Over the summer, my friend and I took our daughters to watch Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. After the movie, I asked my 3 year old what she thought and she began to tell me her favorite parts of the film and why she liked those parts. It made me smile listening to her explain how she liked Joy and how they were on a mission to save all of the colorful “marbles”. It made me smile listening to the innocently carefree explanation of what, in my opinion, is one of Pixar’s deepest material yet.
As the two of us snuggled on the couch watching the newly released Blu Ray yesterday, I was able to delve even further into this wonderous world Peter Docter created. Movies have a wonderful way of moving us at various moments in our lives. They have a way of reminding us of our first loves, funny inside jokes and futures we hope for. Disney movies in particular do a beautiful job of this. I can link various times in my life to what Disney movie was released at that moment in time. I can recall the first snowfall of 1992 lightly falling on my friends and I as we walked out of the theater after watching Aladdin. The Lion King reminds me of my first love. Up redefined great love and great adventure. Big Hero 6 was the first movie my daughter saw in the theater. I can list every movie and instantly be transported back to something significant or even insignificant in my life. And then there is Inside Out. It made me reminisce and plan for the future all at once.
The concept is genius. We get an insiders’ view from “Headquarters” and experience life from the inner workings of the conscious mind lead by characters Joy, Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness. The movie follows young Riley’s biggest challenge in her life so far, a big move from Minnesota to San Fransico. This move sets an unprecedented mix of emotions in Riley. Her conscious mind has thus far been controlled by Joy. Suddenly, Sadness now plays a significant role and Riley’s other emotions at Headquarters struggle to find a way to cope with the new shift. Along with Riley’s feelings of being lost, the movie focuses on the journey that Joy and Sadness take to find their way back to Headquarters after they find themselves lost in a labyrinth of long term memory. Eventually, the pair realize you can not have joy without experiencing sadness and vice versa. By the end of the film, all Riley’s emotions get a seat at the control panel, showing how complex the mind really is and how we are not just happy or sad , but a mix of so many emotions.
To me, I absorbed the film wearing a few different hats. First, as a mother, it made me start to fast forward in time to some of the things my baby girl would experience and how many thoughts and emotions she will have. It made me hope that I don’t forget how difficult it is to deal with new found emotions. Like Riley early on in the movie, my daughter currently is driven by joy. Yes, there are moments of fear and anger and so forth, but the simplest things make her happy. I know that as the years go on, it won’t always be that simple. Now, at age 3, she will cry for me when she is feeling upset or scared. I know just how to calm her down and bring back the joy. There will be a day when I won’t even know she is scared or sad because she won’t want to call for me. I will need to pick up on any sign she might let slip out. I will need to toe the line of giving her space while reassuring her that I will always be there for her. It will be new waters for both of us.
Secondly, it made me reflect on my own childhood. In Riley’s long term memory, there are certain memories that just vanish into smoke, as if they never happened. They are then replaced with other memories. How many little things, places, names and experiences have vanished in my own labyrinth of memory? Was there ever anything so important to me at the time and now I didn’t even know it existed? Lastly, I viewed the movie as a critic. And I think the movie is brilliant. It has brought dealing with emotions to the forefront and offers a wonderful starting point for our younger set to begin being open about their feelings. It touches upon depression and let’s the audience, both children and adults, know its okay to talk about being sad.
I wrote down the plot of the movie as explained by my 3 year old in a journal I keep for her memories. Her focus was on the colorful characters and glowing “marbles”. Her favorite character was Joy. I would love to ask her to explain the movie to me a few years from now and see how it differs and evolves. Inside Out is a movie that takes on different meaning depending on when we experience it. The lessons that one viewer may glean from the film may be different from the next. The feelings it evokes run the whole spectrum. And we will all laugh at the comedic moments as delivered by the entertaining cast of characters. All of these elements makes for one excellent movie experience for the whole family to enjoy together for years to come.