John Lasseter, one of the founding directors of Pixar animation and the man behind some of their biggest hits, has always stated how inspired he was by the legendary Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki, and the films of Studio Ghibli which he helped set up. Both men have been responsible for some of the greatest animated movies created.
But there was one aspect that marked Miyazaki’s work apart from others, which Pixar failed to replicate – the prevalence of female protagonists. The majority of Studio Ghibli movies had leading female characters, whereas Pixar movies had hardly any.
While Brave was an early attempt at a female led movie, it was with Inside Out that Pixar finally fulfilled their debt of inspiration to Miyazaki.
It’s hard to pick which character is actually the lead one of the movie. It’s about Reilly, an ice hockey loving 11-year-old girl whose family has just relocated from Minnesota to San Francisco, and who is just trying to fit in.
But for the most part, the movie takes place inside Reilly’s head (Inside Out – geddit?), and this is where the most likely candidate for female lead exists.
The crux of this story is that our emotions have personalities, and their competing demands for their way helps shape our personalities. Reilly’s most dominant personality is Joy, and she is voiced by one of my idols, Amy Poehler.
Joy pretty much controls what happens in Reilly’s head, while the likes of Fear, Anger, and Disgust all have their part to play. But it is the role of Sadness that comes to be the most problematic for Joy. Their struggle becomes the struggle for Reilly’s persona, and it resolves itself in a way that has enlightened me. I think it’s a sure sign of a great children’s film when it can inspire kids and adults alike.
The animation is bright, the script is sharp, the voice cast & performances are top notch, and to my mind this is one of the best Pixar movies ever. It truly is glorious, and made all the more gratifying because they have finally lived up to the promise of their love of Miyazaki – and Studio Ghibli in general – and given us a wonderful fantastical tale with a little girl at its heart. And its head.
Inside Out and other great family movies are available to watch on NOW TV.
Disclosure: I receive free access to NOW TV in exchange for blogging about the service. They also sent my daughter this Joy doll in exchange for this post.