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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 3, 2015

Inside Out Review: Nothing Like Pixar Studios Has Done Before

'INSIDE OUT' is not the usual Pixar Studios or Disney animated movie that is a fairy tale, comic adventure, or fantasy-science fiction. So if you watch it with that frame of mind, you'll surely be disappointed. To begin with, it’s not the usual good versus evil story as it doesn’t even have a villain, only conflicting personified emotions trying to restore balance in a depressed girl’s mind.

It is very much rooted in deep psychological territory as almost everything happens in the mind of an 11-year old girl, Riley, who's undergoing separation anxiety after her family moved from Minnesota to San Francisco for job-related reasons. We are presented with personified versions of the emotions or feelings we all experience inside each one of us.

In the Discovery Weekend, a weekend retreat for engaged couples, the very first topic discussed is Focus on Feelings, which shows how important feelings are. How well you control your feelings is very important in determining your Emotional Quotient, which shows how well you fare in interpersonal relationships. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, it's how you act because of your rampaging feelings that can get you into trouble. Persons will low EQ usually have plenty of hang ups, insecurities, flare up easily and have difficulty relating with others. So it'd be nice if all of us would know how to pinpoint and sort out our feelings at any given time.

In the movie, Riley's emotions are represented by five cartoonish characters. The leader is Joy (Amy Poehler), a jolly sprightly feeling that is colored yellow. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is red and looks forever depressed. Fear (Bill Hader) is purple and looks like a grasshopper. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is green, looks mean, overbearing and hates broccoli. Last is Anger (Lewis Black), who is red and can spew fire like a volcano.

There is a master control room where the five major emotions seek control. Joy is often the dominant emotion, but sometimes Sadness and the other feelings take over, according to whatever experiences Riley is currently going through. Riley's memories of past experiences are contained in data bank balls that are color-coded by emotions and is transferred from one location to another, stored as either short term or long term memories.

Riley's brain looks like a complicated network also filled with islands representing subjects dear to her, like Family Island with her mom and dad, Goofball Island for moments of being silly and funny, Friendship Island with the friends she left in Minnesota, Honesty Island that crashes when she steals her mom's credit card, etc.
There's also an imaginary friend called Bing Bong who looks like an elephant but made of cotton candy. He declares that he would die for Riley and provides the film’s most touching moment when he fails to join Joy in the very important conduit called Train of Thought that will carry them through Riley's subconscious.

The big conflict in the movie ensues when Riley attends her new school for the first time. It starts with a memory that is joyful, but turns into being sad when Sadness touches it and Riley ends up crying in front of the class. A struggle between Joy and Sadness result into Core Memories being knocked off, along with the two top emotions and they get lost along the way. Joy and Sadness then have to race back to the command center where Fear, Anger and Disgust become in control, causing Riley to shut down and run away. This part of the film is more like a parallel universe or an extended dream, but still rooted in the reality of Riley’s own life.

Directors Pete Docter (“Up”) and Ronnie del Carmen (who is Filipino) cleverly come up with a movie that has a wonderful interplay of images and sound that both children and adults alike can appreciate. The highly stylized look is nothing like anything Pixar has done before, giving it its own identity. The best sequence is when the characters go through the land of Abstract Thought (that turns them into Cubist features) to get to Imagination Land.

It’s obvious that the writers and directors did a lot of research on psychology. At the start, you’d think they’re favoring Joy but it soon becomes apparent that all the other emotions are as valuable as her. The film takes complicated psychological processes and tries its best to simplify them and make them relatable to viewers.

The film can actually be a lot of help for parents to explain to their own children the various interplay of emotions inside of them when they’re going through any kind of experience. The important thing is you’re able to name the feeling, claim it, and tame it if need be. As we say in the DW: feelings are neither right nor wrong. It’s the action that we choose to take in reaction to them that matters.

Of course, this is easier said than done because emotions can be so powerful and, as the movie shows, there are so many of them inside each of us that are all fighting to be heard. What’s apparent is that it’s when Anger, Fear and Disgust are in charge that we often make bad decisions, so we should learn how to tame them. And we’re glad that “Inside Out” is able to present this inner workings of our mind and emotions to the viewers very clearly.