for different reasons. It is a joy to watch and for me actually improved on rewatches. It was a welcome return to form.

One thing I did find interesting was that when we got a peek into other people's heads they had the same 5 people, but they all had a characteristic of their host in common (Dad's all had moustaches, a teenage boy's all had his curly hair, a classmate of Riley's had the blue streak in their hair) and they were all the same gender as their host, but Riley's had no distinguishing feature in common and they were also of different genders, with Joy, Sadness and Disgust all being female and Fear and Anger being male. It may change when they press the Puberty button which appears at the end which Joy dismisses as not being important.


Getting the emotions right was important and Amy Poehler was a great choice as Joy, the character being similar to the one that made her name in Parks and Recreation. I suspect Phyllis Smith's Sadness was not unlike the character she played on The Office. Diane Lane and Kyle Maclachlan were a good pair as Mum and Dad, and I could see them playing the same roles if they'd done a live action version of the film.

A Pixar stalwart in Richard Kind got the biggest role he'd had since A Bug's Life as Bing Bong. John Ratzenberger's cameo as Fritz passed almost unnoticed, and to be honest this time I wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't appeared at all.

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