View from Headquarters to the Islands of Personality
Directed by Peter Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen
Story by Peter Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen
Screenplay by Meg LeFeuve, Josh Cooley, Peter Docter
Music by Michael Giacchino
Summer Holidays, Friday morning. Pouring with rain. An obvious choice.
Being Pixel, we have a short before. Lava about a lonely singing volcano seeking love. Just as it crumbles into dust, or rather he, not it, a shapely female volcano emerges from the sea. This causes a flow of lava … let’s not go into this too deeply, and the crumbling volcano, er, becomes erect, and they complete the love song with lines like I lava you and I lava you too. I hope that doesn’t make it sound bizarre in any way.
Back in 1962 the Beezer comic started a cartoon strip called The Numskulls, which moved into The Dandy then The Beano. The strip is about a team of human-like technicians controlling a human from inside the brain. The Numskulls went for five sense technicians … Brainy (brain), Blinky (eyes), Luggy, late Radar, (ears), Nosey, later Snitch, (smell) and Alf and Fred who later became Cruncher, (taste). Other ones turned up from time to time.
Inside Out is a big film, with the highest opening weekend for an original story. We are inside the head of an 11 year old girl, Riley. The outside, real world (or rather animated realistic story) shows this kid and Mom and Dad moving from Minnesota where they bonded playing hockey on the ice, to San Francisco where she is the new kid in class, the truck with their possessions has not arrived so the house is bare, and dad’s business start-up appears to be in trouble.
L to R: Anger, Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Fear
Inside her brain, five colour-coded emotions are in control. Joy is our central character, with Sadness as her main sidekick. The other three are Fear, Disgust and Anger. A major character is Riley’s imaginary friend from childhood, Bing Bong. They meet others.
It’s a very, very clever story. Our 11 year old critic thought it 9 or 10 out of 10 “for me” but not for her four year old sister. The four year old sat patiently through because the visuals are stunning, but said it was “boring.” It was way beyond her conceptually. Her favourite character was teen-queen Disgust. It is a U rating, but it is really directed at ten plus in age with many adult only references. I would not take 5 or 6 year olds. They will have trouble with the brain areas like Abstract Thought, Imagination and Sub-conscious as well as the Hollywood team inside the brain creating dreams, and the train of thought which stops when Riley is asleep, and the “Islands of Personality” of Family, Honesty, Hockey.
Riley: first day at the new school in San Francisco
The drama has Joy and Sadness setting off to save Riley’s core happy memories deep in the stored memories labyrinth of shelves, then they can’t back to Headquarters (the control room) leaving Disgust, Fear and Anger trying to cope with Riley in the new environment.
Joy and Sadness take a short cut with Bing Bong through Imagination (ignoring the DANGER sign) and they all become abstract Piccasso or Dali figures, then two-dimensional and only escape by becoming one dimensional lines and getting out of the exit. Yes, I’ve read Flatland. A lot is conceptually ingenious. When they fall into the pit of forgotten memories, Bing Bong, the childhood imaginary friend has to sacrifice himself in order to let Joy escape. So he fades into nothing. It’s all a bit John Milton in one way. At the end (a genuine animated tearjerker) Joy has to learn that we also need Sadness to get ourselves back to the world.
Outside: Mom, Riley and Dad at dinner
Some of the best sequences, especially in the end credits, is when we see into other brains and meet their emotions. The best of all is the dinner scene with Mom and Dad. Dad’s moustachioed emotions are thinking about soccer, oblivious to wife and daughter. Anger takes over as daughter emotes. Our eleven year old noted that Riley’s emotions mixed female (Joy, Sadness, Disgust) and male (Fear, Anger) but that every other person had all-male or all-female emotion characters. At the end credits, the emotions of the dog, cat and teen girl pizza server are hilarious.
There are a lot of adult jokes. When they first arrive at their wooden Victorian San Francisco house, Riley is wearing a rainbow T-shirt and Dad’s moustache is prominent and he has stubble. It’s San Francisco … you do wonder where the story is going to go. The local San Francisco “healthy” pizza shop does only broccoli pizza.
I think they set up a part 2 saying ‘What will it be like when she’s 12?’ at the end. We have seen a new button called PUBERTY on the control panel, but the emotions don’t know what it is … yet. We discussed that over pizza afterwards. Our consensus was that they’ll add Embarrassment and Love as extra emotions in a part two.
Yes, a great animated film. Definitely one for adults on their own as well. It reminded me in parts of those Disney animators doing the flying and dancing elephants in Dumbo all those years ago, and critics wondering what chemical was inspiring them