98%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)

A heartwarming addition to the Pixar library, Inside Out is an easy favorite.


Everyone has wondered at sometime or another: what is going on in someone else’s head. Why do they think and feel the way the do? What is it that makes them who they are? What are their memories like? Inside Out give us Pixar’s clever take on the answers to these questions.



Like most Pixar films, Inside Out opens with a short. It is a heartwarming story called Lava in which a volcano laments his loneliness through a song. Our volcano’s tune closely resembles the work of Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole, complete with ukulele. Through the use of music, wordplay, and vibrant color, we learn the volcano’s dreams do come true and he is able to live happily ever after. This touching short film is reason enough to go see Inside Out, but the good stuff has only just begun.



After the warm-fuzzy feeling you get from the short film prelude, we segue into the film where we meet Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler. Joy, we learn, is responsible for our main character Riley’s happiness. Joy and Riley share a brief moment of bliss before Joy is joined by Riley’s other emotions, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. Together, Riley’s emotions help form her memories, which create her personality. We soon see that Joy is the busiest of Riley’s emotions, eagerly taking over in Headquarters, and most of Riley’s memories are happy ones. Several memories are lucky enough to become core memories, which contribute to Riley’s personality. While Riley sleeps, the day’s memories are shipped off to Long Term Memory.



Soon, Joy has her work cut out for her as Riley and her family move across the country to San Fransisco. Nothing in California is what Riley was hoping for, and Joy works hard to try to keep Riley happy. But, despite Joy’s best efforts, Sadness begins bumbling around Headquarters. In a vain attempt at keeping Sadness from messing up too many memories, Joy gets herself, along with Sadness, shipped off to Long Term Memory. The journey back to Headquarters is a long one, and Riley cannot be happy without Joy at the helm. Hilarity ensues as Joy and Sadness try to make their way back to Headquarters. Meanwhile, Riley is left in the hands of Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Their hijinks create mayhem for Riley, both inside and out.




What truly makes this film work is its use of color. Each emotion is a different color, and in turn, the memories they create are differing colors. Joy is a happy yellow, Anger is fiery red, Sadness is blue, Fear is purple, and Disgust is green like icky vegetables. Fading memories- those that Riley no longer uses or needs- are grey; a stark contrast to the vibrant colors around them. Each character Joy meets on her journey is a different color, each of which represents a different portion of Riley’s memories. Even the outside world, as seen through Riley’s eyes, varies in color to communicate points. Riley’s old home in Minnesota is bright and cheery, while her family’s new home in California is more drab and grey. Each change in scenery, whether in Riley’s mind or outside, includes a corresponding change in color. This works not only to transport the viewer to a different time or place, but also to communicate how we are meant to feel about it, how Riley feels about it.



And feel we do. I actually teared up in the theater. Inside Out brings together the touching, feel-good, journey home stories of Homeward Bound and Toy Story, and mixes them with the emotions of Up. Of course, a story about one’s feelings is bound to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the character. But Inside Out is an emotional roller coaster for the audience as well. The strength of the writing is such that we feel what Riley is feeling, we empathize with Joy when she gets lost, we understand what it is to have Anger, Fear, and Disgust in charge, and we know what it’s like to have Sadness take over. The feel-good lessons Joy learns on her journey back to Headquarters make the whole film worthwhile as we realize that we need each of the emotions, not just Joy.



Of course, the animation is top-notch as well. I would expect nothing less of the Pixar crew. We are flawlessly transported back and forth between Riley’s mind and her reality, as well as various depths of her consciousness, both sleeping and waking. The different worlds feel seamless as the characters travel through them. The other strength of the film is the voice acting, which adds to the depth of the characters, as each individual uses their vocal talent to bring forth the true emotions of each character. We are familiar with these actors in other films and television, but together, they bring a unique dynamic to Inside Out that lends itself well to the complex tangle of emotions that is the storyline.



Overall, Inside Out is a well-executed technical masterpiece with a sweet, inspiring storyline that is fun for the whole family. It is easily the best film I’ve seen this summer, if not this year. A standout in the Pixar library, Inside Out is a must see for fans of all ages.



Directed By: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen

Written By: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen

Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, and Richard Kind

Runtime: 94 Minutes

About The Author

Julia Butcher
Managing Editor

Julia has her BA in Communications and English from Grand Valley State University. During her tenure at GVSU, Julia also completed a web marketing internship at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. It was at Mary Free Bed where she honed her skills at website copywriting, editing, and marketing. In her spare time, Julia enjoys watching TV and movies, reading, collecting vintage furniture, and writing about all that vintage furniture.