“Welcome back, Pixar. You were sorely missed.
Over the course of 15 years and nearly a dozen films, the animation studio had put together one of the most remarkable runs of sustained excellence in cinematic history, culminating with the trifecta of Wall-E (2008), Up (2009), andToy Story 3 (2010).
But nothing lasts forever. A few members of the studio’s central brain trust branched out into live-action (Andrew Stanton with John Carter, Brad Bird withMission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland), head honcho John Lasseter added Walt Disney Animation Studios to his list of responsibilities, and Pixar came down with an acute case of sequelitis. Brave (2012) was a solid addition to the canon, but it was sandwiched between Cars 2 and Monsters University—almost certainly the two worst movies the studio has produced. The subsequent year, 2014, was the first in a decade in which Pixar didn’t release any feature at all.
But right now, none of that matters. Because writer-director Pete Docter—theman responsible for Monsters Inc., arguably Pixar’s most underrated picture, as well as Up, its best overall—has now given us Inside Out. At once achingly heartfelt and magnificently high-concept, the film tells the story of a girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and the five emotions that together make up her psyche: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger.
Let’s begin with the glorious anthropomorphizing of said emotions. Joy (Amy Poehler) is a sunshine-yellow pixie of enthusiasm who presides over the “control room” of Riley’s mind as a benevolent dictator, trying to keep the less-upbeat of her colleagues off the controls. Sadness (Phyllis Smith, who played Phyllis on The Office) is blue and blobby, unsure of her role and seemingly destined to ruin everything she touches. Fear (Bill Hader) is a purply, perpetually jangled nerve-ending, and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is a sickly green guru of sarcastic judgmentalism. Squat, blocky Anger is—as if you hadn’t already guessed—fire-engine red and voiced by Lewis Black…”