It's not often that you can enter a film with high expectations, only to have them exceeded. Inside Out is a Pixar film directed by Pete Doctor (Up, Monsters Inc.), which was all the hype that I needed. that is an impressive resume from an outstanding team.
Warning: This is a spoiler-filled reaction to Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it yet, go fix that and come back.
I happened to be in Disney World the weekend of it's release. The park was surprisingly light in memorabilia, although there was nothing for Tomorrowland whatsoever. To be fair, I visited the park the summer after Frozen debuted, and they couldn't keep up. I imagine forecasting can be tough for them. I did see a little for each emotion (Anger, more than others), but I noticed Bing Bong more than any other character. Perhaps I noticed him due to my own intrigue, or perhaps Disney knew he would be a crowd favorite.
It's almost easy to give Pixar a dismissal for telling two very simply stories, but they execute the two tales so well. They use universal stories of a journey and a childhood move that add up to something much more. What’s more, they build an incredible world of the mind that is easy to understand, yet surprisingly deep.
Inside Out is tells an incredibly complex story about psychology in a way that entertains and makes the audience think about their own emotions. Of course, it also succeeds in making us cry profusely. That comes with the territory of such heartfelt and universal stories. We've had the experiences of going through emotionally challenging times. We've been expected to stay positive, and encouraged others to be happy. Who hasn't been asked to put on a brave face for their parents? Who hasn’t felt like a life change meant losing a part of themselves? Perhaps you’ve even felt as if one emotion wouldn’t relinquish control of your mind.
Some people never seem to progress beyond Joy's view in the beginning of the movie. We start with the believe that we should always be happy. As often happens, we need to be led down a long path to understanding the truth about the connection between Joy and Sadness. It’s not obvious that the contrast can heighten the experience, and that we need sadness.
We may need sadness, but that does necessarily make things easier…
Any movie could make us tear up by showing the embodiment of happiness cry; but Pixar gave us the one-two punch in following that with Riley's imaginary friend sacrifice himself so that Riley can be happy again (I was not prepared). As a society, we marvel at the John Lasseters who have seemingly kept their childlike spirit alive, but it was so touching to see a visual representation of growing up emotionally. It's hard to grow up and get that big control board.
I was also impressed with how each of the five emotions are depicted. We see what happens when Fear, Anger, and Disgust go unbalanced, yet we also see their importance. Lesser movies would have minimized them, or used them for comedy as necessary.
I've spoken with a number of adults that aren't sure if kids would enjoy Inside Out. I believe that this has to do with the strength of the story, as well as the film’s additional depth. This may even be new ground for Pixar. We're pulled in and told a story that resonates at such a personal level. Without reminders that we haven't heard a burping joke in a while, it’s hard to remember that this is marketed as family entertainment. Other studios have demonstrated that they can create art at this level, and the competition is stronger than before, but Inside Out reminds us that nobody does it better than Pixar.
Side note: Lava seems to be a polarizing short (at least on Twitter). Perhaps that has to do with the visual style that is familiar. Disney and Pixar often seem to use these shorts as proving grounds for directors, as well as new techniques of visual styles (Paperman, The Blue Umbrella, Feast). Also, perhaps the reliance on music rubs fans the wrong way. Songs are used sparingly in most Pixar shorts and feature films. Perhaps this is an echo of our backlash on animated musicals, or perhaps the story didn't work for everyone else. Either way, I enjoyed it, and I haven't been able to get that ukulele out of my head.
Hmm.... Perhaps its the earworm driving people