Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
When I first saw Pixar's 'Inside Out' I was floored by its seemingly simple complexity. Here's a movie that deals with complex emotions and thought processes with simple logic, chief of which is the personification of emotions inside someone's mind. The intricacies of the mind have been distilled – but most definitely not dumbed down to an ingeniously straightforward visualization involving anthropomorphized emotions, balls that store memories, literal trains of thought, islands of personality, and an imagination land. Every time a new concept involving the mind is introduced it's fascinating, but most importantly its purpose is easily understood by younger viewers.
It's true that the basis of 'Inside Out' isn't necessarily original. An early '90s sitcom entitle 'Herman's Head' first introduced the idea of personified emotions controlling the main character. However, 'Inside Out' most definitely expounds and improves upon the formula.
The mind in question belongs to 11-year-old Riley. An already formidable time of youth is exacerbated by the fact that Riley's family has been uprooted from an idyllic existence in Minnesota and forced to relocate to San Francisco because of her dad's job.
Her mind is populated by her core emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler) normally takes the lead, piloting the control board and trying desperately to keep Sadness (Phyllis Smith) from touching any of Riley's important memories, or mucking up her happiness. Anger (Lewis Black) provides Riley's fiery side; Disgust (Mindy Kaling) keeps her safe from horrible things like broccoli; and Fear (Bill Hader) warns her of impending danger (on a sidenote, one wonders what the film is trying to convey by making Sadness the chief emotion for Riley's mom while her dad is seemingly controlled by anger).
In perfect Pixar fashion the first five minutes set the stage so beautifully, by explaining the premise in such a way that we feel like we're figuring it out on our own. It isn't as visually interpretive as, say, 'Up,' but it does provide enough stunning scene-setting visuals, tight narration, and perfectly placed life-affirming scenarios to perfectly set up the film's endearing foundation.
Since 'Up,' Pixar has produced three sequels to established franchises, along with the original 'Brave' for good measure. What's been missing from the Pixar lineup in the past few years is the excitement of discovery. Yes, 'Toy Story 3' was really good, but we're already familiar with that world. In 'Inside Out' we get to see Pixar at the top of their game again. With director Pete Docter at the helm, we're whisked away into a completely immersive and imaginative universe that never ceases to astound.
'Inside Out' will truly speak to the old and young alike. There's something so tangible about how memories are stored in balls and logged away on endless mind-shelves, some of them never to be seen again (except that one annoying commercial jingle that spontaneously pops into your head, of course). Whenever the film introduces a new visualization of a different part of the mind it's instantly relatable. There isn't one moment, or one idea, that seems counterintuitive or ridiculous. Like a complex weave of brain synapses, 'Inside Out' intertwines the complexities of the human mind with a beautiful simplicity.
I hesitate to run down the list of the ingenious aspects in the film. They are simply too fun and too inventive to spoil even to the least degree. Suffice to say, 'Inside Out' brazenly explores an alien world with startlingly astute observations. The interactions between the emotions are synchronously hilarious and poignant. The emotional heft of the movie is palpable. It's almost as if you can feel the parents in the audience understanding a little more about their kids, and the kids in the audience learning a little more about themselves.
I admit to being floored by 'Inside Out.' While the idea has been attempted before, it feels new here because Docter, and Pixar have added so much more meaning to it. But, perhaps the best review the movie can ultimately receive is the reaction from my 4-year-old son who immediately asked my wife to look inside his ear to see if she could see the people in his head; and who on a daily basis informs us that "Joy is driving me today."
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
'Inside Out' (non-3D version) comes to Blu-ray in a 3-Disc pack containing two 50GB Blu-rays (one for the feature, one for bonus material) and a DVD. Each disc has their own hubs. There is also a Disney Movie Rewards code included which controls your Digital Copy. There's an advertisement/offer for the Disney Movie Club. Finally, this Collector's Edition comes with a cardboard slipcover featuring the same artwork as the case.
Is it any surprise that 'Inside Out' would be anything but stellar on Blu-ray? The detail and color of this film pop in high definition. Every frame is almost more astounding than the last. It's one of the finest HD video presentations I've ever seen.
Fine detail is exquisite. A fine mist encircles every emotion that is almost akin to the Pixie Dust found in the 'Tinker Bell' films. It's small, but the clarity here is just off the charts. Each little ethereal particle has its own life. Then there's that light aura that surrounds each one – Joy especially – which doesn't harbor an ounce of banding. Every strand of computer-generated hair on the heads of Sadness and Joy looks and acts realistic. Long shots that attempt to take in the vastness of Long-term Memory are filled with intricate detail. Endless shelves are populated by countless colorful spheres each one appearing perfectly distinct from the rest.
When Joy reluctantly visits the Memory Dump, black levels are right on. Memory balls that are sent there to be forgotten appear as various shades of gray, as they soon disintegrate and are lost forever. Even on a pile of graying memory spheres each ball is individually noticeable. The distinctness of the detail is almost overwhelming at times.
Color is strong and bold, with yellow, red, blue, purple, and green – the colors of the emotions – featured prominently throughout. Each color is vivid and wonderfully presented. I can't think of one complaint I had about this transfer. It's demo material in every conceivable way.
'Inside Out' sports a DTS-Master Audio 7.1 mix that is every bit as lively and nuanced as its video counterpart. The sound mix here is fully realized, providing an impressive surround sound experience that immerses anyone who may be listening.
First off, dialogue is clear up front. Directionality is razor-sharp as voices bounce around the sound field. Echoes are amazingly accurate, reverberating through the front, side, then rear speakers as characters voices bounce off the cavernous walls of Long-term Memory.
LFE booms when Jangles the Clown wakes up and starts rampaging through Dream Productions. There are far too many demo-worthy moments to list them all. Just like the video presentation, the audio is perfect. Each sound effect is crystal clear, prioritization is pristine, and involvement of the surround speakers is sublime. There isn't an aspect of this audio presentation that needs work. It's as good as it gets.
Audio Commentary – A commentary is provided by director Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen. They're joined, as the commentary goes along, by others like Bill Hader and directory of photography Patrick Lin. Docter provides a lot of insight into how the movie was created. Even more fascinating is learning about the cinematography process as it pertains to a computer-animated film such as this. It's something I've never really thought about, but it's fun to learn about the differences and similarities to traditional filmmaking.
'Lava' (HD, 7 min.) – The short film that played before 'Inside Out' in theaters is included. It was a divisive film to say the least. Many people thought its cloying sentimentality was too much to stomach, while others were transfixed by its charming sweetness. Whatever your thoughts on it, this much is for sure, that song sticks in your head forever.
'Riley's First Date' (HD, 5 min.) – A new short film has been created for this release. One of the more creative and funny aspects of the movie was that it went inside the heads of other people around Riley. Here we get more of that as Riley's dad encounters a boy who has come to call on his daughter. It's a great little short that's well worth your time.
Paths to Pixar: The Women of 'Inside Out' (HD, 11 min.) – A group of interviews featuring the female members of the voice cast – Poehler, Kaling and Smith – is included here.
Mixed Emotions (HD, 7 min.) – We get a brief look at some of the emotions that were cut from the final draft of the script. Also, we get to see how the final characters evolved in the animation process.
'Inside Out' is one of my favorite films of 2015. It's beautiful, poignant, and richly animated. It's a return to form for Pixar. It reminds us what Pixar can accomplish when not thinking about sequels all the time. It's a shoo-in for best animated feature, however there's a case to be made for Best Picture. This Blu-ray is the cream of the crops as far as technical aspects go. The audio and video are top-notch. Add on the fact that there's a heavy helping of worthwhile extras and 'Inside Out' is a must-own title.