I love Pixar movies and have been a fan since its inception with Wally B and Tin Toy. I think the genius Pixar brings to animated films is how they give the audience insight into a character’s feelings and thoughts. They prioritize character development above plot, and in so doing Pixar brings an amazing perspective to any topic they touch, like friendship and loyalty (Toy Story); aging, mourning, and revival (Up); or breaking away from a parents influence and finding your own path in life (Ratatouille).


With Inside Out they bring a fresh perspective to transitioning from childhood to young adult, and the troubles that ensue with that change. Pixar lets you see the range of emotions that our main character, Riley, goes through by giving each one of those emotions in her thought processes a name (Joy, Anger, Fear, etc.) and a personality. A brilliant idea.


The film follows Riley from birth to her present state as an 11-year old, and the big event of her young life, her family's relocation from Minnesota to San Francisco. The Event (tainted by adapting to a new school, loss of a friendship, and missing the only life she's ever known), turns out to be the milestone in Riley's life that triggers chaos for the “emotions” in her head. Her emotions embark on an epochal journey as a way of having Riley deal with life's upheavals and bring us to a surprising revelation: that there is sadness in life but that it is not necessarily a negative thing, nor is it the end.


If Inside Out is flawed, it is in its failure to zero-in on its target audience: the appropriate age group. As the world’s first animated feature film, Pixar’s Toy Story had a broad range that appealed to young children as well as adults. Up clearly appealed to a slight older audience of those acquainted with grief and loss of a loved one. Inside Out tackles the dark themes of teenage angst and displacement but has all the outward indications in look, characters, and playfulness of being geared to a much younger audience, ages 7 through 10. Confusing. I watched the film with at least a dozen kids, ages 6 through 10, and there were none of the giggles or squeals or comments that are typical. It was an extremely quiet audience. But I give Pixar a lot of credit for tackling such a difficult theme.


As usual Pixar's filmmaking with regards to voice casting (Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Richard King, and others), animation, set design, and music is impeccable. I thoroughly enjoyed Inside Out with it's message and heartfelt moments, but was left puzzled as to who was its intended audience.




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