InsideOut-1It would be fair to say that public opinion of Pixar has waned in recent years following the studio producing and announcing a number of sequels to their most successful titles, with seemingly little concern for the fresh ideas that once characterised the mighty animation studio. That does look set to change this year, as after a year off in 2014, Pixar are hitting back with two original concepts in one year, The Good Dinosaur (due for release in November) and, of course, Inside Out. As I am sure many of you are aware, Inside Out has been an incredible success once again for the studio, being both a commercial and critical success, and for good reason, for it truly does encapsulate the ideals and calibre that we know Pixar are capable of, but haven’t delivered for quite a few years.

The film takes place in the mind of 11-year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), as we are introduced to emotions who help maintain Riley’s well-being; Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). For 11 years the good ship Riley has run smoothly under the control of Joy, crafting happy core memories and establishing distinct personality traits based on Family, Friendship, Honesty and Goofiness. But when Riley and her family leave home to move to San Francisco, Riley’s emotional development takes a turn for the worse as Joy and Sadness are ejected from the control room, leaving the Fear, Anger and Disgust in control. With Riley’s very personality at stake, Joy and Sadness must make the journey back to the control room, all the while, JoyI must learn the importance of other emotions in the development of ones self and well-being.

 

Inside Out comes courtesy of Pete Docter, the man behind previous Pixar hits Monsters Inc and Up. His two previous efforts stand as two of the most imaginative and heartfelt pieces of animation that the studio, heck the industry, has had to offer in the past 20 years, and here Docter makes it three for three. The high concept energy of Monsters Inc can most certainly be felt in the spirited opening as we are introduced to the workings of Riley’s control room, accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s beautiful and plucky score. What particular works well in juxtaposition is the clear effort to construct two very distinct styles between Riley’s real world and the world inside her mind; the real world being a little duller, with even the odd moment of shaky cam, while the world inside her mind is bright colourful and vibrant.

Where the film is at its most successful though is in its balance between playfulness and emotion. Riley’s story of moving to a new town is something I’m sure many people can relate to, but what allows most of the emotional beats to work is the sheer likeability of nearly every character on screen. It would take the coldest of hearts not to be moved by the relationship between Joy and Sadness, as well as the character of Bing Bong (Richard Kind) Riley’s long forgotten imaginary friend. Pixar have always been capable of pathos and with dealing with emotional issues that are important for children to face, and here the key concern is letting its audience know that it’s ok to be sad sometimes, InsideOut-3demonstrating how being sad may be the only way to truly over come an event in ones life. These messages are told clearly, but never in a condescending fashion and work due to the spot on voice casting and Giacchino’s theme, which can flirt between playful and melancholic effortlessly, much in the same way as his score for Up.  

Pixar were in great need of a big hit, both with critics and audiences (although, they have hardly been struggling financially, the up-side of producing sequels), Inside Out has provided that and then some. It contains that unique energy and creativity that has been somewhat lacking from Pixar efforts as of late. Inside Out is near perfect, if I have any gripes it is that the road trip aspect of the plot does feel a little trite, but the spot-on casting of Poehler as Joy and Smith as Sadness help to propel these moments, which still provide the film with some rich detailing of the high concept world of Riley’s mind.

The Good Dinosaur has a rather tough act to follow, as the shadow of Inside Out is sure to be a long one for quite sometime. Important lessons are taught, visuals are impressionable, and the story relate-able. Inside Out represents InsideOut-4not just a studio working to their best ability, but also comes to stand as one of the stronger original projects currently playing in cinemas. Holding the record for most impressive opening for an original story, Inside Out already has established its place as one of the hits of the year, and I would be none too surprised to see award buzz around the end of the year. While Pixar’s upcoming slate is coloured with sequels, Inside Out has restored a great deal of faith in the notion that they are a studio which keep story and character at heart.

5/5- The definition of ‘instant classic’; Inside Out is a pure joy for celebrating the complexity of human emotion. This is the Pixar we know.

 

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