Inside Out

That Feeling of Being Jung Again

Is Inside Out one of the best examples, technically, of an animated feature? No. Is it the most enjoyable animated films to watch? No. Does it have some of the most memorable characters of any animated film? No. Is it a film that, like the best animated films, is a must see film for all ages? Not necessarily, no. Is the storyline brilliant and gripping? No. Is it one of the best films Pixar has ever made? Absolutely yes.

This film isn’t a masterpiece of animation. If we are talking about visual aesthetics then there are better examples with Frozen or Epic. If we are talking to attention to detail then look no further than the Minions movie. If you are looking for some thrilling action scenes then How To Train Your Dragon 2 or Wreck It Ralph are probably the films for you instead of Inside Out. That’s not to say Inside Out is badly animated, it’s not at all, it’s just doesn’t raise the bar like many other animated films have.

The film doesn’t have particularly memorable characters. Not like Nemo and Dory anyway. In fact, it’s only been a couple of days since I saw the film and I can only remember them as Mum, Dad and Daughter.

It’s here I should probably explain the story of the film to make sense of the other main characters. As mentioned above the overall story isn’t brilliant. Mum and Dad move to a new city, daughter gets upset and thinks about running away. That’s about it. However that is only the icing on the cake. The cake itself, in this scenario, is what is going on inside everyone’s head.

Mum, dad, daughter (in fact absolutely everyone) has 5 characters in their head named Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear who go to work in a central control room and depending on what tpe of person you are a specific character/emotion is in control. These characters push buttons and switches which in turn trigger actions by the actual person (mum, dad, daughter etc). Each action creates memories which are represented by glowing orbs the same colour as the person in charge; Joy is yellow, Sadness is blue, Anger is red etc. At the end of a day the memories are dumped into ‘long term’.

Once in a while powerful memories are formed producing core memories. These core memories essentially create a personality profile shown onscreen by floating islands just outside of the central control room. So for me these would be film island, computer game island, break-dance island, err… cheese island.

The daughter – Riley! That was her name! – has Joy in charge of her brain who doesn’t want to let Sadness take control but after moving to a new city Sadness inexplicably wants to start touching controls and memories but in doing so she appears to turn happy memories into sad ones. desperate to keep Riley’s memories happy ones Joy and Sadness accidentally get sucked out of central control and land in long term. Without Joy in the control room Riley can’t be happy so it’s a race to get Joy back.

Whether right or wrong is irrelevant but Inside Out provides a simple and colourful visual representation of our psyche. The main point of the film is to show that we are all complex beings that think in a very different way and we all have core memories that drive us towards different goals.

On the surface we are all driven by simple emotions yet sitting behind this control room is a host of memories and cognitive functions that affect our base emotions even if ‘central’ isn’t aware of it. For example as part of their journey, Joy and Sadness venture through an “experimental” abstract thought machine that transforms them into abstract shapes and forms. Then there is a hyper-active imagination land full of dumb things that I’m sure we have all thought of at some point such as being able to ride clouds or a guaranteed. emphatic win in any given sport.

These concepts are beautifully worked into the story because Riley is so young that abstract theory is probably only just starting to fire off in her synapses but imagination at that age is still wild and vivid. Whilst the meaning behind these scenes is deep, it could have been easily brushed aside into insignificance or at best just ‘an interesting addition’. However, they writers have managed to get around this by introducing bing bong; Riley’s imaginary friend who is bouncing around in long term memory. I won’t spoil it but it’s a touching explanation as to why a friend becomes a distant memory and another way of relating this macro adventure to Riley’s current situation and essentially being forced to grow up.

All the while Joy and Sadness are trapped things go from bad to worse with Riley who is now controlled by Anger, Digust and Fear only. She is now finding ire and resentment instead of solace in the things she used to love which drives her to run away back to her previous home but also starts destroying the islands created from the core memories showing us that it is all too easy to turn our backs on the things we love.

Both Joy’s story and Riley’s story are only resolved once Joy realises the importance of Sadness being in control as much as any other emotion. Only by internally developing complex relationships between base emotions and ultimately starting to understand ourselves can we grow and learn.

Schadenfreude. A beautiful sadness. I’ve can’t think I have ever seen this concept presented so well on film. The film manages to intricately weave a story between the meta characters with how these relate to real world actions whilst overlapping psychological aspects that represent Riley’s current state of development and it’s for this reason why Inside Out is a really great film.

It’s also the reason however, that kids might not enjoy it so much. Even if they do enjoy the characters and colourful visuals I doubt they can grasp how deep this film goes. An understanding of how powerful emotions can be is something brought on by the sands of time so I wonder if this will actually be truly popular with a younger audience?

Anyway, with a parietal lobe-full of simplistic and relatable – but perhaps pseudo – psychology Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best films yet. Unfortunately it is let down by it not pushing the boundaries of animation as you would expect from the studio. Still, it’s certainly a film that you could return to over and over without it being passed into long term or even fading from memory.

Go See

  • Simplistic psychology in bright colours!
  • Both joyful and sad at the same time
  • Cleverly weaved elements of the story


  • Doesn’t push the boundaries of animation
  • Might not be hugely entertaining for younger children




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