Inside Inside Out

Kerri Smith in Nature:

ToyMoving emotional journeys are the stock-in-trade of animation studio Pixar. In their Toy Story trilogy, released in 1995, 1999 and 2010, little Andy’s toys compete for his affections as his family move, threatening to leave them behind. In the 2009 Up, even the opening sequence — a poignant recap of the elderly protagonist’s life story – had audiences blubbing. InInside Out, now on general release, it is the emotions – personified – that themselves go on a journey. The feelings of 11-year-old Riley are characters (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear) lodged in a neuroscientifically improbable ‘Headquarters’ reminiscent of Rene Descartes’ pineal gland — the brain area where he imagined mind governed body. This volatile crew rev into action when Riley’s parents move the family from Minnesota to San Francisco, where she faces the first big challenges of an easy life: finding new friends, getting used to a new home and school. As Riley navigates these changes, the narrative is driven by the interplay between her emotions – particularly Joy and Sadness — and their adventures in the wild kingdom of Riley’s psyche. Joy had had the upper hand in Riley’s life to date; the central message is of the crucial role of Sadness in forming Riley’s character as she makes the bitter-sweet transition from child to teen and beyond. The adventures of Joy and Sadness form a counterpoint to Riley’s as each navigates a thrilling narrative of lost and found.

The colours of emotions drench this film: golden for Joy and green for Disgust, for instance. They tintRiley’s experiences, which are delivered to HQ like bowling balls, and thence dispatched to be enshrined in memory or forever forgotten. Many travel along tubes to long-term storage, a maze of high shelves resembling the folds of cortex when seen from above. “Let’s get those memories down to long-term!” trumpets Joy, as Riley falls asleep at the end of a happy day. I found this a compelling portrayal of memory processing: neuroscientists know that memories spend a little time in the hippocampus, where they are made, before some are shuttled to the cortex for long-term storage.

More here.