More than a feeling
Animation directors don’t get a lot of kudos. Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille) is probably the most known and celebrated 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.
Please allow me this space to sing the praise of Mr. Pete Docter, director of Up, perhaps the greatest animation movie ever made, and now the man behind the wonderful, imaginative Inside Out. The likes of Docter and Lasseter, and the movies they deliver, are proof that a great animated movie is more than computer artists creating pretty pictures.
Docter, who also directed a little movie called Monsters, Inc., has an amazing knack for conveying real emotion in animation. This is a guy who had audiences crying in mere minutes during the opening of Up, and now he’s given us a film that deals strictly with emotions in a hilarious and innovative way.
Inside Out is another 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 just burst with genius energy.
The movie goes inside the mind of Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), newly 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, played by the likes of 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 in the form of little crystal balls with life occurrences playing inside them. There are the different islands of her mind representing family, goofiness and, her favorite sport, hockey. Finally, there’s the subconscious and 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 memories can be forever tainted with sadness, and just how important sadness is to any human being. It’s all handled in a Pixar way, which doesn’t mean whitewashed and sanitary. At times, the film is actually quite brutal and startling.
That’s what makes 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 don’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 in a bright blue and green pixie akin to Tinker Bell. It’s her voice that anchors this movie, one of the great animated film performances. Hader’s gangly and nervous Fear, along with Black’s volcanic red Anger, provides most of the film’s comedy. A sequence where Fear gets bored watching one of Riley’s routine nightmares is a big highlight.
Sadness, a roundish, blue, bespectacled orb, seems to be a threat throughout the movie, trying to touch and taint memories. That proves to be somewhat of a fake-out by the film’s end, when we find out her true destiny in Riley’s upbringing.
As with Up, Docter has put together an animated movie that impresses with every second and surprises at every turn. His 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.
So, if getting a beautiful, top-notch Pixar film in 2015 isn’t good enough for you, hold on, because Inside Out is the first of two new Pixar films this year. The Good Dinosaur is set for release this coming Thanksgiving. I can’t wait.