Inside Out is a wonderfully imaginative and clever exploration of what it’s like to grow from a child with simple feelings to an adult who experiences complex emotions. It’s about the importance of allowing yourself to feel sadness as well as joy, and the sweet, short-lived nature of childhood memories. Continuously impressive on both a visual and conceptual level, Inside Out manages to play and have fun with some pretty complex ideas.
Psychonauts, the groundbreaking 2005 video game in which you play as a kid at a psychic summer camp who learns how to solve people’s problems by literally getting inside their head and navigating their thoughts and memories, excelled at visualizing the human thought process. Inside Out takes this idea one step further by actually giving thought processes faces and personalities (see: Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler; Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith; Fear, voiced by Bill Hader; Anger, voiced by Lewis Black; and Disgust, voiced by Mindy Kaling), building on the beautiful structure of what makes human beings unique and special. That Inside Out anthrophormiphizes emotions is barely scratching the surface of the excellent, sweet, and hilarious ways the film gives explanations for the sensations of déjà vu, forgetting the names of presidents, and getting an annoying jingle stuck in your head.
Inside Out seems more ambitious than many other Pixar movies, and brings to mind other recent films that explore the limitless depths of childhood imagination, like last year’s fantastic Lego Movie. But Inside Out has a bittersweet maturity that will make it resonate more with adults and older children transitioning into adulthood, who are having difficulty with expressing their feelings and pinpointing why exactly they feel this way. It teaches us, above all, that there’s no wrong way to feel.