My Disney Top 5 - Reasons to Love Disney Pixar's Inside Outby Chris Barry, contributing writer
As a Disney fan, I wait with bated breath for the next major theatrical release from the company. Walt Disney Productions has certainly been on quite a roll lately. The addition of Pixar genius John Lasseter as Chief Creative Officer was one of the best decisions Bob Iger made once he took over the Disney reigns as CEO. John is a passionate storyteller and more of a Disney fan boy than any of us out there.
With Lasseter and Pixar one hundred percent in the fold, we've been blessed with a burst of amazing films in recent years. Big Hero 6, Tangled, and Frozen, just to name a few, have once again cemented Disney as the leader in the animated film business. Personally, I never really subscribed to the whole "Disney was in a slump" view. I've enjoyed the majority of Disney's animated films over the last two decades or so, even before Lasseter was brought on, but the so-called "Disney Revival" period that we're in now has been a wondrous turn of events cinematically—and we have John Lasseter to thank for that.
When it comes to Lasseter's true baby, Pixar, there have been more than a handful of doubters out there in regards to their last few releases. As if Cars 2 and Monster's University were travesties because they were sequels. How dare Pixar make sequels to two of their biggest films. If you can guess by my tone, I also never bought into the whole "Pixar was in a slump" view either. The first 10 Pixar films were all winners. The 11th, Toy Story 3, was brilliant and earned a billion dollars. That was a pretty hard act to follow. However, I enjoyed the two aforementioned sequels that followed, and I thoroughly enjoyed Brave. I'd hardly call those three films a slump. The box office didn't either.
I will admit that on an emotional level, those last three Pixar films didn't hit me quite the way previous films like Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, or Up did. By definition—at least in this writer's eyes—a Pixar film has a staggering amount of heart. Lots of good films have a heart, but the Pixar people always seemed to hit you right where it counts, and have consistently delivered films with emotional impact. I'm not really here to argue whether Cars 2, Brave, or Monster's University had enough heart. What I am here to say is that Pixar's latest release, Inside Out, is bursting with heart and sentiment. So let's take a look at my Top 5 Reasons to Love Inside Out.
5 – The Musical Score
A score or a soundtrack can sometimes make or break a film. If you don't believe me, take a look at a certain cold snowy film featuring a princess, her sister the queen, and a snowman as an example. Frozen is a great film, but the songs launched it into the stratosphere. A score however, is a subtler thing. Imagine Star Wars without its grand score or Jaws without its haunting simple notes. The score is responsible for atmosphere. Michael Giacchino has worked with Pixar before on Ratatouille, Up, and Cars 2. With Inside Out, he's constructed a beautiful, subtle, barely there score that carries you through the emotional moments of the film. It was reminiscent of his work on Lost, especially during the more heartfelt movements.
4 – The Characters
The lead emotion character Joy is a classic Disney feel good character beautifully brought to life by Amy Poehler. The five emotions living in main character Riley's head were all funny, endearing, and wonderfully memorable. My favorite of the five has to be Anger, perfectly played by comedian Lewis Black. Another instantly classic character is Bing Bong, Riley's long forgotten imaginary friend voiced by Richard Kind. He's a one of a kind character for sure and is responsible for loads of humor and one of the film's true tearjerker moments.
3 – The Concept
The whole premise of Inside Out is sheer brilliance. Let's get inside an 11-year-old girl's head as she is confronted with a drastic uprooting change in her life. While we're at it, let's take you on a deep tour of her psyche. Let's show you her joys, her memories, and ultimately how she and her parents confront sadness and growing up. The fact that it's pulled off so well is a testament to the writers and creative team behind the scenes. It's about as highbrow a concept as could be but never feels out of reach, never loses sight of its humor (it is laugh out loud funny at times) and never feels dumbed down for the multiple age levels in the audience. It's a perfectly and delicately balanced execution of the concept.
2 - The Universal Appeal
A truly well done animated film won't have a solitary audience. If it's constructed correctly everyone in the audience regardless of age group or level of maturity will get something out of it. I was a 46-year-old big kid, sitting in that theater with my similarly aged (yet much more mature and admittedly not as raving a Disney fan as I am) wife, my sharp and opinionated 16-year-old daughter, and my still young at heart 12-year-old twin boys, and each of us came away loving this film. The tiny little ones behind us seemed to be enjoying their themselves as well. That's universal appeal and that's not an easy line to walk in animation. Pixar has proven itself to be a master in this category before and they have yet again.
1 – The Sentiment
Once again, I go to the heart. I saw this film on Father's Day. My kids are growing up. My 16-year-old just got her driving permit. My boys are turning 13 in a few weeks and ostensibly are slowly leaving their childhood behind. It's been hitting me in a big way lately. So, the story of an 11-year-old growing up and learning to deal with sadness and leaving her childhood memories behind was, perhaps, pre-destined to affect me. In hindsight, it wasn't just my mushiness at work here.
Inside Out hit me with its genuineness and its honesty. There is an emotional core to the storyline. Those of us who are parents will identify with the parent characters so well, but the beauty is you don't have to be a parent to react to the story. Every thing that little Riley is going through, we have all gone through as well. Once again, the sentimental appeal is universal. The film made me think. It made me tear up. It made me want to hug my kids and my wife. It made me so happy that I was laughing and smiling while simultaneously making me so sad. In the end, it was very life affirming. That's a lot for an animated film to deliver, but Inside Out did so on all accounts.
To me, and I'm not alone here, the folks at Pixar are hands down the best storytellers in the business. They've taken us to so many places in their relatively short tenure in film history. Whether it's deep into the ocean, or into the worlds of toys, bugs, monsters or cars, Pixar hasn't let me down yet. Inside Out has literally taken us inside the mind of a child and shown us the beauty and sadness that dwell within. It's a beautiful film and it's soared way high up on the list of my all time favorites. Run, don't walk to your nearest screen to see it. You won't be disappointed.