Why I think Inside Out is One of Pixar’s Best Movies

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. 


DC Super Hero Girls UK: Supergirl and Batgirl Action Figures

Ever since the line was announced last year, I have been waiting for the DC Super Hero Girls UK toys to be released. Well, we finally got our hands on a couple – these Batgirl and Supergirl action figures from Mattel.

The line is a DC superhero sub brand, that reimagines female DC characters as teenagers at an exclusive superhero school. This line offers a great way to bring girls into the stereotypically boys world of superheroes.

DC Super Hero Girls animated series, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, Katana, Bumblebee, Cheetah, Hawkgirl, Catwoman, DC Super Hero Girls UK

One of the things I like about DC Super Hero Girls is the focus on them being a group of friends. Disney Princesses, while promoted as a collective, are essentially out for themselves as they’re individual characters in their own separate stories. No sisterhood there.

Added to that, superheroes are also often fighting – even with each other. But here, instead of Batman v Superman, here we have Batgirl with Supergirl.

DC Super Hero Girls hit the UK

These DC Super Hero Girls UK action figures are from the 15cm range. There are also 30cm action dolls, as well as assorted accessories (such as Batgirl’s utility belt) and other merchandise (like stationary, eg. we were also set a notepad).

As befits the high school makeover, the looks of these classic characters have been made more teen like. Tech expert Batgirl wears a geek chic hoody and chunky boots, whereas cheerleader-like Supergirl has what looks like Chuck Taylor All-Stars and a very short skirt.

Despite Supergirl’s skirt length, these toys for the most part avoid the sexualisation that is associated with so many female toy figures. To my mind, the figures look more athletic than anything, though they still have big eyes and pursed lips often seen in dolls.

The toys are pretty well articulated. One of the bold claims made on the packaging is how these figures can stand up by themselves. Well, this is just about true, though the choice of stable poses is more limited than I’d like.

They don’t really come with accessories as such. Batgirl has a backpack (Bat-Pack?) while Supergirl has a detachable cape – which is molded plastic instead of vinyl or fabric which would have been preferable. Same goes for Supergirl’s skirt, which prevents her from sitting down properly.

DC Super Hero Girls UK, DC Super Hero Girls Batgirl
If you want to give Batgirl an extra accessory, in a sneaky hack LEGO Batarangs fit perfectly into her hand.

Action Figures for girls (and boys)

The absolute best thing about these toys is frankly this – they are female superhero figures that will hopefully be highly visible and readily available in shops.

Try as I do to introduce alternative toys and brands to my daughter, it’s a lot harder when all she sees on the high street – and possessed by her female peers – are Disney Princesses and the like.

While this line may be cordoned off in their own same sex bubble universe, that doesn’t stop them sitting in the toy box alongside any other superhero figures.

DC Super Hero Girls Action Figures compared with Batman Unlimited, DC Super Hero Girls UK, Mattel UK
These DC Super Hero Girls action figures complement my daughter’s Batman Unlimited toys pretty well.

While these DC Super Hero Girls action figures are clearly intended for the girls market I hope this will lead to further blending of the pink & blue aisle too. They could quite easily sit in either. There is nothing to prevent boys playing with these toys as well. I hope parents of superhero loving boys encourage this.

For my daughter, these toys have enabled her to add these characters to her imaginative play (they are best friends) and have finally demonstrated that like daddy always tells her, superheroes are for girls just as much as boys.

DC Super Hero Girls Action Figures - Supergirl and Batgirl playing, DC Super Hero Girls UK


These DC Super Hero Girls UK Action Figures have a UK RRP of £9.99.

Disclosure: We were provided with these toys free of charge for the purposes of this review.

Female Empowerment: Raising a Confident Girl

I took our daughter to London’s Science Museum. It’s one of those places that we had always intended to take her to repeatedly. Knowing that many girls are dissuaded from an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Manufacturing), the Science Museum was going to be a key way to encourage it.

Well, we finally got round to it – motivated by knowing our chances to do this mid-week term time were lessening every day. Soon she’ll be at school and we’ll be locked into the holiday/weekend museum crush. Continue reading Female Empowerment: Raising a Confident Girl

If We Leave the EU the Bigots, Racists, and Xenophobes Have Won

I can’t make head nor tail of the economic arguments for or against Britain’s membership of the EU. Both sides present compelling arguments for the benefits or catastrophe of remaining In or Out.

I don’t know how much sovereignty we have ceded to the EU as Vote Leave claim, or how corrupt and/or inept the officials who run the Union are, or whether we are needlessly sending rivers of cash to the EU (though this graphic puts that in perspective).

But I do know this – it’s simple for Vote Leave to present a convincing argument. When times are tough, as they are for many, it’s far easier to say ‘Let’s change things’ and leave the EU, than the Vote Remain message of ‘Let’s keep things the same’.

Some Leavers talk of ceding power to unelected politicians and leaders, yet are seemingly happy with our own unelected politicians in the House of Lords. And we have a Queen for heaven’s sake – the ultimate unelected leader, who isn’t even appointed by anyone.

But mostly, this debate is being driven by one thing – immigration.

Even the economic arguments I read about leaving the EU seem to lead back to one thing – we’re better off without foreigners, whether they’re in the UK, potentially on their way, or working in Brussels.

I constantly read comments from people who claim being anti-immigration isn’t racist, and yet fail to acknowledge the connection between all the non-white people in the UK and the immigrants they either are or are descended from.

The vote seems to have divided generations – those likely to vote Leave are also almost overwhelmingly older voters. Under 40 are pro-remain majority, over 50 pro-leave, with those in their forties marking the transition demographic. This makes sense. I have never known a UK that wasn’t in Europe, yet they remember us joining it.

I read of some Vote Leavers wanting to make Britain great again. As well as sounding horribly like a Donald Trump slogan, I never understand when exactly are they referring to. Comments such as ‘We used to do fine by ourselves’ are common – except we didn’t. The UK begged to join the Common Market in the sixties, but were rebuffed – finally managing to do so in the seventies. The post-WW2 boom was well and truly over, and we needed Europe. My older brother remembers playing in bombed out derelict ruins in sixties London. As a country, we were broke – and a little broken.

How have the older generation forgotten this?

My parents – now in their late seventies – occasionally still surprise me. I was prepared for an awkward dining table conversation about the referendum, when they both stated they are for Remain. More than that, my mother was angry that the older generation (i.e. her generation) were being so selfish and voting out when younger generations overwhelmingly want to remain.

It’s easy for me to be pro-EU when I perceive the issue as being driven by anti-immigrant sentiment. While I am British, my parents were post-WW2 immigrants. My wife is also an immigrant, and my daughter is a foreign born dual nationality citizen. Beyond that, the simple fact is this – without the EU, my wife’s EU passport, and her right to live and work in this country because of it – my family would not exist.

A small example of the benefits of this mixing of peoples from being in the EU is The Grufallo – the much beloved children’s book and all the other collaborations between writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler would not exist were it not for the EU. Counterpoint that with UKIP’s poster, implying that hordes of brown people are poised to swamp our tiny island because we are in the EU.

The other issue I have with Vote Leave is this – the men driving it all have something to gain: Power. Taking a racist or anti-immigrant stance (whether you believe it or are simply a political opportunist) has a long and horrific history of being a sure way to gain power – so long as the message can be made palatable. Vote Leave have been achieving this until now. I hope the UKIP ‘Breaking Point’ poster may prove to be the breaking point in this appearing acceptable.

I know which side I am on, and I am increasingly horrified about which way the vote could go. This is not a general election which can be overturned in 4 years time, or tempered by popular opinion or our own unelected representatives. This is a Yes/No decision that will impact us for generations to come.

So I am not saying you are a bigot, racist, or xenophobe if you want to leave the EU. The argument that has been presented is a compelling one. But I am saying you’re allying yourself with a campaign driven by those who are.

And if they win – as far as I’m concerned – we all lose.


Do Dads Encourage Their Daughters as Much as Their Sons?

I like to think I’m pretty good at encouraging my daughter to explore the world away from traditional gender stereotypes – but a recent survey about dads & daughters got me thinking. It seemed to indicate that fathers treated daughters significantly differently to sons – when it came to Football.

It found that dads are less likely to play football with their daughters, or even watch it with them compared to sons. Only 1% of fathers surveyed think their daughters would pick a career as a footballer, if given the choice. It also found that “fathers are far more likely to spend time playing computer games or tablets indoors with their daughters than go outside for a kick about”. Sounds familiar…

Dads and Daughters: Kelly and Bernard Smiths story

Women’s football is getting more and more attention, and the story of Kelly Smith and her father Bernard (pictured) is pretty inspirational. In the female game, Kelly is England’s all-time top goal scorer and six-time Women’s FA Cup winner (with Arsenal Ladies).

While her success is immensely impressive, the part of her story that touched me more than that was her relationship with her father.

Kelly cites her dad as the key influence that inspired her career, but they both also speak of the strength of their relationship that emerged during his encouragement that began in her youth.

Whether she had gone on to footballing success or something else, it seems clear that this bond would have been fundamentally important in whatever Kelly opted to achieve in her life.

While any English dad would surely cry like Bernard did at the sight of seeing his daughter in her England kit, singing the national anthem, on her international sporting debut, we would likely be just as teary over their success at anything we had supported them to work towards in their lives.

So, do dads encourage their daughters as much as sons?

There are no simple answers to this. I am not a fervent football supporter, so it is unsurprising that I haven’t been proactive in this respect. But it was the gender split that got me. I only have a daughter, so it’s a tricky one for me to answer myself – so when I see a poll like this, I wonder.

Football is such a big part of British life, that it is pretty inescapable. My daughter has watched a few internationals on TV with me – but it has been more about me watching it while I am looking after her as opposed to me introducing it to her.

And the issue is that while she is already learning football at nursery, she has only seen men playing it as adults – whether her sports teacher or on TV. She has yet to make reference to this, but I’m sure she will have noticed.

This isn’t about pushing her into a career in football. I simply don’t want her to dismiss football – or any other activity – as something that only males do.

I shouldn’t just rely on sharing my passions with her, but encourage her to explore areas outside my broad interests too. As this survey suggests, I AM more likely to do something indoors with her than go outside for a kick-about or similar.

So if I don’t want her to dismiss a career in STEM or other male dominated fields, I should probably introduce her to the Women’s Football game – so she understands that nothing is off limits to her because she’s a girl.


This is a collaborative post with SSE Energy, who are sponsors of The Women’s FA Cup and the FA SSE Girls’ Football Participation Programme. They commissioned the OnePoll survey referenced in this piece.

Find out more about Kelly in the video below, and read more of her story here.