Inside Out is the latest from Pixar, and as with any film from the studio, it’s accompanied by high expectations. Still, in recent years, Pixar’s reputation of being an original and innovative story-teller has taken something of a hit as a large part of their recent efforts have focused on sequels. Which isn’t to say those have been bad films, several have been quite good. But Pixar is the studio that brought us Up, Ratatouille, and Wall-E. Not to mention how original Monster’s Inc., Toy Story and Finding Nemo all were before being served sequels. So when Pixar releases a non-sequel film, the expectations are high, if somewhat tempered by recent efforts. The question is, does Inside Out help Pixar re-attain the heights from which they once stood? Here’s what Justin and I had to say about that.
Justin: This is what you expect from amazing Pixar quality; solid story with amazing graphics. I was surprised at how intellectual it was. This film deals with a complex topic; the intricacies of emotional interplay and how ultimately you can’t be joyful without knowing sadness (you can’t know light without dark). The real interesting thing for me and potentially anyone of sufficient maturity and age is how the story is so real. We all go through that change of growth and emotional understanding. I can remember when Goofball Island disappeared. I can remember when I stopped playing with imaginary friends and landscapes. I can remember when I was so hurt I felt like running away was the only answer. I remember all that and the story ran very true for me. However, what if you’re a kid of 7-8 years old? What if you’re currently playing imagination games with imaginary friends? What if Goofball Island is still one of your favorites? Would you think to yourself, “You know, this first half of the movie sounds right, but is this second half what I have to look forward too?! Is that what it means to ‘grow up’?” Would a child walk out feeling disillusioned? Or would it all go right over their heads? I’m struggling with that.
Yo: I agree, hence my assertion that this is the first Pixar movie really made for adults… kids will also be able to enjoy it, but they may not get as much out of it. Generally Pixar movies have been the reverse; made for kids but also enjoyable for adults. I did think it was interesting that the suggestion here was that our emotions control us; which of course is not what the Bible says should happen.
Justin: Yea, I picked up on that too. Obviously at odds with God’s word, but it’s really, really hard to live that out in real life. I am a very unemotional person, but when I saw anger take over in this movie, then I realized that impatience and the inability to keep a calm tone of voice with your kids in those trying times is the direct result of an inability to keep anger from controlling you. The movie really nails the parents, so far as what emotion is in “control” – sadness running mom’s life, anger running dad’s life. Oh the stereotypes sure hurt when they are so often so true. I did think that aspect of the movie was VERY interesting how they have joy running the kids life, sadness mom, and anger dad.
Yo: Yeah, I caught that too. Really, if anything, Joy should be in charge of our lives as Christians, no matter what our age is, which of course isn’t the same as being happy all the time.
Justin: I also found it interesting that beyond the message of you can’t really know joy till you know sadness, the other implied message was that until you learn to balance your emotions, you let them all control you at some point, and you just can’t be a well-balanced, functional person in that regard. There were lots of interesting implications about life and emotional well-being in this film consider it was coming from a cartoon.
Yo: This was definitely a “deep” movie for “just a cartoon”, but that’s the thing; cartoons don’t have to just be for kids. We’ve never fully understood that in the West. Things like anime and other forms of the art are clearly not designed for kids, and in Japan and other places they understand that. Here, not so much. However, Tom and Jerry and the Looney Tunes were never made for kids, they were made for the grown-ups. We’ve lost that understanding, or never had it in the first place, so it was fun for me to see Pixar bring back that sensibility with a really insightful, poignant film that was also really fun, imaginative and enjoyable for the whole family (though some will get more out of it than others).
Justin: I completely agree, I remember Osmosis Jones from the ‘90s for instance which was clearly an adult cartoon that kids could enjoy too. It’s just a fine line to walk being a family-friendly, adult focused cartoon or a kid focused, grown up friendly cartoon. Much of the Anime you reference for instance would be totally inappropriate for kids. Thankfully, with Inside Out, the subject matter may be more complex, but the overall movie is still very suitable for kids. Albeit, you may be having some interesting conversations with your kids after they watch it.
Yo: I think it’s safe to say that with this movie, Pixar has recaptured the imaginativeness and complexity of some of their best original films. While I’d still say that Up is the most emotional film they’ve made, any grown-up with kids of their own will have a hard time not getting chocked up during this movie. It’s no mistake that Pixar is releasing it during Father’s Day as it is a celebration of parenthood, childhood, and the importance of family. Is it one of Pixar’s best? That will be purely subjective, but I think this is definitely one Pixar’s most daring, imaginative, thoughtful and poignant films they’ve done, and it’s a refreshing reminder of why Pixar remains the standard against which all other animated films are compared to.