So no doubt many of you might have seen the new Pixar move, Inside Out. Or maybe Minions? Well, after hearing a lot about Inside Out, and knowing nothing about it, I finally went to see it a weekend or so ago. What can I say? It was depressing! (At least to me it was, although following discussions with other people, it seemed to have a very different reception for them). Regardless, not only is Inside Out quite popular as the latest Pixar flick, but it’s also been rated quite highly by Rotten Tomatoes (98%) and IMDB (8.7). This probably has to do with its deconstruction (and cartoon-ification, if I could just make up that word) of personality and emotion, which appeals to adult audiences as well. And don’t get me wrong, when I say sad, I mean Inside Out is similar in vein to the Toy Story movies – much of it is about growing up and letting go.
My brief deconstruction / ramble about Inside Out
Joy: Do you ever look at someone and wonder, “What is going on inside their head?” Well, I know. Okay, I know Riley’s head.
Inside Out is a two-fold story. We have the story taking place inside 11 year old Riley’s head, with the characters (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust) personifying the various emotions battling (sometimes literally) with each other. Then we have the story taking place outside – the rather ordinary story of a young girl, forced to move with her family to a new town. What’s perhaps interesting is the connection between the two stories – we see how the outside story affects and is affected by what happens inside. Forcing us to reflect upon our own behaviours, personality and emotions, Inside Out helps us to perhaps better how our emotions (the internal) manifest (the external) in behaviours that can be confusing and frustrating not only to ourselves but those around us.
The example that comes to mind is when Riley has a fight with her parents at the dining table. In what I thought was one of the funniest scenes in the movie, we get a sneak peak into the inner workings of Riley and her parents’ minds, including the differences between her mum and her dad’s, and the way that emotions can dominate us sometimes
Riley’s Anger: “I’ll show you attitude, old man.”
Dad’s emotions: “Reporting high level of sass…. Take it to DEFCON 2… Your heard that gentlemen… DEFCON 2.”
Beyond the characters who personify emotions, we also see a visual transformation of all the intricacies of the human mind. In what resembles a pin ball mechanics machine, we see the creation of memories represented as fragile orbs. These memories fade over time, while some “core memories” are seen to define the “islands of personality” (Family, Honesty, Friendship, Hockey and Goofball) that make up who we are. And really, how fragile is our sense of self?
The whole internal of Riley’s mind is transformed into a colourful and often wacky outward landscape, which Joy and the audience journeys through. And that, I suppose, is where the film’s name comes from.
If we think about the journeys of discovery interlaced in this film, we have:
- Riley’s journey to a new town and school – what are her initial expectations and what does she, instead, discover?
- Joy and Sadness are lost in Riley’s mind – what do they discover about memories, personality and each other?
- Riley’s realisation at the end – what does Riley discover about herself and how does she reconcile with those discovers and her parents?
Through all this, we can draw some ideas about discovery including:
- What is the start of discovery? Is it always planned? An expedition that we undertake? Or is it often a matter of being lost? Being pushed into a new and challenging circumstances against our will?
- What the process of discovery? Challenge? Sacrifice/loss? Disappointment? Friendship? Hope? Seeing something in a new light?
- What is the impact of such discoveries? Are we changed? Do we grow? Do we reflect and make amends?