Face-Off: Up vs. Inside Out

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

Welcome back, cinema lovers! For this week’s competition, we are getting into some mostly unexplored territory by doing something we rarely do: an animated Face Off! This is exciting, and couldn’t come at a better time. This week sees the release of the highly-anticipated INCREDIBLES 2, the sequel to one of Pixar’s most beloved hits. With that in mind, we will be taking a look at two of the studio’s most cherished original movies, UP

UP came out close to a decade ago and proved Pixar didn’t need talking toys, bugs, monsters, rats or robots to tell an engaging, animated story. You could do that with real people going through real problems. Not to mention, the movie has one of the best openings in modern cinematic history, which alone, ranks it high among Pixar’s canon. INSIDE OUT came out three years ago to instant acclaim, earning some of the best marks of any Pixar film, and stands as their highest-grossing original film. Also as heartwarming as it is hilarious, INSIDE OUT is all about how our emotions work, and how it’s normal to embrace them for what they are.

Both of these movies tackle weighty themes across thrilling adventures, proving why Pixar is the best at what they do. Now, let’s see which makes us laugh the most and makes us cry the hardest!

Ed Asner as Carl Fredrickson
Christopher Plummer as Charles Muntz
Jordan Nagai as Russell
Bob Peterson as Dug/Alpha
Elie Docter as Young Ellie
Amy Poehler as Joy
Phyllis Smith as Sadness
Mindy Kaling as Disgust
Lewis Black as Anger
Bill Hader as Fear
Richard Kind as Bing Bong
Kaitlyn Dias as Riley
Diane Lane as Mom
Kyle MacLachlan as Dad
Pete Docter is one of the several recurring directors over at Pixar (along with Lee Unkrich, Andrew Stanton and more) with these two movies and MONSTERS, INC. under his belt. With UP (co-direction from Bob Peterson) he delivered what is the most emotionally resonant movie in Pixar’s canon. He achieved this by keeping the story of a man dealing with his grief ever-present among the rousing adventure scenes. While other animated movies may pack on the colorful action, Docter proves these kinds of movies are at their best when they’re being thoughtful and human rather than exciting and funny, which helps establish UP as Pixar’s most grounded effort yet. The other usual suspects of Pixar directors may not have been able to pull this off like Docter could, as he has the best sense of genuine, gripping, accessible emotion that we connect to as human beings.
Docter (co-directed by Ronnie del Carmen) brought the same kind of thoughtfulness and clarity to INSIDE OUT, which was much harder to do given how much more the movie juggles. Here is a movie that opens up a wide world and fills it with colorful characters, all of which make for an entertaining movie. But Docter, much like with UP, ensures to keep the movie tightly focused on the lead characters, expertly bouncing back and forth between illustrating how the emotions affect Riley’s overall behavior, weaving together one, unified narrative taking place in two worlds. Again, I feel only Docter could do this film and have it come out as spectacular as it is, mixing playfulness with warmth.

After spending many magical years together with his loving wife Ellie, Carl Fredrickson is left to grieve alone after her passing. When he faces having to leave their happy home, Carl finally does what he and Ellie wanted to do all their lives and travels to Paradise Falls…inside his house…attached to hundreds of balloons. Accidentally along for the ride is the young Russell, and after some hiccups, they must drag the house to the Falls so that Carl can keep the promise to Ellie. Along the way, they make some new, annoying friends and face a foe who wishes to tear this new, unconventional family apart.

UP tells Pixar’s most grounded story yet by combining a story about a man dealing with loss with an old-school adventure story featuring new lands, unique creatures and a theme about how far men will go achieve their goals. Now, the movie isn’t exactly Pixar’s version of LOGAN (Wait a minute…cranky old man going on a journey with a young companion he doesn’t want to be near, only to learn to love them along the way…holy crap…), but the movie does juggle some surprisingly dramatic elements. The script by Docter and Peterson (with a story credit for Tom McCarthy) deserves all the praise it got by ably handling the typical Pixar humor and imagination by coupling it with a very real love story about how we deal with loss, and how far we will go for love. Ellie always remains the driving force of Carl’s actions, with the opening montage beautifully setting the stage, and then the discovery of her Adventure Book pages setting off the climax. In the end, we learn that the greatest adventure life offers is that of life itself, and one lived for other people.

Inside all our heads are five separate emotions, all of which work to form our personalities and dictate how we operate. In the case of the young Riley, there’s a lot of confusion going on in her head as her happy emotion, Joy, struggles with another emotion, Sadness. One day, the two get into a tussle that sends them out of Headquarters and away from Riley’s control center, leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust in charge. Joy and Sadness must work together to navigate their way through Riley’s complex mind in order to get back to Headquarters, lest Riley forever have her emotions run amok.

The story has a lot of the similar tropes we’ve seen in movies like TOY STORY, with characters having to get back home after being forced into an unfamiliar world. That alone is the only aspect of the movie that makes INSIDE OUT feel not as unique, but it’s buoyed by an incredible script that wrings an immense amount of complexity and poignant themes from the familiar story. The script from Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley (story credit for del Carmen) tells the resonant story about how we deal with our emotions and about how it’s okay to feel sad and confused when you’re growing up. This story is told with grace, warmth, understanding and the wit and ingenuity we can only expect from Pixar.


“Adventure is out there!”

Meet Carl and Ellie

Ellie: “You don’t talk much… I like you!”

Life with Ellie

Cranky Carl

Meet Russell

Up, Up and Away

Russell: “Please let me in.”

Paradise Falls

Meet Kevin/Dug

Dug: “Squirrell!”

Russell: “That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.”

Charles Muntz

Dug: “I do not like the cone of shame.”

Escaping Muntz

Dug: “Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, “I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.” Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.”

Muntz Takes Kevin

Top of the Falls/Ellie’s Real Adventure

Going After Russell

Battle on the Spirit of Adventure

Returning Home

The Ellie Badge

Meet Joy, Riley and Sadness

How the Emotions Work

San Francisco

Anger: “Congratulations San Francisco, you’ve ruined pizza! First the Hawaiians, and now YOU!”

First Day of School

“Disgust: There are no bears in San Francisco.”

Anger: “I saw a really hairy guy, he looked like a bear.”

Sadness: “Remember the funny movie where the dog died?”

Sucked Out of Headquarters

Riley’s Mind

Fear, Anger and Disgust Take Over

Parent’s Emotions

Meet Bing Bong

Abstarct Thought

Bing Bong: “D-A-N-G-E-R, SHORTCUT!”

Imagination Land

Waking Up Riley

Train of Thought

Sadness: “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

Running Away

Lost Memories

Escaping the Pit

Bing: “Take her to the moon for me. Okay?”

Bye, Bing Bong

Mind Worker Cop: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Cloudtown.”

Joy and Sadness

Riley: “I… I know you don’t want me to, but… I miss home. I miss Minnesota. You need me to be happy, but I want my old friends, and my hockey team. I wanna go home. Please don’t be mad.”

A New World of Emotions

Inside Other Minds

Michael Giacchino delivers one of his best scores here, and one that won him a much-deserved Oscar. The score brilliantly glides like a house in the wind as it moves between an elegant, lively jazz-sounding theme to something quiet and thoughtful at the turn of a switch, all while maintaining the same, singular sound. One moment you’ll feel swept away, and the next you’ll be wiping a tear from your eye. The Carl and Ellie montage is lauded for its achievement in conveying a complete, heartbreaking story with no dialogue, and Giacchino’s graceful score made all the difference in giving the scene, and the whole movie, the heart and impact it did.
With INSIDE OUT Giacchino took a more reserved approach, instead focusing on key, small, melodic themes that accompany the touching, intimate moments when Riley’s emotions are at their most pure, but none less complex. On that note, as tear-inducing as the movie’s score is, it doesn’t have the presence or same sense of wonder his work on UP did, which was able to combine a sheer sense of wonder with an abundance of tenderness.
With each new movie, Pixar’s animation gets better and better, with richer textures and more detailed environments gracing the screen. Hell, even THE GOOD DINOSAUR looks breathtaking. At the time, UP was among Pixar’s best-looking movies, falling short of the likes of WALL-E for the win. There’s a sense of humanity behind the characters’ eyes, and the lush jungle is brought to life with deep colors and dark shadows. All of this goes towards creating a sweeping adventure visual palette, with the wondrous Paradise Falls lighting up the spirit of adventure in all of us. Even today it looks great, even if later movies tend to keep upping the game.
Like I said, Pixar movie’s keep looking better and better, and INSIDE OUT is no exception. Like the story itself, the animation bounces between two worlds, with our real one featuring finely-detailed human characters with life-like strands of hair and facial features coming through with refined clarity. Then there’s the inside of Riley’s mind which, looking out onto from the heights of Headquarters, is an endless sea of lights, much like what we would see in 2017’s COCO. The characters and environments themselves are rich and vibrant, with intricate, meticulous design you would think someone would go insane animating each and every pixel of. I assume Pixar has a good health care package for this sort of instance. Worth it.
Do I really even need to reference the opening montage or even the adorable childhood years before that? The first 15 minutes or so of UP make for one of the most fondly remembered cinematic moments of the 21st century, and for great reason. In such a short span of time, a relationship is formed, evolved, and seen to an end with no lack of heart or emotional connection. Their marriage and time together are so palpable it carries through the entire movie, thus reinforcing Carl’s journey, and the whole movie itself. This makes the pre-climax moment so much more endearing, as Carl discover’s Ellie’s Adventure Book, which is filled with photos of their time together. Oh my god, here comes the waterworks!
INSIDE OUT may not kick things off with the same level of dramatic heft as UP does, but it is no less a sweet and endearing movie that packs a helluva emotional wallop towards the end. This is because Riley is so relatable to anyone who’s been a scared kid, and Joy is so easy to care for because she’s so passionate and gosh-darn adorable, that as they go through their journey their struggles are so emotionally gripping. The aforementioned wallop comes when Joy is trapped in the pit of forgotten memories, bursting with tears because she failed to get back to Riley. It’s when she discovers the need for all kinds of emotions, including Sadness, that the movie’s resonant themes really come to light. This leads to the incredibly heartfelt finale of Riley opening up to her parents, which is treated ever so delicately by Docter. It’s the little moments in these scenes that hit the hardest, like when Riley lets out a comforting sigh after being embraced by her parents. God, the tears are here! And Bing Bong! This movie really puts you through the ringers.
Pixar has always opted for genuine, character-driven moments of humor, and in UP we get that most from Dug and Russell. The former is the adorable dog whose voice modifier allows him to speak in an always hilarious, blunt, robotic way that makes lines like, “Squirrel!” and “I hid under your porch because I love you,” sound so innocent and adorable. Then there’s Russell, the ever-endearing, starry-eyed wilderness explorer who makes us laugh because he is way too over his head, but refuses to let him get him down. Carl and even Muntz get in a few good lines, but they aren’t exactly goofballs. Then we get a few solid creature gags from Kevin, which are always funny. There’s a lack of characters and varying scenarios that stop UP from being among the funnier of the Pixar movies, but there are still plenty of laughs to go around.
INSIDE OUT has an abundance of characters and a vast, imaginative world that makes for tons of funny scenarios, of which the characters get to react to. The voice cast is filled with hysterical comic actors, like Poehler, Hader, Black, Kind, Kaling and Smith, with some other side characters (Mind Workers) getting in some terrific bits and pieces. The world allows for more silliness to balance out the heart, and the constant humor makes INSIDE OUT one of the most enjoyable movies in the Pixar canon, certainly making use of the fantastic casts’ strengths.
A grieving man wants to go on an adventure to honor his dead wife, so how does he go about it? Does he buy a ticket to the Bahamas? No, that’s a young man’s game. Instead, he ties hundreds of balloons to his house and flies away to parts unknown. Like we will discuss in the next column, this is, in typical Pixar fashion, an incredibly imaginative and wonderful way of telling a grounded story that can have meaning to people young and old. The movie also factors in other ingenious, time-old adventure elements, like unique beasts, vast landscapes, mysterious characters and a zeppelin, all showing the filmmakers love for classic adventure tales.
What goes on inside our heads to make us say and do the things that we, well, do? That question lies at the heart of INSIDE OUT, and one that is answered with that classic Pixar imagineering. Like the best animated movies that try to establish fantastical worlds out of generally unfantastic parts of our real world, INSIDE OUT goes to great lengths to imagine how the inside of our minds may look. Memories come in spheres that get stored; those stored spheres may last forever or get thrown away; extremely important memories form islands that make up our personalities and; other parts of what makes us special litter the rest of the mind the create a visual wonderland of us. All of this is to get to the root of a very real aspect of our lives, which is discovering how we deal with our emotions, that what goes inside our brains is far more complicated than we imagine, and that all of it is totally okay.

    Best Best Animated Feature
    Best Original Score
    Best Sound Editing
    Best Original Screenplay
    Best Picture

Golden Schmoes:

    Best Animated Movie
    Best Screenplay
    Best Music
    Best DVD/Blu-ray
    Most Memorable Scene: “Carl and Ellie Monatage”

**Another 74 Wins & 81 Nominations (per IMDB)**


    IMDB: 8.3 (Top Rated Movie: #113)


    $293 million domestic ($735 million global)

    Best Animated Movie
    Best Original Screenplay

Golden Schmoes:

    Best Animated Movie
    Best Screenplay
    Trippiest Movie
    Best Comedy
    Best DVD/Blu-ray

**Another 93 Wins & 112 Nominations (per IMDB)**


    IMDB: 8.2 (Top Rated Movie: #142)


    $356 million domestic ($857 million global)

UP is a beautiful, enriching, life-affirming film that celebrates life itself. That makes it one of the best Pixar movies ever, if not one of the best animated movies ever. But INSIDE OUT has many of those same qualities and more, digging deep into complex themes that will teach both kids and adults valuable lessons about embracing your emotions. Incredibly well-written and acted, hilarious, heartwarming/breaking and beautifully animated, INSIDE OUT ranks ever so slightly higher among the Pixar ranking order.

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