The newest Disney and Pixar film, Inside Out, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier today to uproarious applause. Directed by Pete Docter, Inside Out is the first Pixar film to debut at Cannes since Up (also from Docter), and looks to be a worthy entry into the Pixar canon. In celebration of the successful showing of Inside Out, of which I have been excited for nearly four years, I decided to post this reaction to the most recent full trailer for the film which can be seen here.
The trailer opens on 11-year old Riley and her family, fresh off a move from the Midwest to San Francisco. Around a dinner table, we learn that while Riley and her parents will play a significant role in the film, its true main characters are inside Riley’s head: her five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. These emotions govern Riley’s mind through Headquarters, observing her world from the inside out (that’s why they call it that!) and navigating her through her daily life. They are also responsible for creating her memories and storing them appropriately. Joy and Sadness get into a bit of a fight and end up lost in other areas of Riley’s mind, attempting to navigate back to Headquarters while the remaining emotions try to help Riley adjust to her new life.
This trailer shows a little more about the plot, which seems to mostly focus on the journey of Joy and Sadness. One potential issue I have always had with Inside Out is the danger of anthropomorphizing a complex emotion and designing an appropriate character arc for that emotion. I mean, Joy is joy, right? What kind of journey or change can she go through and still remain a faithful embodiment of joy? But, this trailer shows me some possibilities for how this might work. At one point, we see a long-term memory shifted from primarily joyful to primarily sad when Sadness holds it, so there are plot elements in place which allow the characters to color certain memories one way or the other. This introduces nuance into the emotional structure of the film, as memories are able to shift their emotional tone, depending on which character colors them. So, perhaps Sadness and Joy begin the story with blinders on – they see the world only through their own perspective, and nothing else. The journey could be the emotions learning that it isn’t important to force their viewpoint on Riley’s memories, but to work together to color a memory with multiple appropriate emotions. An example of this would be the death of a loved one. It would be absurd for Joy to insist on coloring this memory only with her perspective, but allowing Sadness to do the same is also disingenuous. The ideal response is for Sadness to allow Riley to express her feeling of loss, Fear to be okay with her being scared of being alone or dying, Anger and Disgust for her to be upset with losing a loved one, and Joy for allowing her to fondly remember how important the person was to her life.
The early reception for Inside Out has been positive, harkening back to the days of Up, WALL-E, and other Pixar masterpieces. Reports of hard-hearted, professional movie press bawling their eyes out have begun to surface as well. Pixar rarely puts out absolute duds, but the most recent offerings have lacked the inventive spirit and emotion that Inside Out promises. Some critics have expressed concerns that the subject matter may be too abstract for families and too challenging for children to embrace, but I believe that they will respond to the challenge. A thought-provoking, ambitious film geared towards children and families is not something to be feared or ignored, but embraced wholeheartedly. I plan to do just that shortly following its June 19th release date, and if you have enjoyed any of Pixar’s previous offerings, I suggest you plan on doing likewise.