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This year is set to be the first year without a Pixar movie since 2005. While The Good Dinosaur was originally set to come out this past May, trouble behind the scenes resulted in the film getting bumped to Thanksgiving season of next year. It’s a shame that we won’t be getting a new feature from what is arguably the best animation house in the world in 2014, but there is some good news: Pixar’s next film, Inside Out, looks like it could be the best film the studio has ever made.
Earlier this evening I was invited to the Director’s Guild of America screening room in Los Angeles where director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.) and producer Jonas Rivera were on hand to give a handful of film journalists a preview of what they have in store with their upcoming movie.
Set in the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, Inside Out follows the exploits of the five principal emotions that make up her personality: Joy (Amy Poheler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). All is going well until Joy and Sadness are launched out of headquarters, leaving Fear, Disgust and Anger to run the show. In order to get Riley back on track, Joy and Sadness must trek their way across through the young girl’s mind back to headquarters, wandering through places like Imaginationland, Dream Productions, the Train of Thought and more in the process.
During the presentation they showed two different sequences, one being the same footage they showed at the D23 Expo last year. What was brand new to me was the first five minutes of Inside Out, which I found to be absolutely spectacular.
The film begins as early as you can possibly get: Riley’s birth. The animation wasn’t complete and instead the earliest scenes were made from black and white sketches, but we hear a voice-over narration from Joy who asks, "Have you ever looked at somebody and wondered what was going on inside their head? I know. Or I know Riley’s head."
From inside her mind, we see Riley open her eyes, and upon looking at the world for the first time she creates Joy. We then see Riley’s mother and father enter the young girl’s vision. When Riley hears her father’s first words to her, her first memory is created - represented in a glowing orb that travels down a track to short-term memory. Joy picks up this orb and watches the memory repeat. Once Joy locks the memory into its place the entire headquarters lights up: a personality has been founded. Joy’s narration continues, talking about how amazing it was for it just to be her and Riley. But that time lasts 33 seconds, as baby Riley begins to cry and we see the creation of Sadness. Sadness starts to try and take the controls, to Joy’s protest.
We then get to see a montage of Riley growing older, and in the process growing new emotions (the animation getting progressively better as well). Joy’s narration introduces us to Fear as we see Riley riding around her house with a wagon, and comes close to running over a lamp cord. Fear has her gently cross over it, but Joy gets impatient, and when she takes control away, the cord gets caught in the wagon’s wheels and the lamp comes smashing to the ground.
Disgust comes into the picture when toddler Riley is seated in a booster seat at the dinner table and her father is trying to feed her broccoli. All of the emotions are confused by the tree-like vegetable, but that’s when Disgust comes into the picture, objecting that the food is neither brightly colored or shaped like a dinosaur. Upon realizing that it’s broccoli, Disgust has Riley smack the food away, screaming, "Yucky!"
In response to the broccoli rejection, Riley’s father threatens that if she doesn’t eat her vegetables that she won’t get any desert. The scene then cuts to Anger, who is sitting on a sofa reading a newspaper that has the headline "NO DESERT." Fuming mad about the development, Anger takes the controls away from Disgust. His head literally burning, bubbling and smoking, he directs Riley to throw a temper tantrum. This is solved, however, when the father plays the "Here comes the airplane" game, and Anger just gives up.
Sadness then gets the spotlight shone on her, with Joy explaining that she doesn’t really understand why she is around. This is accompanied with a quick montage of Riley crying in various locations as she grows older and older. Joy can’t do anything about her presence, though, so she says, "There’s nowhere for her to go, so she’s good, we’re all good, we’re all great!"
The narration then takes us through how memories work, showing bright, yellow colored orbs on the wall (stacked like the nooks and crannies of a brain) and most of the remembrances are described as being very happy. The most important memories are called the "core memories," and they are stored in a special chamber embedded in the floor of the headquarters. These are the really important moments in Riley’s life that define her as a person. We are shown the young girl’s first time scoring a goal in hockey, where she is overtaken by pure joy.
Each core memory creates its own special "island" in Riley’s mind. Joy’s narration says that her favorite place is Goofball Island, but that she also has an appreciation for Family Island and Friendship Island. We then get an idea of some of the other parts of the girl’s brain, as her imagination lets her see the floor as lava. Riley gets older and older through montage, playing with an imaginary friend named Bing Bong, getting better and better at hockey and so forth… and Joy is there watching all along.
Finally, it’s time for Riley to go to bed. As Riley’s dad kisses her goodnight, we see Joy at the controls saying, "And we’re out. Another perfect day!" Fear responds, "Alright, we didn’t die today! Success!" Joy activates a switch and the short-term memories that are in storage filter out to long-term memory, and as the glowing orbs travel through the pipelines we can see them cascading into the distance. The sequence ends with Joy’s narration talking about how wonderful everything is and saying, "Riley’s 11 now. What could happen?"
To say that I was blown away by this footage would be an understatement. While the animation was incredibly rough, the very first scene with Riley’s birth could end up being the most emotional sequence Pixar has made since Carl and Ellie grew up together in the first act of Up. As someone who appreciated both Monsters University and Brave, I also feel there is a level of creative spark present here that we have not seen from the Academy Award winning animation company in a few years. I was overwhelmed by the footage that was shown, and needless to say I am left desperate to see more.
The real tragedy is that there’s still such a long time to wait. Inside Out is on the calendar to be released a year from now on June 19, 2015. Be excited.