Pixar’s Inside Out – (simply loaded with spoilers)

Wall-E set son No. 2, on the road to a career in film animation, and my husband must have watched Toy Story a thousand times, but here’s an heretical statement for you:  I’m not a big fan of Pixar’s work.  If Pixar is the God of computer animation then I’m verging on pixelated atheism.

I don’t think I like where she’s going with this Anger – shall I push the pause button? 
Geez pipe down Fear, We’re talking a stupid article for a blog that isn’t even a blip on the blogging radar.

I didn’t get UP (as in the film, not the physical process.)  The time lapsed opening sequence pulled at the heartstrings for sure, if you were of a certain age that is, but then things rapidly fell off the normality radar.  On arrival at Paradise Falls we met a giant, multi-coloured ostrich/dodo named Kevin, a bunch of talking dogs (aided by some kind of voice box device) and a loony, geriatric ex-famous explorer.  It all got strangely hectic and very, very confusing.

That fast forward through a happy marriage was so sad though.  I couldn’t stop crying.
And those balloons Sadness, like thousands of colourful blobs of happiness!!

Ok, ok, go easy on the joy there Joy.

One viewing of UP seemed to be enough.  Ditto The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Wall-E.   Even the ground breaking, lauded Toy Story left me feeling somewhat out in the cold from the Pixar fold.  Woody just seemed too lanky and too long in the face for a lovable cartoon character.

Right!!, I’ve had enough of this – Toy Story is a CLASSIC – who does she think she is?  I mean we are?!
You said it Anger – no respect, it’s disgusting.

Disney and Pixar merged in 2006, lending some of the Disney branding to the Pixar name, but there any resemblance ends.  Disney animation focuses on well-loved fairy tales and classic children’s books.  Pixar does its own crazy thing.  Why wouldn’t a disease ridden, gutter dwelling rat have aspirations for renowned chef-dom?  – and be smarter than the human lot.

She can’t talk about Remy like that……Huh, Huh, Huh….. I, I, I’m hyperventilating, where’s my brown paper bag.
You won’t be breathing at all when I get hold of you!!!

Pixar is all about family values so it made perfect Pixarian sense that The Incredibles would feature your average American suburban family (2.2 kids), who just happen to be superheroes – all of them.  And if you’re going to make a movie out in space, then why not throw in a metallic ET along with some pertinent social commentary on the obesity problem in the West.

Yes the Pixar brand comes with some pretty mind bending but cute weirdness.

And so to Inside Out, which I went to see yesterday, on the strength of jaw droppingly brilliant reviews.  A film about an 11 year old girl called Riley and her five dominant emotions – Anger, Fear, Disgust, Joy and Happiness, who live in headquarters (head’ quarters – get it? –  I nearly didn’t) inside her brain.

Finally, enough with the boring Pixar critique already.

Let’s get one obvious detail out of the way first, shall we?  Pixar knicked The Numskulls idea (1963) from The Beezer/Beano, a beloved comic strip from my childhood, and transferred it to San Francisco.

What?!!!   Right let me at her.  I can blow my top right now and blowtorch this thing into cinders.  Calling me a numbnuts is she?
I think she said numskulls Anger, but I could be wrong – please don’t hit me.

The numskulls lived inside a nameless bloke’s head and controlled his bodily functions – they didn’t represent his emotions but, even so, it’s looking like the same idea don’t you think?   And I should mention Fantastic Voyage (1966) in passing too, the famous Sci-Fi film where a submarine and its crew are miniaturised so they can be injected into a man’s body and travel through his system to find a blood clot in his brain; rather like Joy and Sadness’s quest to get back to headquarters after accidentally getting sucked into a memory tube thing, which takes them into the surreal realm of Riley’s brain.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s completely forget about The Beezer/Beano and ‘60s Sci-Fi, and focus on the stuff that happens in this film which is so uniquely Pixarian.

This is a kids film, but Pixar never make films for the kids, even if they do make films for the kids.  Yes, I know  –  they made films about talking toys (every kid’s dream) and cute fish and cute robots but those films most definitely had the adult demographic in mind.  Inside Out gives us a Riley interior landscape filled with the scary Subconscious, the Train of Thought (an actual train), Imagination world and Dream world.  A massive, colourful data storage system filled with long term memories (in the form of luminescent globes.)  There’s a friendship island, a family island, an honesty island, a goofball island, a hockey island – all the things that make up Riley the girl, and also make up exactly the kind of weird world that Pixar do so well (and it’s done particularly well here.)

After an opening segment to rival that of UP, we are introduced to Riley’s 5 emotions (there are more, as we all know, but more would have complicated the issue.)  We are given glimpses of Mum and Dad’s inner crew but it’s Riley’s emotional squad who are the stars of this show.

Riley is forced to move from snowy, countrified Minnesota to a built up and dreary San Francisco, because her Dad is trying to get a business going.  In rapid succession Riley loses a childhood home filled with joyful memories, her old school friends and has to start over again, alone.

Joy’s mission is that everyone always be happy, to the point of obsession, therefore Riley remains upbeat as she negotiates the first sight of her dilapidated new home, the first night in a strange bedroom, the first day at a strange school.  And we believe in Joy and her mission, as she berates Sadness for always moping around, for being so pessimistic, for turning everything she touches a very sad shade of blue.

I thought Joy was perfect, trying to make the best of everything.

Only after Joy and Sadness are sucked up into the memory tube thingy and find themselves lost on the alien planet that is Riley’s brain, does Joy begin to learn the importance of the role that Sadness plays in our lives.

I’m still trying to get my sparkly head around that one.

It takes the entire length of the film, however, for ours and Joy’s eyes to be opened re: the wonderful attributes of the short, plump, bespectacled and very lethargic Sadness.  Sadness spends almost all her time moping around, or being very self-critical, or falling flat on her face pronouncing that everything is just hopeless – she’s like a cross between Eeyore, C3PO and me (actually.)

As Joy drags Sadness (sadness is such a drag isn’t it?) around the data memory banks by her leg, we inwardly cheer for Joy – Joy the do’er, the go-getter, the positive and sparkly guiding light (her skin literally sparkles like that vampire from Twilight.)

All that annoying glowing made me really, really, very angry.

We cheer for the beleaguered Joy even more when she meets up with Riley’s old imaginary friend, Bing Bong – a weird Fantasia-type elephant thing with a tail and a tweed coat.  Bing Bong was the film’s only jarring note for me.  He felt like a kind of strange superfluous addition to the already strange proceedings.  The three of them make a run for the Train of Thought, which can get them back to headquarters, taking a dangerous short cut into Abstract Thought.  Here they turn into Picasso type renditions of themselves, finally ending up as basic line-drawings (again, this had the adults very much in mind.)  After returning to their normal (but still weirdly Pixarian) selves, Bing Bong looks forward to the day when he and Riley will be reunited, and Sadness takes the time to listen to his fears that this will never happen, causing cathartic tears whereupon Bing Bong immediately feels better – much to Joy’s amazement.

Sadness is eventually carried away on a bit of fluffy mind cloud (don’t ask, just buy a ticket, or the DVD when it comes out) whilst Joy and Bing Bong fall into the pit of hell, I mean into the Memory Dump pit – a black, soulless landscape lit only by Joy’s faint glow.  Here the imaginary friend sacrifices himself so that Joy can escape the pit, re-join Sadness and together they save the day.

That’s pretty heavy stuff for your average kid, I don’t even like to think about it.
There’s not much you do like to think about Fear, you’re so un-cool.

And the day they have to save is brought about by Anger, sticking a light bulb type thing into the headquarters’ control panel, which makes Riley think it’d be quite a good idea to run away from home back to Minnesota, which she does.  Consequently all her personality islands gradually disintegrate and fall away into the dreaded black pit.

Riley decides to return home only because Joy relinquishes control of headquarters over to Sadness.  Joy’s journey around Riley’s brain had caused a kind of epiphany inside her own, effervescent brain.  Every memory that Joy, and Riley, held dear also contained elements of sadness that Joy had simply edited out in her determination to record only positive moments.  Joy comes to understand that sadness was as important to the growth of Riley’s personality as all those moments of carefully preserved, golden happiness.

Inside Out ends extolling the cathartic virtues belonging to Sadness, as Riley finally admits to her parents how much she misses her old home but felt that she had to be strong and keep up appearances.  A group hug ensues and, up in headquarters, Sadness takes Joy’s hand as they come to a new understanding that they should always work as a team.

So there you have it.  Another weird Pixar offering.  But I almost cried about 5 times (weirdly the same number of times as there were emotions), and identified very much with the emotionally distraught 11 year old (even though I’m pretty ancient) and sat in wonder at the Pixarian animated landscapes and computerised digi-pokery.

Go see it, it’s good.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ll get it  –  there’s a frightened 11 year old inside all of us.

Phew – at least I won’t have to worry about Anger going off on one.
It was wonderful – I knew it would be!

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