It is a well established staple of Disney pictures to strike just the right emotional chord with audiences, having the ability to make us laugh in one scene and cry in the next. Continuing their hugely successful relationship with Pixar Animation Studios, the next collaboration personifies the emotions themselves to explore the goings on inside the brain of a child. Directed and co-written by Pete Docter, best known for his work on Up, ‘Inside Out’ mostly takes place in the head of an eleven year old girl called Riley whose family up sticks to San Francisco, taking her away from her friends and the home comforts of Minnesota. Dealing with the change from within the conscious mind known as Headquarters are Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), who work in harmony to keep Riley content. However, when Joy and Sadness are removed from HQ through the memory tube leaving the others to hold the fort, they must find their way back to restore normality.
Loosely basing the premise around the changes in his daughter’s personality when she grew up, Pete Docter creates a vivid and vibrant world which brims with intelligence. There are laugh aplenty for all age groups in amongst universally clever ideas with which we can all relate to, due to the basic fact that we all had a childhood. The adults watching can chuckle away at tongue-in-cheek relationship-based humour and references to cubism and the San Fran ‘bears’, while the younger viewers lose themselves in a cinematic sea of colour and fun. Sections of Riley’s character are visualised as islands, representing the different areas of her being, from her playful side in Goofball Island to her competitive sporting attitude in Hockey Island. As she struggles to adjust to her new surroundings, darkness creeps in and disrupts the structured mind of a happy little girl.
Each of the emotions are fantastic in their own way, each of them given their moments to flourish in a bright script. Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong is introduced partway through, who is amusingly ‘part elephant, part cotton candy, part kitten and part dolphin’. The innocence of his character is endearing and perfectly harks back to a time for everyone when life was just simpler. He is an excellent addition to the richly textured, in-depth environment envisioned where the next stroke of genius is never far away. The heartfelt storyline plays out with an emotional punch and a poignant overarching message just as all great Disney films should, driving home that joy can’t be appreciated without sadness and equally sadness needs joy. All aspects of your psyche have a part to play in the process of maturing and facing the reality of leaving childhood behind and the key is a sense of balance, which is just what the Docter ordered.