Who says cartoons are just for little kids? Pixar certainly doesn’t think so. Having delivered animated movies such as Up and Toy Story that are loved by adults as much as children, they now bring us an emotional movie that at its heart is the story of how difficult it is being 11-years-old, and starting to grow up (not the sort of thoughtful subject matter you’d get in a Spongebob Squarepants movie, that’s for sure).
11-year-old girl Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) loves her hockey-playing, outdoorsy life in Minnesota, so finds her family’s move to the big city of San Francisco especially hard. We know this because the main action in this film doesn’t happen in the world around Riley but in her head, where the emotions of Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Kaling) work in their control room, pressing buttons for her feelings, watching memories roll by in the form of gold orbs, and viewing the important parts of Riley’s life – family, friendship, hockey, and her goofball personality – that are depicted as theme park-like floating islands. While bouncy, optimistic Joy has always been the central force, the family’s move (and a particularly hard first day at Riley’s new school) mean that gloomy Sadness is taking hold. This change causes both Joy and Sadness to accidentally be ejected from the control room, and forced to travel through different parts of Riley’s mind – Long Term Memory, the Hollywood-like Dream Production, the literal Train Of Thought – in an effort to return home.
The intricacies of Riley’s mind are extremely clever and imaginative throughout, but this film never loses its heart amongst all the inventive narrative devices. Many a tear will be shed by adults getting misty-eyed about their own childhoods, while kids will be drawn to the cute characters, especially Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong. That said, this doesn’t pander to the littlest of viewers – one plot twist we won’t spoil may be especially upsetting, while the appearance of a nightmare clown could provoke a few years of therapy – and instead sets its appeal firmly at older kids and adults who will add it to their list of Pixar movies to cherish.
Is Inside Out suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The dream clown mentioned above may upset sensitive viewers and those under the age of 6.
SPOILER One character doesn’t make it to the end of the movie which may upset younger viewers.