Animation directors don’t get a lot of kudos. Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille) is probably the best-known and most-celebrated director in the lot, and he deserves the accolades. John Lasseter gave us the first two Toy Story films, which earns him forgiveness for Cars 2.
It’s time to now sing the praises of Mr. Pete Docter, the director of Up, perhaps the greatest animated movie ever made—and now the man behind the wonderful, imaginative Inside Out. Docter (who also directed Monsters, Inc.) has an amazing knack for conveying real emotion in animation. This is a guy who had audiences crying within mere minutes during the opening of Up, and now he’s created a film that deals specifically with emotions in a hilarious and innovative way.
Inside Out is a masterpiece, not only because it looks fantastic, but also because it generates real, genuine feelings. It also has some of that blissful, bizarre insanity that made Up such a winner. There are creations in this movie that burst with genius energy.
The movie goes inside the mind of Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), a girl who is displaced from Minnesota to a small house in San Francisco with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan). Inside Riley’s mind, we see her emotions, each of which is represented by a character: Amy Poehler as Joy, Bill Hader as Fear, Lewis Black as Anger, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, and Mindy Kaling as Disgust.
Other amazing ideas within this brilliant film’s universe: Riley’s memories take the form of little crystal balls with life occurrences playing inside them. Different islands of her mind represent family, goofiness and, her favorite sport, hockey. Finally, there’s the subconscious/dream factory, where discarded imaginary friends and creepy party clowns hide.
Along with being very funny, the film bluntly addresses the loss of memories as we grow up; how core memories can be forever tainted with sadness; and just how important sadness is to any human being. It’s all handled in a very Pixar way—which does not mean whitewashed. At times, the film is quite brutal and startling. This is what places a Pixar film a cut above the rest, including the best of the Disney animated films: There’s a level of complexity here that you won’t find in your average family film. Parents: Expect to have some big discussions with some of your more alert kids after taking them to see this one.
Poehler’s Joy is visualized as a bright blue and green pixie akin to Tinker Bell. It’s her voice that anchors this movie—this is one of the great animated film performances. Hader’s gangly and nervous Fear joins Black’s volcanic-red Anger to provide most of the film’s comedy. A sequence in which Fear gets bored watching one of Riley’s routine nightmares is big highlight.
Sadness—a roundish, blue, bespectacled orb—seems to be a threat throughout the movie, as she tries to touch and taint memories. This proves to be somewhat of a fakeout by the film’s end, when we find out her true destiny in Riley’s upbringing.
As he did with Up, Docter has put together an animated movie that impresses during every second, and surprises at every turn. His animated work has more layers than most dramatic live-action affairs. We are only halfway through the year, but I see Docter as a top candidate for year-end Best Director honors. As of right now, he’s made the year’s best movie so far.
Hold on, because Inside Out is the first of two new Pixar films this year: The Good Dinosaur is set for release at Thanksgiving. I can’t wait.
Inside Out is playing in various formats at theaters across the valley.