I am a long-time fan of Pixar; starting with “Toy Story” In 1995. I first saw that film in the theatre during the holiday seasons (read: Christmas break) and not feeling well. Even having that issue, I started the roadtrip of a journey with Pixar films and having really dislike a single one of them; even the ever-so-hated “Cars 2” ™ which should have been the launch of a TV series.
All that back history aside, I wait most years for at least one new Pixar great among the summer or holiday blockbusters full of Flat stories, no character developments and CGI explosions. I would say more but having this article not pop up would be heart breaking! The plotlines in Pixar films do have a formula at large however, they seem to change it up often enough to stop it from becoming TOO stale.
Let’s cut to the chase. The 2015 blockbuster film “Inside out” shattered everyone’s expectations as a holiday movie and was one of the reasons that “Finding Dory” was pushed back to this summer. The story follows a girl named “Riley” who moves from Minnesota (Gasp) down to Los Angeles after her father gets a new job. This was a feeling that was familiar with having moved down to my current home from my childhood home in Duluth, which was not states away, but hours.
Along the way, Riley’s emotions“Joy” and “Sadness” become entangled in a roadtrip throught he canyons of a slightly jostled mind when the emotion “Fear” knocks core memory orbs off of a central platform. Along their journey, Joy and Sadness are introduced to Bing-Bong, A self described “Half Elephant, half dolphin and half cat” imaginary friend, The fear inducing nightmarish entity “Jangles the clown” and many others.
Back in headquaters, the emotions that are left over (Anger, Fear and Disgust) attmpt in vein to simulate how they think Joy would act This leads to emotional chaos until finally Rile has had enough and runs off. It should be noted that during the course o the film, her bright clothing turns more dull and colourless due to the change in mood.
The film ends with Riley and the family reuniting and Riley expressing her sadness of having to leave behind everything with the stress of loosing touch with her best friend “Meg” and the difficulties of adjusting to a new school.
I have watched many interviews with the people behind “Inside Out” (Pete Docter, Richard Kind, Lewis Black et al) and have learnt that the kind of research into how the development of a girl’s brain goes from childhood to adult by bringing in child psychologists, therapists and even a neurological developmental specialist was the most adventurous yet. From what I heard, they wanted to get this as close to accurate as possible. I personally believe that they did.
At the time, I was a member of several on-line forums on the ever popular Social Network “Facebook ™” revolving around Autism and other developmental ‘disabilities’. One of the things that I had heard that I had figured it out for myself after seeing it myself and wiping away rivers of tears was that the characterization of the emotions (read personification) was so spot on that Special Ed resource rooms and other agencies dealing with those who have developmental “disabilities” should use this as a metaphor. The night of the golden Globes, I was proven right. Teachers, TAs, paraprofessionals, parents, etc were using this as a metaphor, I was stoked. It appeared that Riley’s physical and emotional Roadtrip had touched more lives than even Pixar had intended or even imagined.
The journey of Riley and her emotions being iterated through a literal road trip and moving experience is a metaphor on the processes that go on when growing up. Chemicals in the brain start changing, new and more complex emotions and feelings arise, things come together and fall apart. Using a road-trip to show that journey at the beginning of the film was perfect. It also hit home with me, as I dealt with those same emotions moving from a familiar place to new territory.