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Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Pixar Edition. Inside Out

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Inside Out

Year: 2015

Budget: $175 million

Box office: $857.6 million

Plot: Riley Andersen is born in Minnesota. Within her mind’s Headquarters, five personifications of her basic emotions — Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger — come to life and influence her actions via a control console. As she grows up, her experiences become memories, stored in colored orbs, which are sent into long-term memory each night. Her five most important “core memories” (all happy ones) are housed in a hub; each powers an aspect of her personality which takes the form of floating islands. Joy acts as a de facto leader, and since she and the other emotions do not understand Sadness’ purpose, she tries to keep Sadness away from the console.


At the age of 11, Riley and her parents move to San Francisco for her father’s new business. Riley has poor first experiences: the new house is cramped and old, the moving van with their belongings is misdirected, and her father is under stress from his business. When Sadness begins touching Riley’s happy memories, turning them sad, Joy tries to guard them by isolating her.



On Riley’s first day at her new school, Sadness accidentally causes Riley to cry in front of her class, creating a sad core memory. Joy, panicking, tries to dispose of it, but accidentally knocks the other core memories loose during a struggle with Sadness, deactivating the personality islands. Joy, Sadness, and the core memories are sucked out of Headquarters and taken to the maze-like storage area of long-term memory.


Anger, Fear, and Disgust try to maintain Riley’s happiness in Joy’s absence with disastrous results, distancing her from her parents, friends, and hobbies. As a result, her personality islands gradually crumble and fall, one by one, into the “Memory Dump”, an abyss where memories are forgotten. Finally, Anger inserts an idea into the console, prompting Riley to run away to Minnesota.


While navigating through the long-term memory region, Joy and Sadness encounter Bing Bong, Riley’s childhood imaginary friend, who suggests riding the train of thought back to Headquarters. En route to the train station, Bing Bong tearfully watches his rainbow wagon rocket being thrown into the memory dump along with other unused childish artifacts. The three eventually catch the train, but it halts when Riley falls asleep, then derails entirely when “Honesty Island” collapses due to Riley’s theft of her mother’s credit card.


In desperation, Joy abandons Sadness and tries to ride a “recall tube” back to Headquarters, but the ground below the tube collapses, breaking it and plunging Joy and Bing Bong into the Memory Dump. At the bottom of the abyss, Joy begins to lose hope and breaks into tears, but then discovers a sad memory of an ice hockey game that turned happy when Riley’s parents and friends comforted her. Joy finally realizes Sadness’s purpose: to induce empathy in others, prompting them to reach out to Riley when she is emotionally overwhelmed and needs help. Joy and Bing Bong try to use the wagon rocket to escape the Memory Dump. After several tries, Bing Bong, who is already fading away, jumps out to allow Joy to escape and is forgotten.


Joy reunites with a despondent Sadness and takes them to Headquarters, only to discover that Anger’s idea has disabled the console, rendering Riley apathetic. To the surprise of the others, Joy hands control of the console to Sadness, who is able to extract the idea, reactivating the console and prompting Riley to return home.


As Sadness re-installs the core memories, turning them sad, Riley arrives home to her parents and tearfully confesses that she misses Minnesota and her old life. Her parents comfort her and admit they, too, miss Minnesota as much as she does. Joy and Sadness work the console together, creating a new amalgamated bitter-sweet core memory in Riley’s Headquarters; a new island forms, representing Riley’s acceptance of her new life in San Francisco.


A year later at the age of 12, Riley has adapted to her new home, made new friends, and returned to her old hobbies while adopting a few new ones. Inside the Headquarters, her emotions all work together on a newly expanded console with room for them all.

Background: As a child, director Pete Docter relocated with his family to Denmark and had a hard time adjusting to the new surroundings. He noticed his pre-teen daughter, Elie, exhibiting similar shyness. The idea to depict her changing emotions through animation excited Docter, who felt it the ideal form to portray “strong, opinionated, caricatured personalities.”

He consulted Paul Ekman, a well-known psychologist who studies emotions, who had early in his career identified six core emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, joy, and surprise. Docter found surprise and fear to be too similar, which left him with five emotions to build characters around. Docter estimated it took four years of development for the film to achieve success in marrying the architecture of Riley’s mind and her personal troubles. The character of Bing Bong—a discarded old imaginary friend—came about in one draft of the film as part of a refugee camp inside Riley’s mind. An early version of the film focused on Joy and Fear getting lost together, as it seemed to be the most humorous choice. He decided to replace Fear with Sadness.

Animation: The film’s art design is intended to reflect 1950s Broadway musicals. They emulated animators Tex Avery and Chuck Jones.

The characters are created with this energy because we are trying to represent what emotions would look like. They are made up of particles that actually move. Instead of being skin and solid, it is a massive collection of energy. Pete Docter

Music: Michael Giacchino composed the film’s score; this was his fifth collaboration with Pixar and his second collaboration with Docter after Up.

Voice Cast:

Amy Poehler as Joy. Poehler was a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade troupe and was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2001 to 2008 and became co-anchor of SNL’s Weekend Update in 2004. She is best known for starring as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. She appeared in the films Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Wet Hot American Summer, Sisters, Mean Girls, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Blades of Glory, Envy, Shrek the Third, Mr. Woodcock, Hamlet 2, and Southland Tales. Phyllis Smith as Sadness. Smith was working as a casting associate on The Office when she was offered the role of Phyllis Vance which she played for nine seasons. She has a regular role on the Netflix series The OA.

Lewis Black as Anger. He is best known for his appearances on The Daily Show under all three hosts and for his numerous stand up appearance. Bill Hader as Fear. He was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2005 to 2013. 1 He created and stars in the HBO series Barry. 2 which earned Hader an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and three other Emmy nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in its first season. [/footnote] Film roles include You, Me and Dupree, Hot Rod, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Paul, Men in Black 3, and Maggie’s Plan.

Mindy Kaling as Disgust. From 2005 to 2013, she played Kelly Kapoor in the NBC sitcom The Office. She also created, wrote, produced, and starred in the Fox/Hulu comedy series The Mindy Project. This year she also appeared in A Wrinkle in Time and Ocean’s 8. Richard Kind returns as Bing Bong.

Kaitlyn Dias as Riley Andersen. She was sixteen when the film was released, and when she was recording the film, her voice was changing. Diane Lane as Riley’s Mother. Sne made her screen debut in George Roy Hill’s 1979 film A Little Romance. Lane has starred in The Outsiders, A Walk on the Moon, The Perfect Storm, Unfaithful, 3 Under the Tuscan Sun, Cinema Verite, and Trumbo. She plays Martha Kent in DC Cinematic Universe

Kyle MacLachlan as Riley’s Father. MacLachlan is best known for his role as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks as well as roles in Dune, Blue Velvet, The Hidden, The Doors, The Flintstones, and Showgirls. Other television series include Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, How I Met Your Mother, Portlandia, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Rashida Jones as Cool Girl’s emotions. She is best known for starring as Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation, and as Karen Filippelli on The Office. She is also known for roles in I Love You, Man, The Social Network, Our Idiot Brother, The Muppets, and Celeste and Jesse Forever. Since 2016, she has starred as the lead title role in the TBS comedy series Angie Tribeca.

Paula Poundstone as Forgetter Paula. A stand up comedian and writer she frequently appears on Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me and A Prairie Home Companion. Bobby Moynihan returns as Forgetter Bobby.

Dave Goelz as Subconscious Guard Frank. He is known for his work with the Muppets. As part of the Muppets’ performing cast, Goelz performs The Great Gonzo, as well as Bunsen Honeydew, Waldorf (after Jim Henson’s death), Zoot and Beauregard. Goelz’s puppeteering roles also include roles in Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. Outside of puppeteering work, he is also the voice of Figment in the Journey into Imagination with Figment attraction at Epcot. Fellow Muppet performer Frank Oz returns as Subconscious Guard Dave.


Flea as Mind Worker Cop Jake. Best known as the bass player for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, he has appeared in over 20 films and television series such as Suburbia, Back to the Future Part II and Part III, My Own Private Idaho, The Chase, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thrashin’, Dudes, Son in Law, The Big Lebowski, Low Down and Baby Driver, in addition to voicing the character Donnie Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys animated television series and films.

Where in the World is John Ratzenberger? John plays Fritz

Pizza Planet Truck: The Pizza Planet truck can be seen in one of Riley’s memories. In trying to run away from Joy for the first time, Bing Bong knocks a few memories off the shelves. These memories roll by in the foreground. One of them, a yellow one, clearly shows the Pizza Planet truck.

A 113 Riley’s classroom

Critical Reception: The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips called it the studio’s best since Up (also directed by Docter), a “consistently inventive and a heartening corrective to recent, stockholder-driven inferiorities.” Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter deemed it an “audacious concept” that stands among the most “conceptually trippy films” for family audiences. “With its quite literally cerebral bent, I think Inside Out might have some trouble fully connecting with younger kids, but grown-ups are likely to shed more than a few tears,” remarked Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw felt it “buoyant and sweet-natured,” though slightly inferior to Pixar’s best.

Legacy: Inside Out won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 88th Academy Awards held in 2016.

On June 20, 2017, Denise Daniels, a child psychologist from Minnesota, filed a lawsuit against Disney and Pixar for breach of contract. Daniels had been working on a creative project, The Moodsters, with a theme very similar to Inside Out and had discussed prospects of a TV production with Disney and Pixar executives, including with the film’s eventual director Pete Docter.On January 31, 2018, her suit was dismissed by judge Philip Gutierrez, who ruled that since Daniels had released materials related to the project publicly at the time of the conversations, there were no grounds for an implied contract between Disney and Daniels.


Video games: An Inside Out play set featuring all five emotions as playable characters was made available for Disney Infinity 3.0. A mobile game, Inside Out: Thought Bubbles, was released on June 18, 2015, by Disney Mobile Games on Apple App Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, Windows Store, and Windows Phone Store.

My take: 

I have to say, this is a well cast film.

So Belle can’t watch this again because Bing Bong brought her to tears. Of course even when you can see it coming (and you realize exactly what he is going to do right before) it’s a gut-punch. The only thing worse then dying is being forgotten.

Next Week: Good Dinosaur