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This screener copy arrived weeks after the release date due to a shortage of discs at the PR company. But those fine folks found me one, so here’s a brief review for anyone still wondering about my thoughts on this top-notch release.

Feature


Growing up can be a bumpy road and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school. (From Pixar’s official synopsis)

 Inside Out
Pete Docter’s Inside Out is an undeniably moving and visually sumptuous movie. It’s brimming with interesting ideas and makes insightful statements about the mental state of a (pre-)adolescent. Docter and co-writers Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen (story-by credit) shamelessly manipulate the audience’s emotional state with the kinds of precision strikes that other filmmakers can only dream of. I want to resent their ploys, especially stacking the two most devastating moments up at the top of the third act, but am forced to admit that the damn movie choked me up twice now. Besides, this is a movie that personifies emotions – a bit of flagrant heartstring plucking is forgivable. The animation is lively in the distorted tradition of older hand-drawn animation and more expressionistic than most of the somewhat reality-based Pixar movies that predated it (Docter’s films – Monsters Inc., Up, and now Inside Out – have always have characters that are defined by shapes). Inside Out is a generally homogenous movie in terms of the tone of its imagery, but the delineations in style, including differences between the more cartoonish mind world and the more naturalistic real world, that make it more visually appealing than the majority of modern, 3D CG animated films.

Critics have lauded the film as a return to form for Pixar. From the standpoint that it is the studio’s first great movie since Docter’s own Up in 2009, they are correct. It’s also the better of the two non-sequels they’ve released since then – the other being Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman’s underrated, but admittedly under-cooked Brave (2012). However, this statement also highlights the one thing that keeps Inside Out from achieving the same stature as Up. Despite the fact that it is not a sequel, Inside Out follows the well-worn Pixar formula to a tee. There’s a popular internet meme that runs down the blueprint as a series of ‘what if?’ questions, accentuating the sameness of the Pixar canon. What if toys had feelings, what if bugs had feelings, what if monsters had feelings, what if cars had feelings, and, ultimately, what if feelings had feelings. This works wonderfully in terms of creating a familiar story structure in which to play with strange concepts and it’s difficult to accuse the Pixar think-tank of overcomplicating their story mechanics. Inside Out unravels with the grace and efficiency of Toy Story and Finding Nemo with well-established stakes and abstract concepts that feel completely natural within the confines of the film. But, even as I’m enthralled by loveable characters and off-kilter, one-of-a-kind ideas (well, mostly, many of us remember that the 1994 Fox TV sitcom Herman’s Head also featured a group of personified emotions living in the main character’s brain), the stringent, perfect narrative structure feels so inevitable.

 Inside Out

Video


Technically, I was sent a copy of the 3D Blu-ray combo pack for review, but I’m still not wired for 3D at this time, so this review will pertain to the 2D 1.78:1, 1080p Blu-ray only. With the majority of the extras sitting on a second Blu-ray, there’s plenty of space on the disc for loads of visual information. Detail levels are outrageously complex, especially the textures of the emotions themselves, from their fuzzy Muppet skin, to the threads in their clothing, and the glitter that they dust each scene with. There are a couple instances of what appear to be compression artefacts, like the banding of Joy’s constant ethereal glow, but I imagine that this is done on purpose to create even more texture. The colours are incredibly vibrant, incredibly eclectic, and alternate between stark contrasts and soft blends. The poppy acrylics are pure and consistent, but Joy’s glowing gold light source also changes the hues around her (for example, she can sometimes turn Sadness’ blue skin greenish).There is also a lovely distinction between environments. The more obvious differences exist between the mind world and the real world, but there are also significant contrasts between the warm memories of Minnesota and the miserable grey of San Francisco.

Audio


Inside Out comes fitted with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 that will give your system a thorough workout. As per usual when it comes to Pixar productions, it’s not so much the big and bassy effects that ‘make’ the mix (though there are plenty of those and they are every bit as spectacular as Inside Out’s big action movie counterparts), but the more subtle additions. Good examples here include the glass-like ding of the memory balls wrapping around the room as they roll into the long-term vault, the flattening effect on the vocals when the characters are ‘abstracted,’ and the glittery way the memory balls deteriorate in the pit of forgotten memories. I also love that the loudest thing in the entire movie – louder than even the crumbling of Riley’s ‘personality islands’ – are the squeaky balloon bars on Bing Bong’s cage. Michael Giacchino’s score is sufficient and pretty eclectic to match the imagery, but is lacking memorable themes. The ‘tragic’ cue that plays at the onset of the third act crisis is a nice exception and one of the score’s more triumphant moments in terms of sheer bombast.

 Inside Out

Extras


Disc One:
  • Commentary with directors Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen, producer Jonas Rivera, cinematographer Patrick Lin, and actor/writer Bill Hader (via phone) – Docter begins the track by announcing that the discussion will concern three key elements: history, ‘invisible story,’ and cinematography. History is the big one and there aren’t many behind-the-scenes stones left unturned in this regard. A lot of this stuff is also covered in the collection’s featurettes. ‘Invisible story’ concerns the narrative clues and histories that aren’t readily apparent in the final film. This helps to fill the audience in on the complexities of the mindscape. Cinematography is discussed alongside other technical aspects, though, thankfully, there isn’t a lot of time spent on the dull intricacies of computer programming. Overall, a very thoughtful and well-structured track.
  • Riley's First Date? short (4:40, HD) – A sort of cute post-movie mini-story in which Riley’s parents deal with the emotional distress of her hanging out with a boy.
  • Lava theatrical short (7:10, HD) – The sort of dopey, gorgeously animated short that preceded Inside Out in theaters.
  • Paths to Pixar: The Women of Inside Out (11:20, HD) – In the continuing Blu-ray extras series, various female cast & crew discuss growing up and finding their way to Pixar/stardom.
  • Mixed Emotions (7:20, HD) – The filmmakers discuss their extensive research, character design, and general concepts.

Disc Two:
  • Story of the Story (10:30, HD) – Docter and some of the other filmmakers discuss the evolution of the screenplay, from inspiration through abandoned ideas, actor input, and the final film.
  • Mapping the Mind (8:20, HD) – Concerning the design and construction of the film’s surrealistic mindscape.
  • Our Dads, The Filmmakers (7:30, HD)  – Pete Docter’s daughter Elie and composer Michael Giacchino’s daughter Grace go behind-the-scenes with digital cameras.
  • Into the Unknown: The Sound of Inside Out (7:10, HD) – Sound designer Ren Klyce describes the challenges involved in creating the film’s aural environments.
  • The Misunderstood Art of Animation Film Editing (4:40, HD) – As you’d assume from the title, this featurette covers the difficult job of an animation editor.
  • Mind Candy (14:30, HD) – A montage of ‘toolkit’ and ‘interstitials’ produced for advertising. It’s sort of like a screensaver.
  • Deleted scenes with director intro (16:50, HD) – This section is broken down into five sequences, each presented in different stages of completion.
  • Trailers


 Inside Out

Overall


I have my problems with Inside Out, but think they’re almost all about the film’s relation to the other Pixar films and the studio’s well-worn formula (aside from the dumb dinner scene and its boring gender stereotypes – that is a bad scene). In the end, I really love it and will probably watch it many more times. This Blu-ray collection looks and sounds about perfect (as expected) and includes some of the better extras I’ve seen from a Pixar release in a while. The commentary track is definitely worth a listen.

 Inside Out

 Inside Out

 Inside Out

 Inside Out

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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