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Pixar's Inside Out in five emotions

Pixar set the bar high. So high, in fact, that its recent output was downright disappointing. But Inside out exceeds all expectations.

It may be taking it a bit far to say that Pixar single-handedly revived the animated film. But ever since the software company founded by George Lucas started making great films, the competition was blown away. Toy Story broke all records in 1995, followed by one blockbuster after another.

The stories were rock solid and the visual effects - the reef in Finding Nemo, Sullivan's coat in Monsters, Inc. - overwhelming. Nor did Pixar shy away from risks, with the largely wordless film Wall-E and the heartbreaking nine-minute opening scene of Up as highlights.


1 rageBut this decade Pixar made one miss after another, with mainly yet another sequel (Cars 2) and a prequel (Monsters University). The announcement that sequels of both Toy Story and Finding Nemo in the making is reason enough to erupt in anger.

But fortunately Inside Out, in the Dutch version Inside out, a stand-alone film. Good news, then. Although...


2anxietyPixar's last two completely new films were downright disappointing. Brave was an overly predictable Irish fairy tale that Disney could just as easily have made without Pixar and Ratatouille lacked a good story. That both films nevertheless managed to win the Oscar for best animated film is a mystery and did not exactly raise expectations for this new original film.

After all, if mediocre films can already win you an Oscar, why even bother?


3aversionArmed with that foreknowledge, you take a seat in the cinema, put on the now obligatory 3D glasses and think: yeah, whatever, bring it on.

But then...


The story is dead simple. An 11-year-old girl (Riley) has to move because her father gets a new job on the other side of the country. And so a new house, a new school, new friends to try and make. Homesickness. Parental stress.

4griefNot a particularly earth-shattering story, but most of the action takes place not in the outside world, but literally in Riley's head. There, we are introduced to the five emotions that alternately operate the control panel in Headquarters and, moreover, how all those emotions colour memories and our personalities.

The film has several obvious moments intended as tearjerkers - the running away, the loss of the imaginary boyfriend in the abyss of unnecessary memories - but the real lump in the throat comes elsewhere, is much more subtle. For example, when Riley sadly tries to fall asleep on a mattress, after which her mother comforts her by saying that it's a difficult time for everyone, but that it's precisely her laughter that gets everyone through.


A huge burden is unintentionally placed on Riley by her parents, always staying cheerful, and in her mind, Pleasure does exactly the same with Sadness. Even literally when she draws a circle around Sadness and tells her that her job is to keep all the sadness there.

Repressing is what we call it. But that doesn't work. Because although it seems that mere Pleasure controls Riley's brain, she cannot do without Sadness, Anger, Fear and Loathing.

5pleasureThat is exactly what the rest of the film shows phenomenally. That the makers talked to psychiatrists and neurologists to shape the brain is obvious, but it is amazing how they manage to make that brain concrete. All previous Pixar films have been able to use an existing landscape, even for the post-apocalyptic world of Wall-E and the nightmare factory from Monsters, Inc.. For Inside Out actually had to create a whole new world. And with stunning results.

It is downright brilliant how crystal-clear it visualises how core memories suddenly take on a different colour due to external factors. Hilarious is the explanation of why we just can't get that one irritating advert out of our heads - and why it pops up at the craziest times.

But above all, the film is a lot more than all those finds.

"Can I say that curse word now?"

Hell yeah! Because, for the first time in years, Pixar proves again why it is such a leader. Inside Out is a film for parents and children that makes both laugh and cry ánd brings them closer together.

So Inside Out 2?


That red male lurks in all of us.

But for now, Pleasure is at the controls, and as the excellently cast Peggy Vrijens says in the Dutch version, "Don't think so much about what can go wrong, there's a fun side to everything!"

Inside out can be seen nationwide from 15 July, in both the original and Dutch versions.




Henri Drost

Henri Drost (1970) studied Dutch and American Studies in Utrecht. Sold CDs and books for years, then became a communications consultant. Writes for among others GPD magazines, Metro, LOS!, De Roskam, 8weekly, Mania, hetiskoers and Cultureel Persbureau/De Dodo about everything, but if possible about music (theatre) and sports. Other specialisms: figures, the United States and healthcare. Listens to Waits and Webern, Wagner and Dylan and pretty much everything in between.View Author posts

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