Category Archives: Animation

Kubo and the Two Strings

Hobby Crafted

If there is any film this year that deserves to be a commercial success then it is Kubo and the Two Strings.

The whole premise of the film is framed around a fairy tale. The tale goes that the evil Moon King fought and defeated Hanzo, a legendary warrior, and took an eye of his only son. The only thing that can stop him from taking the boy’s other eye is another warrior and 3 pieces of mythic armour.

That boy is Kubo.

What I loved about Kubo and the Two Strings is how it seamlessly blended reality and fantasy without ever needing to explain how or why such things exist and it’s up to the viewers own intelligence to work out what is real and what is metaphorical.

Can Kubo really make paper dance and fight like it’s alive or is this just a metaphor for a vivid storyteller? Does he really have a monkey and a samurai beetle as friends? Is his shamisen really magic?

It could all just be the overactive imagination of a young, lonely, boy trying to grow up and make sense of a world that has left him with a mother that requires constant care and an absent father.

With a heavy Japanese influence I did wonder if some of the film’s meaning was lost on me though. As a stupid ‘gaijin’ I couldn’t tell you if this mythos is rooted in eastern theology or if this is original storytelling.

Either way there is so much love and care put into the animation and interaction between characters. I would not be surprised if this started out as Travis Knight’s personal hobby or pet project because it’s so easy to be mesmerised by the film’s many unfolding layers.

I mean the animation is nothing short of breathtaking with action scenes that are dynamic enough to hold its own against modern action choreography.

The interaction between characters is equally as stunning. Whether it be between Kubo and old lady Karmeyo (Brenda Viccaro) or between Monkey (Charlie Theron) and the wonderful Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) both script and acting are near flawless.

Kubo and the Two Strings is not perfect though. It is possibly a little bit too long but more importantly it loses focus leaving the end of the film to feel a bit rushed. The final fight scene had some scrappy editing and I wasn’t enamoured by the Moon King’s design at this point as it looked like something out of The Avengers.

In all honesty this might not be something to take your kids to – it’s not exactly Toy Story – but it’s the most creative and wonderful piece of art to come out on general release in a long time and one that deals with spiritualism, fantasy, life and death in a careful and delicate manner. In my eyes; that’s something worth supporting.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Gorgeous stop motion photography
+ Fantastic action
+ Beautiful character interaction


– Am I missing some symbolism?
– The final battle

Stars_4

Advertisements

Finding Dory

Still A-Dory-ble

The great thing about Finding Dory is that it’s basically Finding Nemo complete with almost all the charm of the original film which, to me, is still the best animated film going. The bad thing about finding Dory is that the whole joke of having short-term memory loss starts to wear thing very quickly.

That said, what’s great about Finding Dory that it’s basically Finding Nemo complete with almost all the charm of the original film!

It’ll come as no surprise that writer/director Andrew Stanton cannot hit the heights of Finding Nemo neither in the quality of story-telling nor in its emotional resonance because the original was such a perfect slice of animation.

The story of Finding Dory is not so much a case of ‘finding’ in a physical sense but more in the sense of a gap year student taking a year off in Thailand to learn yoga, grow dreadlocks and generally find yourself, dude. It’s a promising concept but one that is difficult to connect with, especially when the main character keeps forgetting that that’s what she is trying to do.

What we are left with is a thoroughly entertaining tale but one that is less critical, less important, than that of its predecessor. It is important to remember that a lot of Nemo’s charm was its characters. In this respect Finding Dory is very much playing the same tuna.

It’s a good job that I’m not in charge of these characters otherwise you would have had an agoraphobic crab, a short tempered electric eel or a swordfish with tourettes. Not ideal for kids.

Thankfully I don’t make these decisions and we get Destiny who is an extremely short sighted whale in a sea life museum. Unlike Dory’s affliction Destiny’s actually becomes funnier and funnier as she continually smashes head first into the holding pen’s furniture.

For me though it’s Hank the Octopus who was the best addition to the gang. Hank is grumpy and devious enough to give his character depth but is soft enough to fall for Dory’s unrelenting, cheery optimism.

Hank also becomes the vehicle for most of the best action the film has to offer thanks to his unique dexterous shape-shifting, colour-changing ability. He’s able to use his prehensile appendages to open doors, grab objects and swing on whatever there is to swing from.

Maybe I’m suffering from memory loss as well (in fact I probably am, my memory is terrible) but I swear I have seen a cartoon of an escaping octopus pretending to be plants because these scenes were familiar, beautifully animated and even somehow comforting.

If you need another reason to go see Finding Dory then go see it for the absolutely stunning short that is being shown beforehand. It’s called Piper. It’s probably already on the yoochoobz and I highly recommend you give it a watch. It’s guaranteed to make you smile.

Even if you don’t watch the short be sure to check out Finding Dory complete with its fantastic new characters making it comparable to Finding Nemo complete with almost all the charm of the original film yet missing some of the necessity of it.

Wait… have I already said that?!

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Hank
+ Destiny
+ It’s beautiful
+ Piper – Short film


– The story isn’t as
– Memory loss humour wears thin

Stars_4

Ice Age: Collision Course

Extinction Imminent

The normal trend for most animated films seems to be that you create a decent original film, follow it up with a questionable sequel then just to call it Betty and milk it as hard as you can with straight to DVD films – let’s face it, kids will watch anything!

It’s quite impressive that Collision course is the 5th film in the Ice Age franchise to hit the big screen however, this feels very much like track 15 off of any greatest hits album because yeah; it’s Ice Age, but it offers nothing new.

The above is a really accurate analysis of the film so cue another 300 words of me waffling on like I’m trying to pad out a PowerPoint presentation!

If you have a child they will undoubtedly love this, there are funny animal characters and action scenes and Scrat chasing an acorn – it really is standard Ice Age stuff.

The most striking change to the series was that the focus wasn’t so much about the unlikely friendship between Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Dennis leary) and Manny (Ray Romano) which, in my book, was the most enjoyable part of the films.

Instead the story revolves around Manny’s family values whilst Sid sort of does his own thing and Diego is hardly even in it. In fact, Buck (Simon Pegg) who we first saw in Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs plays a bigger part than Diego.

That’s almost a fair trade off because Buck is quite hilarious but it’s a bit like going to a Foo Fighters gig only to find out that it’s actually a Wu Tang Clan gig featuring the Foo Fighters – it’s just not quite what I was hoping for.

Because there isn’t a coherent narrative between the main protagonists the story doesn’t feel as tight as previous films but I suppose it doesn’t help that the idea of some animals managing to stop a massive comet from impacting the earth isn’t quite as grounded as the planet hitting an Ice Age.

Scrats adventures with his acorn follows this theme of the fantastical as he accidentally gets into a spaceship which forces him to moonwalk (not in the Michael Jackson sense) and battle varying degrees of face warping gravity (a bit like Michael Jackson ironically) in order to keep hold of his precious.

All in all I can’t help but wonder if this film Sid-nals the death of the series because it felt like the writers were Scrat-ching around in the dirt and finding very little inspiration… don’t worry i’ll Die-go now before I make too Manny other bad puns.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Fun for kids
+ Standard Ice Age stuff


– Offers nothing new
– Feels like the death of the series
– UFO?!

Stars_2

The Secret Life of Pets

Heavy Petting

As someone whose male ovaries are bursting at the thought of having pets as soon as I have my own house, I had high hopes for The Secret Life of pets.

I think I was about 11 when I first saw the trailer for this film – at least that’s how it seemed because it has been a long time coming to cinemas – and instantly loved it. The theme is rather unsurprisingly like Toy Story but with pets and emits an arty vibe of New York in the 90’s almost like this was Woody Allen’s foray into animation.

The trailer is actually the start of the film and it’s almost shot for shot. to me this was one of the best parts of the film as a host of really clever and astute pet behavioural observations are fleshed out into the main characters.

Max (Louis C.K.) is your every day loyal dog who wants the attention of his owner, Mel (Bobby Moynihan) is an incredibly stupid, slightly schizo, guardian of all he surveys whilst Gidget (Jenny Slate) is content with her luxury life and Chloe (Lake Bell) as one of the only cats holds a cynical contempt for everyone else around her. I like Chloe!

In fact the characters are so good that I would happily have just watched an hour of these pets just mingling and not much more.

Unfortunately that’s not what the film is about. Max’s owner brings home another dog called Duke (Eric Stonestreet) who is unquestionably the least focus of the pets. He is a bit clumsy, a big mangey, a bit overweight, a bit malicious a bit like Donald Trump only a thousand times more tolerable.

As Duke an Max vie for their owner’s affection it leads them to be captured by pest control. After being broken out by a cute but homicidal bunny rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) they are forced into a literal underground rebellion of lost and unwanted pets from which they have to escape and get back home.

Now… this might sound as stupid as bringing home a jar of air as a holiday souvenir but The Secret Life of Pets has too much story and get’s in the way of any meaningful character development. With so many different personalities on screen it would have been easy to riff off of the clever writing to provide something deeper than a heist movie starring animals.

Because the focus is more on the crazy capers of the animals rather than their personalities the poignancy of Duke’s story line is all but lost.

Still; it’s all good fun. the writing and characters are brilliant. Smart observations of pet behaviour help it from being bereft of entertainment for older generation whilst the antics will undoubtedly keep younger audiences entertained. I do wonder though if  – like sausage dogs – The Secret Life of pets would look better if it was a bit shorter.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Excellent Start
+ Great characterisation
+ Overall it’s good fun


– Possibly better as an animated short
– Duke
– Duke’s story

Stars_3_5

Angry Birds

Angry Management

How old are you? Probably over 17 because you are reading WordPress rather than snap-chatting pictures of your junk.

Have you ever had Angry Birds installed on your phone? Most likely. I mean how else did you make your morning bombing raids of the super-bowl more interesting?

How many people are still interested in Angry Birds? Less than ever? Probably… it is a bit like left over cake: it looks inviting but you know you will hate yourself for indulging.

I’m not some wart infested mystic living in a tent this is just the way things are. The point being that Angry Birds has a wide audience even if it’s past its prime.

The Angry Birds movie should therefore cater to both a younger and an older audience, which admittedly it does, but at the detriment of the latter.

It’s become the most mind-numbingly generic and cliché aspect of modern animation – especially ones involving animals – is that there has to be a dance scene. Angry Birds takes this to the Nth degree by having flagrant disregard for where these scenes occur and why they occur.

Rovio Animation must have had a memo saying that dance scenes were what kids want from a film so they kicked together some garbage and threw it in the final film only because they had to – not because they wanted to.

There is an incredibly poor choice of songs that has been selected precisely because young people will recognise them. With their sparkly lights, colours and noises the only thing that would make this more appealing to those under 5 is if it came with jelly and ice-cream.

I realise this comes across as me sounding like a grumpy old man – to be fair; I fucking am – but these atrocious dance scenes stand out amongst the rest of the film because this adaptation of a phone game has otherwise been incredibly well realised as an animated movie.

The animation is actually better than it should be yet the most impressive part of it is how they have built well rounded characters from 2D weapons that happen to be in the shape of birds.

The film follows Red (Jason Sudeikis) who is the approximation of the original small red Angry Bird. He is “angry” at a society that is always naively happy and as a miserable old bastard I enjoyed sharing in his misanthropic frustration.

After being forced to go to anger management he meets two good friends who are also on the fringe of society. Chuck (Josh Gad) is our resident ADHD afflicted, most likely drug addicted, yellow bird whilst Bomb (Danny McBride) is our black bird with a tendency to explode when nervous or scared.

The only problem with the characters is that they only ever get angry in the closing section of the film. Even Red seems more cynical in his contempt for the world around him rather than angry.

It is genuinely surprising that Rovio Animation has made a film that makes sense of the game and even more surprising that most of the on-screen characters are likely to share traits with someone you know: proving that underneath the formulaic kiddy bullshit is a surprisingly deep film that was nearly catapulted to greatness.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Great animation
+ Innovative depiction of each bird
+ Good characterisation


– Terrible song choices
– Abysmal dance scenes
– They were never really angry

Stars_2_5

The Jungle Book

Jungle All The Way

HAKUNA MATATA ladies and gentlemen!

Welcome to my review of The Jungle Book; a film about a boy who follows his dream to ride a sabre-toothed tiger and become a singing scout leader after being raised by wild pandas.

Ok… I’ll admit it. I’ve never actually seen the original 1967 Disney classic. The good news is that I have no pre-conception about this latest reboot from Jon Favreau.

With the exception of Cowboys & Aliens which was a bigger mistake than denim on denim Jon Favreau continues to prove himself as a film maker capable of creating commercially successful films and in some ways The Jungle Book is his best film yet.

Calling the film a “live action version” of the original is misleading because apart from Mowgli (Neel Sethi) the film is about as real as Jordan’s boobs.

However, live action is also highly accurate because we are living in the future my friend. There will be times where you are convinced that you’re watching real animals trying to lick peanut butter off the roofs of their mouths; the CGI animation is that good. It’s unbelievable.

Through the animation of talking animals the makers could easily have… baloo it… sorry! Anyway, the excellent voice acting enlivens each of the main characters. Most notable for me were Ben Kingsley as Bagheera and Bill Murray as Baloo who really become the embodiment of Mowgli’s trusty protectors.

I could write an essay on how good each of the characters are but I’m already at risk of TLDR. Perhaps the exception to this is Idris Elba as Shere Kahn. I think that’s a personal thing. I find his voice too recognisable and a bit too London (“in tha jaaangle”) for my taste.

I actually wasn’t overly enamoured with Neel Sethi as Mowgli either. Sure, he looks the part and he even moves like a Mowgli should but he’s just not the revelation that Haley Joel Osment was in The Sixth Sense for example, which is a shame when the CGI work is so damn good.

Still, these are minor points because whether you are a child or an adult there is something for everyone. Children will obviously appreciate the talking animals and the unobtrusive introduction of classic songs but be warned it’s a lot darker and threatening than the original was… I’m guessing!

As an adult I actually appreciated this darker tone and the way it questions how humans and animals are able to co-exist. It’s interesting to think that animals shun wild humans because they are too dangerous rather than the other way around.

However, the film doesn’t really provide any wider conflict between humans and animals and neither does it pose answers of how we can co-exist without fucking everything up like we do at the minute.

Perhaps this can be explored in The Jungle Book 2? There are a lot of characters that can have their story fleshed out further and given the money it’s already raked in I’m sure Disney will make a sequel out of necessity: bare necessity!

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Stellar animation
+ Great voice acting
+ Darker than expected


– Idris on Kahn
– Neel Sethi

Stars_4

Zootropolis

Whiskey Tango FoxHop

It’s fairly common for films to mimic, mock or satirise current affairs. Sometimes this is done with such subtlety that you only pick up on it after a period of reflection – a bit like that time you felt stupid for not getting that joke. Don’t worry; we’ve all done it.

Of course, sometimes a film can be quite open in it’s messaging. It’s rare though that a film comes along with a giant neon sign flashing the words “Get it now?” and jams it right in your eyeballs. This is exactly what Zootropolis does.

Put a fuzzy animated wrapper around this messaging though and it doesn’t feel like one of those thingymajigs you pay money to avoid in university… “a lecture” that’s the word I was looking for!

Zootropolis focuses on 2 core values. Firstly that you don’t have to follow a pre-defined path and secondly that just because someone commits a crime doesn’t mean that everyone of that race/creed are criminals.

The story focuses on Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) a rabbit who dreams of being a cop. Unfortunately for her the role of cops is reserved for larger and stronger mammals. Sounds familiar right? You can’t have that job because you don’t know the right people or you didn’t go to the right school. Non of this matters to Hopps as she is determined to overcome these arbitrary rules.

This theme is continued in Hopps’ unlikely partner Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman); a fox who has become crafty and sly through conditioning not through choice. Again, familiar? “So when are you going to settle down and have kids”, “When are you getting married?”, “why are you wearing that?”.

We are constantly pressured into behaving in a certain way or following pre-defined expectations that we often forget to live by embracing what truly makes us happy.

Once this partnership has been set up the film shifts into the real storyline that focuses on missing animals. These missing animals turn out to be predators that have “gone savage”.

Very quickly we see the whole of Zootropolis fear all predators because of the actions of a few. Scare tactics force sanctions on otherwise friendly inhabitants. You only have to look at the most recent suicide bombings and the hate filled bile that rains out of Donald Trump’s face to realise this is referring to Muslims.

It’s difficult to portray the depth at which these moral statements lie in so few words but it’s also to the detriment of storyline. It’s completely acceptable but isn’t as tight as other animated films.

Instead this film feels like 2 short films. One about a bunny wanting to be more than a carrot farmer and one about a small group of people ruining it for the rest.

Thankfully the characters are superb and it’s fantastically animated keeping you entertained throughout but will younger viewers understand the moral standpoint? I’d bet my lucky rabbit’s foot that they wouldn’t.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Well animated
+ Excellent characters
+ Morally just


– A bit too focused on the morals
– Too slow to get into the main storyline
– Might be lost on younger audiences

Stars_4

Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung Fun Panda

I don’t really remember what happened in Kung Fu Panda or Kung Fu Panda 2 but then again, my memory isn’t necessarily to be trusted. One day I was at work and forgot about the minute’s silence in remembrance of World War 2. I proceeded to loudly state “cor… it’s gone deathly quiet in here!?” right in the middle of the office.

Obviously the next few minutes I was silent – assuming if you discount the awkward squeal of embarrassment and sounds of eyes rolling in my direction.

Anyway; the point is that I vaguely remember the first film being decent but the second being awful. I was eager to see the latest offering thanks to its trailer which made number 3 look like a big ball of stupid fun.

In this regard the film met my expectation. The fun doesn’t get any bigger or dumber than everyone’s favourite Dragon Warrior: Po (Jack Black).

Po is a fantastic character. Not only because of his hugabley cute and podgy exterior – an instant hit with younger audiences – but for the enthusiasm and amazement he has for even the simplest of things such as ordering a bowl of noodles.

It’s an infectious optimism that reminds us of when the world still held magic and wonder instead of the face smashing boredom of 9 to 5 work, calorie counting and oven cleaners. It was only for an hour and a half but Po allowed me to view the world with childlike awe and how can that be a bad thing?

Kung Fu Panda 3 really tries to capitalise on this feeling by bringing Po back home to his homeland which is packed full of pandas. Instead of practicing Kung Fu these adorable little buggers practice sleeping, eating dumplings and rolling down hills.

Whilst all of this is certainly adds to the film’s main focus – fun – it is at the detriment of an in depth storyline and character development.

The reason Po heads back to the Panda village is because of the arrival Li (Bryan Cranston); his real dad, but the film only dips its toe into more progressive or mature themes such as the possibility of having two dads or the conflicts that come between parent, child authority and honesty.

Even though Li features heavily in the film he never feels like an important part of the show and therefore underdeveloped as a consequence. The same is also true of Kai (J.K. Simmons) who is Po’s adversary. We learn precious little about who he is or what motivates him.

But that doesn’t matter though. What is more important is some spectacular fight scenes that are brought to life thanks to some stunning choreography and meticulous animation that combines acute attention to detail, vibrant colours and jaw dropping imagining of the spiritual realm.

Jack Black manages to bring Po to life courtesy of his ability to sound genuinely excited by… well; everything! He is clearly having as much fun providing the voice over for Kung Fu Panda as I had watching it. It won’t be a future classic but it is an enjoyable, clean piece of entertainment for all the family. 🐼

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Good family fun
+ Excellent animation
+ Well choreographed fights


– A fairly standard plot
– Doesn’t really develop the characters
– Enemy background underdeveloped

Stars_3

The Good Dinosaur

Tall Tale to Tell

Jessica Simpson is beautiful right? Or at least she was – last thing I saw her in was Dukes of Hazard – but I struggle to remember a time where she said anything worth paying attention to. Actually; I tell a lie, she once said she didn’t know how to use a dishwasher which I still find mind-blowing/hilarious to this day.

The Good Dinosaur is like Jessica Simpson.

It looks absolutely incredible, better than any other animation I have seen. From the first moment the river flows majestically past the dinosaurs I had to stop and question whether this was actual real filmed locations with dinosaurs animated over the top. It wasn’t long after I scraped my jaw off of the sticky, popcorn coated floor that I found it slamming into the ground again only this time it was because of a branch with water droplets on it.

It’s hard not to gawp.

Normally, being taken out of the film’s narrative is a bad thing but The Good Dinosaur gets away with it. This is primarily because the film is slow paced, holding shots of scenery primarily for you to stare at in awe.

The story follows the notion that the dinosaur-ending meteor missed earth. After repeatedly being inept at the farming duties requested of him by to his father Henry (Jeffrey Wright) and his morther Ida (Frances McDormand); Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the smallest of three Apatosaurus siblings, is given a special task of catching the ‘critter’ who keeps stealing the corn stored for winter. It turns out the critter is a scruffy human child named Spot.

Having also failed to smash Spot’s feral little face in with a spiky club (no really – that’s accurate!) Henry drags Arlo along to finish the job. In a scene that is not too dissimilar to Mufasa’s death in the Lion King; Henry is crushed by a stampeding flow of water through a ravine. Arlo somehow survives and has to find his way home. To his surprise Spot is there to help.

The film tries to show the value of friendship, forgiveness and open mindedness but that’s not worth paying close attention to. Instead, what I took from it is that nature is both beautiful and terrifying because much of the film doesn’t make sense.

Let’s take the geography as an example. Arlo and family live in a valley and are simple farming dinosaurs, which actually compliments the film very well. The slow pace nature of their life affords you the time to admire the surroundings notice all those little touches that makes the animation superb whether that’s the rows of corn planted farmland or the glaciers surrounding their idyllic locale.

Arlo’s journey home takes him through the wild west like he’s wandered into the wrong set. Where did the mountains go? I mean if you can lose a mountain range you must either be blind, a teleporter or the Post Office at Christmas time.

Some of the wildlife doesn’t make sense either. At one point Arlo meets a Styracosaurus who is either mentally disabled or stoned and provides no character or plot advancement in any way, shape or form.

The animation of the dog-like Spot, who is probably the best character, and in fact all the dinosaurs are friendly and cartoony yet parts of this film are quite dark such as when Arlo’s father dies and indeed the next 30 minutes of Arlo injuring himself as he tries to find his way home. We even had one or two kids ushered out of the cinema, crying as they went, because of this.

Director Bob Peterson was replaced by Peter Sohn about a year ago and promptly re-imagined large parts of the film. Perhaps this explains why some of the film feels serene, thoughtful and slow paced (much like it must have been like to be an apatosaurus) and some of it feels like a man in a suit said: “I want action scenes, stoners, hallucinations and giant waterfalls – also see if you can get a pee or a poop joke in there somewhere!”.

Neither of these approaches are fully realised but I know which one I prefer. I think if they went all in to make this just a visual masterpiece even at the detriment of strong characterisation and plot development it would have made the better film. Instead they try to wedge it’s large frame into the Pixar mould leaving us with The Good Dinosaur rather than The Amazing Dinosaur.

Go See

  • Looks phenomenal
  • Spot
  • For the slow paced sections

Avoid

  • Pulled in two different directions – literally
  • Maybe not suitable for the very young
  • The more child friendly parts

Overall

Stars_3_5

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

Avoid

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

Overall

4-stars