Inside Out Review: Pixar Grows Up

Chad White

Looking from the outside in.

Life is a tough, strange thing. One day, you can be on top of the world. The next, you could feel worse than ever. You might even be somewhere in between. Most people have one constant state of emotion. Mine, for instance, is anger. I’m always uptight or critical but I get stuff done. A cat’s state of emotion could be fear which is the anticipation of everything being a possible attacker. For the Riley, the main character of Inside Out, it’s Joy. Life is good when you’re always happy, right? Not so much as Joy (Amy Poehler) and the rest of the emotions – including Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling, and Fear (Bill Hader) -- working in young Riley’s Head Quarters learn to share rather than let one take over.

Joy runs Head Quarters along with her coworkers as they gauge situations around Riley and have her act appropriately. From a very young age, Riley is happy – joyful really – as she plays hockey, hangs out with her best friend, and spends time with family. The emotions help create memories which are encapsulated in orbs. Many of these orbs are made by Joy with few moments of anger, sadness, disgust and fear in between. Things change as Riley is uprooted to San Francisco so her father can work on his startup. It’s here that we see a change in the orbs. Younger Riley was more joyful but, as she grew up, there are more chances for her to be angry, sad, fearful or disgusted. But the majority of her memories are still filled with joy. However, Riley cannot escape Sadness. The blue emotion touches a core memory, changing the way Riley remembers it. After a few incidents, Joy and Sadness go on a journey to get the core memories back to their rightful place. Along the way, Joy learns that Riley can’t escape Sadness and that she needs to lose control every once in a while.

Joy is very much like one of Poehler’s other characters, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, because she is independent, cheerful, head strong and almost naïve at times. She doesn’t see that the other emotions are needed in order for Riley to live a balanced life. When Sadness and Joy are gone, Riley is left with the other three emotions to control her. She experiences Anger most often because he is out of control when Joy is not at the helm. Riley responds extremely to almost everything because of it. It’s truly amazing to see the character change. Joy learns balance is necessary for Riley’s healthy personality. That can be said for anyone, really.

Pixar hit it out of the park with this one. While not exactly laugh out loud funny, Inside Out is a treasure – a rare gem in any movie genre. It is more adult than anything Pixar has put out in the past 20+ years. Themes ranging from accepting who you are to letting other emotions overcome you help teach Riley, and the viewer, how to truly be themselves. This is the first movie that takes a look inside rather than incorporating a bombastic show outside. Inside Out is a personal story for anyone to relate to. The only thing in danger is Riley losing herself, making for an engaging tale of inner courage and stability.

Should you watch Inside Out?

Other Pixar movies are louder and more colorful. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better. There is a deeper meaning to Inside Out. Emotions are important. Family is important. Being honest is important. Having fun, doing hobbies, and friendship are all important. These are the basic pillars for a developing person. Only so much can be unpacked in a review. See Inside Out for yourself. Take everything in this film to heart. Pixar may never make something this heartfelt again.



  • Lava is the short film at the top of the movie. A volcano is forced to see all of these happy couples while he has no one. Every day, he sings about finding love. He finds it on the day he’s supposed to die but their love is so strong, he comes back to life. It is so sweet and sad. I definitely cried.
  • This is the BEST cast for any animated film. Amy Poehler is pure joy. Phyllis Smith makes me feel for sadness. I can actually sense disgust in Mindy Kaling’s voice. Lewis Black embodies anger. And Bill Hader makes for a fright filled fear.
  • This is the first of two Pixar movies coming out this year. The Good Dinosaur releases in November after being pushed for a few years. It makes sense because the studio skipped last year. We are very lucky.
  • It turns out that everyone shares these same five emotions. As seen in the trailer, Mom and Dad’s emotions are present. Riley’s HQ is run by Joy, Dad’s is run by Anger, but Mom’s is run by Sadness. There is a great dynamic between Mom’s emotions but Sadness is clearly in charge. Is that what the future holds for Riley? Are all women in a constant state of Sadness or do they have control over their emotions?
  • The change in the daily memory orbs from young Riley to slightly older Riley is a great detail. When she was little, everything was Joy. But, as she turned into a preteen, she experiences more of the other emotions.
  • Three concurrent stories are running with Joy and Sadness trying to get back home; Anger, Disgust and Fear try to run Riley; and Riley trying to fit in at school. The real story I want to see is how Dad’s startup will turn out. Throughout the movie, he doesn’t find an investor and there is talk of them laying people off. He just moved his family out there!