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Ink & Pixel: Inside Out

03.03.2016

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fan-base, Ink & Pixel has broadened its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at [email protected] so we can discuss it further.

The trials and tribulations of adolescence are a subject that's often ignored by the mainstream animation industry. Time and again, animated films geared toward children tell stories of high fantasy, adventure, and heroics. And while each genre serves to entertain as well as nurture the imaginations of its target audience, too rare is it that these films dare to venture into territory that is as emotionally charged as Pixar's INSIDE OUT.

It's clear, having just received the award for Best Animated Feature at the 88th Academy Awards, it's clear that I'm not the only one who was impressed by Pixar Animation Studio's 15th feature-length film, INSIDE OUT. Directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, this original 3D computer-animated comedy-drama was created as a love letter to Docter's own daughter. Having directed such films as MONSTERS INC. and UP, Pete is no stranger to the ways of crafting high-concept animated films that tap directly into the hearts and minds of viewers both young and old. I thought that today we'd take a deep-dive into this incredible film, and perhaps discover for ourselves what has caused it to resonate so thoroughly with those of us who've enjoyed it.

If you have yet to experience INSIDE OUT, here's a non-spoilery synopsis for you. A girl named Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias) has been born in Minnesota, and in her mind exist five personifications of her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black). When a significant life-event occurs, Riley's mind produces a colored orb referred to as a “core memory”. Each memory is then sorted and arranged for storage by one of the five incarnations. These orbs are used to power a series of islands that represent all the different and growing aspects of Riley's personality.

At the delicate age of eleven-years-old, Riley is faced with a terrible reality when her father announces that the family must relocate to San Francisco. Understandably, this causes Riley to become upset. It's then that Sadness begins touching Riley's happy memories, turning them melancholy. With the number of sad memories growing at an alarming rate, Joy decides that she's going to isolate Sadness before things get any worse. Then, on her first day ather new school, Riley becomes overwhelmed and begins to cry in front of her classmates. This momentous event causes a particularly sad core memory to form. In an effort to stave off Riley's depression, Joy then tries to get rid of the memory orb, knocking the other core memories loose from their storage containers in the process. Before long, Riley's personality islands begin to erode, leaving Riley a listless, unhappy young woman. Thus, the journey to restore a balance to Riley's emotions begins!

In expressing his thoughts about the film's creative process, Docter has this to say in a recent interview included in the bonus features of the INSIDE OUT Blu-Ray release, “Stories are mysterious. I was along for the entire creation, from the very beginning to the end, and I still can't really tell you where it came from. When the pieces come together in the right way it feels as though it all came forward in one one big, perfect piece – and that's not the truth.” Personally, I imagine that it would be difficult for any filmmaker to break down the essential creative components of a movie such as this. Luckily for us, I'm about to give it a go!

Let's start with another quote from Docter, as I feel it's best for you to hear something so personal come directly from creator himself rather than my trying to to express his sentiments in my own words. In speaking about his daughter, Elie, Pete explains that, “Around eight, nine, the world was open to her, she could do anything and was interested in everything. And then she started to get a little older, and I see her in the back of the car with her head on the window. There's a lot of sighing, there's a lot of drama, and I'm like, “Where did this come from?” What's going on in her head, you know? For whatever reason I got this, I got this concept of, instead of the brain, what about the mind? And what if you could do emotions for characters in the story?”

Docter, alongside key members of his creative team, then go on to explain about how two of the most challenging aspects of making the film included crafting the world inside of Riley's mind as well as the characterization of her varying emotions. It was expressed by several of Pixar's staff that they felt compelled to scrap a number of ideas for both the design and ways in which that landscape of Riley's mind would be presented. At the start, the team had roughly ten to thirteen ideas regarding what the mind of an eleven-year-old girl would look like.

At one point, the interior of Riley's mind had looked like the inside of an office building. After that didn't work out, the team tried a solitary cylindrical-shaped island on for size. The general consensus around the office was that an island seemed to do the trick, but there would need to be more of them. Soon thereafter, the final concept amounted to a series of islands - with each one directly representing some of life's more significant events or inspirations. Therefore, islands like Music Island, Film Island, Cooking Island, Cognitive Thinking Island, Science Island, and many more were developed to help create a sense infinite possibilities within the human brain.

Additionally, the team wrestled with themselves over the motivations of the films' lead character, Joy. The problem came when the writers were unable to settle on an arc for her. After banding their heads together for quite some time, Pete and Ronnie discovered an angle they could work with. When describing the process of developing Joy's part in this epic story, Docter had this to say, “We thought, “Maybe a key to her is that she's not in it for herself, she's in it for the kid. And she wants her kid to be happy, and so it's all about Riley.” And we tried that from the very beginning, but even there, it just became sort of one note, kind of monotonous, and not believable. So, we said, “All right, well, what is there's a twist on that? What if we make her so fervent in her passion that she's actually sort of nasty to other people?” And so it was with these elements in place that the character, Joy, was finalized.

Developing the characters featured in INSIDE OUT wasn't the only challenge the Pixar staff had faced when developing the movie. Elements of the film's story were also in constant flux as the writers worked to discover what would be the best way to tell their story. Early on, scripts called for Riley to be knocked out for the duration of the film, making the bulk of the plot about her personalities searching for a way to wake her up. When that didn't work, the team tried pairing Joy with the different personifications while she was off on her journey to restore Riley to her usual, care-free self. At one point, Sadness was represented by a oafish-looking blue blob-like creature named Bub. Of course that character was later changed, and became the Sadness character we're all familiar with, today.

I know I'm pulling a lot of quotes this article, but damn if I don't love this next bit from Pete Docter as he discusses the necessity of sadness in Riley's life “Emotions are the key to relationships, and by that, I mean, the people that you feel the most deeply connected with are the people that, yes, you've had good times with. But the people that really mean something deeply are those that I have cried with, that I've been pissed off at, that I've experienced fear with. It's all the aspects of emotions that bond us together. So that gives me this idea, that maybe joy, as much as we all want it to be in our lives, is not the answer. The answer is actually sadness. And it was that realization, which felt like an epiphany at the time, but it was actually where we started.”

I honestly can't imagine this film being as powerful without the emphasis on Sadness' character as a foil to Joy's ceaseless efforts to keep Riley free from what are typically viewed as negative emotions. Think about it, how would you know true happiness if you didn't have sadness to compare it to? I'm Jack Handy, and this has been Deep Thoughts.

At the time of its release, INSIDE OUT received a world-wide total of $856,809,711 in box office receipts, making it the second highest-grossing animated film of 2015. That's right, I said second highest. Y'all let this movie get beaten out by MINIONS. As your attorney I advise you to sit at the far corner of the room and hang your head in shame. Despite coming in second place in terms of earnings, INSIDE OUT garnered an unbelievable amount of praise from both the entertainment press as well as the movie going public, at the time of its release. When asked about the possibility of there being a sequel to the film, Docter has stated that he has no plans as of yet to continue Riley's story. For those looking to spend a little more time inside of Riley's head, be sure to check out the INSIDE OUT short-film entitled Riley's First Date.

Personally, I loved this film. I have good memories associated with it, and appreciate the manner in which it brings the mental health of children into the spotlight in an explorative and entertaining way. After all, trauma is not something that's reserved solely for adults. For my money, INSIDE OUT is yet another quality film in Pixar's growing library of animated classics. It takes concepts of high fantasy and imagination to places we've yet to see on-screen in an animated format and places them under a delicate microscope for our consideration. If nothing else, perhaps this film will help to remind parents of what their lives were like when they were that young, bringing them closer to their own children in the process. For me, this is a movie that will always be screening somewhere on the Film Island inside of my mind. See you next time!  

 

Extra Tidbit: MUSIC ISLAND FESTIVAL! Friday: Fever Ray / Blonde Redhead / Aesop Rock / The Mars Volta / Bjork / Deftones - Saturday: Rachel Fannan / Le Butcherettes / Grimes / Caribou / Portishead / LCD Soundsystem - Sunday: The Faint / Tom Waits / Kendrick Lamar / A Tribe Called Quest / Failure / Tool - Kutshers, NY $ Free!
Source: joblo.com

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