Disney Pixar Delivers Understanding of Personality from the INSIDE OUT

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Inside Out Disney Pixar Amy Poehler Critical Blast RJ Carter

I was going to say that INSIDE OUT is not your average cartoon. But then, what Disney*Pixar film ever is? Rather, then, INSIDE OUT is not your average movie, period. It's subject matter is funny, easy to relate to, and completely captivating from beginning to end. However, on an even deeper level, INSIDE OUT is a film worthy of study for a college psychology course.

The majority of the film takes place in the mind of a prepubescent girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), where we meet our main characters: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). These are the core emotions Riley has, and their interactions form her young personality. However, there's an imbalance; Riley believes that she must be happy all the time for the sake of her parents, therefore Joy takes charge, and pushes Sadness to the fringe. After all, what good does Sadness bring? Who wants to feel that emotion?

However, Riley's stability is stressed when her parents (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) move the family from Minnesota to San Francisco. A fixer-upper house and a new school force Joy to work overtime. And when Sadness unexpectedly touches a happy memory, triggering Riley to cry in class, Sadness and Joy battle over the memory and get sucked out of the control room and on a journey through the rest of Riley's mind. Leaving only Fear, Disgust and Anger in control leads to the decision to run away back to Minnesota. And when their efforts at the control panel fail, they break it -- leaving Riley feeling nothing.

That's some pretty deep thought material for a kid's cartoon adventure.

INSIDE OUT succeeds because of its clever writing and its stellar voice cast. Poehler's Joy is like an episode of the Ellen DeGeneres show if Halloween and Christmas happened on the same day. Smith's Sadness is a multi-layered character, communicating not just the blues, but an emotion capable of a certain kind of happiness. As they wander Riley's mind, looking for a way back to the control center as the stability of Riley's personality begins to collapse around them, they evolve and take on each others characteristics, leading to blended emotions -- which is what growing up is all about. Richard Kind is perfectly cast as Bing Bong, Riley's childhood imaginary friend, relegated to a forgotten memory, and his character's heroics are probably the most obvious allegory to coming of age.

This Blu-ray/DVD/Digital release is full of special features -- the kind you actually want to watch, not boring filler that finds different ways to repeat the same interviews. There are the two short films, "Riley's First Date" and "Lava" which you will probably get to first. But the making-of features are just as entertaining and just as interesting as the film itself, including things like how the creators came to define the personality of the emotions, and the creating the landscape of Riley's mind.

Seeing Riley's world, from inside, looking out, is an experience that will have you questioning how your own mind works, and how the minds of your children work. It might, I daresay, yield a greater empathic understanding of those around us.

5.0 / 5.0