In many ways Disney’s D23 Expo 2013 was utterly disappointing but there were a couple of gems that in my mind, stood out despite the overall mediocrity of the announcements at Disney’s biennial fan exposition. And that’s exactly where we are headed today, no not inside my mind, but inside the mind of an 11-year old girl named Riley, who is dealing with all the struggles that everyone remembers having to deal with when they were trying to fit in at that age. But this story is told like no other animated film before it and that’s why I can’t shake the feeling inside my head that this film could be a return to form for Pixar. It has the potential to be their best film ever. If the latter statement has you going out of your mind, well than you are half way there, because when Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out” arrives in theaters June 19, 2015 it might just change everything.
“Walt Disney had the Seven Dwarfs and we have the Five Emotions.”
To helm such an incredible undertaking you have Academy Award®-winning director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”) who’s film’s have been filled with heart and taken us to world’s imaginary and larger than life. His mission, to tell a story of emotions by emotions. With an incredibly talented cast ready to take charge in Headquarters, you know the control center in Riley’s mind. Making decisions are the team headed up by the all important Joy (Amy Poehler) backed timidly by Fear (Bill Hader), interrupted by Anger (Lewis Black), with objections from Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and with an utterly lovable depression from Sadness (Phyllis Smith) not seen since Eeyore. As it was described to us at the D23 Expo 2013, “Walt Disney had the Seven Dwarfs and [now] we have the Five Emotions.” If that doesn’t get you excited about the potential of what this film is bringing to the table with uniquely defined characters it’s possible nothing will, unless you knew what we were about to tell you about this film next.
Incredibly fresh and dynamic animated interplay at work.
For a movie that long went without a finalized title, Inside Out perfectly describes the frenetic, fun and possibly game-changing movie-going experience that one will witness in theaters next year. That’s a lot of praise from within but once you see an expanded trailer of just what is happening around Riley’s (totally relatable) kitchen table scene as seen in the teaser trailer above, you might begin to see that my bombastic words aren’t quite as out there as they appear at first blush. Having seen the story-board action of this kitchen table scene, I’ve witnessed the incredibly fresh and dynamic animated interplay at work in this film and if that sample was not just an isolated scene but a sense of what we will see in various forms throughout the movie, it might just leapfrog every other animated film before it. Alright, enough building up of joy we’ll settle you down with the mechanics of how and what this new take on an old idea looks and feels like.
This movie has the flair to mechanically jump within a scene to deliver high-paced wit at so many levels that strikes me as the perfect movie for our time.
Riley at the Kitchen table like most kids is confronted by her adoring parents with the “questions of the day.” Of course being that we are humans even the simplest of day-to-day interactions become a scene for awkward tension, expressions of body language and other things that appear to be attempts at communication. Inside Out explores these tensions both from Inside the mind of Riley and her parents and presumably other characters’ “Headquarters” but also the Out of body third person perspective we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in animated films. Inside Out, in the scene we previewed, masterfully balances the inflection points between the emotions running rampant trying to come to a decision about what to lead their human to do or say and what happens in that third person overview look at the world when those actions are enacted by Riley and her parents. With the discord of the British Parliament, the varying emotions scramble for power, to have the final say and then when that’s midway to its conclusion we might jump from Riley’s Headquarters to father’s where his emotions are caught watching a football game rather than paying close attention to the responses to the matters before them. Then Riley makes her move, which we see in third person and before you know it, it’s code red inside each of the parent’s Headquarters and the interplay between rivaling teams within each person’s mind go to work. In a world where notifications bring information to us at an ever-increasing pace and our desire for instant gratification grows exponentially this movie has the flair and pace to mechanically jump back and forth within a scene to deliver high-paced wit at so many levels that strikes me as the perfect movie for our time. And if it delivers on the character side the way Pete Docter’s other films have, it could be for all time.
Relive a classic attraction and better understand where the evolution of Pixar storytelling may indeed be headed.
For some this dynamic of going inside the mind may sound quite familiar. You see, if you were lucky enough to experience the late Cranium Command attraction at EPCOT then you have a great sense for the comedic opportunities and the high drama enabled by this storytelling technique as we described above. In fact the emotions are well represented in the attraction and you can see the quite clear parallels in vision, making the embedded video a must see in order to relive a classic attraction and better understand where the evolution of Pixar storytelling may indeed be headed.
Joy isn’t your typical animated character.
It couldn’t be “Inside Out,” without a couple more pieces of brilliance to share. While the story is about Riley we’ll also see the emotions, led by Joy as they go on their own adventure to places like “Imaginationland” and perhaps take a ride there on the “Train of Thought.” But even perhaps more exciting is the visual and technological wonder this film aims to be. At the core of Pixar has always been great storytelling but they’ve also mastered pushing technology barriers to enable all new ways of telling a story with motion pictures. Joy isn’t your typical animated character, as she is actually composed of many moving particles that float, bounce and morph as she traverses throughout the environment. This is only hinted at briefly during the teaser trailer when Joy bounces up into the screen and makes her debut and you just catch a slight trail of her spark if you are really paying attention to it. This enables Joy, who reminded me a bit of Eve from Wall-E, to move around and shine like no character before. The shimmering light of Joy might be one of the most memorable parts of a film sure to have many.
Pixar has created incredible stories and truly timeless characters but it’s been a while since a film they’ve created has grasped the levels of success that Finding Nemo did back in 2003 without the need for a two or three attached to its name. Pixar isn’t in the dire straits that Walt Disney Animation was before John Lasseter’s leadership amongst others helped to turn things around for the studio. But it’s certainly time for a Pixar film to stand amongst the blockbusters of the day. Inside Out has the makings of a film ready to take on that challenge. From new animation techniques to an evolution in storytelling mechanics and characters as well delineated as the Seven Dwarfs, the core of this movie is quite genius. Now all that is left is months of anticipation and marketing until its eventual summer 2015 release where we shall see just how amazingly all these moving parts have come together. It could be the Pixar film that once again makes you change the way you looked at the world. At least that’s what my emotions are telling me.