Pixar should be labeled a national treasure
Pixar is at their most purposeful with Inside Out, a studio using their dazzling animation discipline to dissect the inner workings of childhood’s struggles. Inside Out peers into emotions and their ability to control – or not – what we feel. It’s necessary cinema.
Pixar builds a coming-of-age case study with a meager five emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is powered by an overactive Joy (Amy Poehler) until a move from Minnesota to California upsets the balance. The pokey, uncontrolled Sadness (Phyllis Smith) begins to win the war on feelings, a touching example of maturity decorated with lavish creativity. Riley’s colorful mind and Pixar’s depiction of her personality landmarks turn the unseen visible. It’s made with incredible insight and vision.
While Inside Out’s viewpoint is somewhat narrow as it begins peering into the relatively cushioned life of a young girl, it still portrays the intended struggles with finding ones place. When Pixar enters meaningful mode, the studio is invincible. Brave dressed up action cinema with a feminine slant, Wall-E dissected technology, and Cars… well, Cars sold toys. But Inside Out is remarkably genuine, adding logic and a basis for the onset of depression, anxiety, and stress. Better still, it makes those circumstances okay, an immeasurable tool for coping.
Inside Out is remarkably genuine…
Inside Out is remarkably genuine…
Normalizing these situations in order to make them socially accepted is invaluable. They’re shared experiences. Films too often dress up an awkward first day of school as comedy, but Inside Out discovers the means to address why it’s awkward. Interior characters are able to reveal the way brains bottom out when under duress, all without speaking down to the core audience. Inside Out’s valuation of color proves an intelligent decision – images are attractive as much as they are representative of the embedded metaphors.
Certainly, Pixar cheats a little. As Riley lets sadness into her life, so too should the viewership. It’s a shared moment between a fictional character and paying audience. Inside Out’s methods know when to raise the delicate score into action, forcing emotion in the closing moments. There’s a lack of trust in the material to work on its own; it needs the calculable one-two punch of a hug and Michael Giacchino’s music. However, unlike other films which are manipulating empathy, Inside Out has spent 90 minutes prior building a place for feelings to be welcomed. Not letting them out, and thus the film not offering an outlet, would go against what Inside Out has created.
Inside Out’s goodbye isn’t tragic. It’s not buying Toy Story’s nostalgia points. Inside Out won’t even bury a parent which Disney loves to do. Instead, it finds a place for shared acceptance and understanding. Riley has become Disney’s most important princess and this film should be designated as essential.
Animated splendor. That describes the gamut of Pixar’s work. It’s true here too. Inside Out is flushed with fidelity, generated from sparkly hair and character texture. Each emotion has a fuzzy look. Every pixel is visible. World building elements, including large expanses and memory rooms, are perfect in their definition. An imaginary friend is made from cotton candy. His almost translucency effect is stunning.
Since each key character is given a specific representative palette, Inside Out is stuffed with color. Memory balls are blue, red, yellow, green, and purple, scattered across the frame. The disc is a showcase of saturation and beauty. Color is critical to story too. Riley’s happy stage is depicted with bright clothes. As she grows weary of her new situation, Inside Out begins to layer on grays. The effect is cautious.
Disney’s Blu-ray is a showcase of contrast and depth as well – per their usual output. Riley’s room in San Francisco uses soft shadows to make her space feel unwelcome. Black levels provide the needed dimensionality. In Riley’s head, the emotions give off a bright, satisfying glow.
3D only helps. While Disney themselves ignores the 3D format (Frozen, Maleficent), Pixar films are apparently worthy. Some of the early shots of San Francisco are beautiful. There’s an important layering effect at work too, giving space to the interior of Riley’s head. There’s great depth between her personality traits and the control room. 3D adds to the symbolism, on top of making the format viable.
Pop out effects are frequent. Joy’s, uh, joyous enthusiasm means she often leaps toward the screen and juts out from the frame. A sensational moment has Joy make a desperate attempt to reach the control room, stacked on top of other characters. Not only is Joy extending out of the frame, the depth of the pit below is superb. Once into a rather artsy dimension full of cubic shapes, Inside Out gets its 3D demo sequence. Floating piles of polygons on a blank white background? Perfect.
As a final recommendation, the closing credits need their due. Some small storytelling additions are done in a small frame off to the left. The way those shots play out as inset is flawless.
Audio work, courtesy of a DTS-HD 7.1 mix, puts a listener inside of a mind immediately. Voices flow from each speaker at once, creating an approximation of being trapped in your own head. It works as needed. This feature has no concern with moving voices around either. By the end, the center channel seems boring.
There is an elegant directionality at play. An enormous front soundstage kicks up and isn’t lost as time passes. Rolling memories move between channels as will frantic characters trying to recover the lost items. Action sequences dominate, with falling debris from island collapses to a rogue clown whose steps prove boomy in the low-end. It’s a clean, tight extension into the subwoofer which Inside Out uses as needed.
The 3D disc houses Pixar’s adorable romantic musical short Lava in full 3D with 7.1 support. Lava is also on the 2D disc. Following that is a funny short with gives Inside Out further potential, Riley’s First Date, tracking more minds as Riley moves into a new phase of her life.
Paths to Pixar is the first featurette, bringing together all of the women who worked on the film to discuss how they ended up at the studio or voicing the characters. Mixed Emotions (11:22) is part of a bevy of extras dealing with production, this one detailing how the creators narrowed down the emotions (7:17). A commentary with director Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen is excellent in its details.
There is a third disc in this set too, housing six behind-the-scenes featurettes, opening with Story of the Story as Docter describes where the concept was born (10:30). This bumps against Mapping the Mind (8:24), focusing on the design of Riley’s inner head. Our Dads the Filmmakers is a short film shot by the daughters of the staff (7:25), a fun, personal look at the production. Another short, Mind Candy (14:26) gives the main characters a place to play, playful enough to pass as a classic Disney short.
What remains are interesting looks at the animated film’s processes, usually the undervalued ones. Inside the Unknown hones in on foley efforts (7:09) and The Misunderstood Art of Animated Film Editing (4:43) follows how carefully Inside Out was put together. Five deleted scenes are introduced by Docter which is typical, but his detail is tremendous. Trailers for Inside Out, including a Japanese one, are offered as a finale.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.