Life in the Fast Lane

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All The Right Feels

By 10:42 AM , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Over the weekend, many of us were made to feel — as well as think — as Manila finally welcomed Inside Out into our cinemas, two months after its release in the United States.

Come to think of it, many of us, for what was probably the first time in our lives, had a think about feelings.

Inside Out, in a nutshell, is a story about the relationships of emotions, memories, imagination, dreams, experiences, and personality, and how they develop as a person ages. In true Disney-Pixar fashion, they managed to visualize and personify the feelings of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger (which, according to Pete Docter, were the five emotions they settled for, after years of brainstorming and consulting with psychologists).

We see the first emotion, Joy, entering the picture when Riley is born. Literally, from the point of view of her brain, Joy punches a button that helps Riley coo and giggle. Thirty-three seconds later, we see Riley cry as Sadness comes in, much to Joy's surprise. As Riley gets older, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness make their appearances as, naturally, her emotions become increasingly complicated.


Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness.
Photo from usatoday.com.

Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, co-directors of the film, made the wise choice to set most of the story when Riley turned 11 years old as the pre-teen years mark the beginning of all complex emotions. Worst of all, Riley happened to move from one state to another; we all know how traumatizing this can be for a kid.

Now, in an attempt to organize my thoughts — which were a lot! — I've decided to enumerate what I loved about this film:

(Spoilers below. Hopefully, you've seen the movie by now. If not, read at your own risk!)


1. I loved how it teaches children to embrace change.

For the most part, children are creatures of habit and sudden disruptions throw them off their game. Admittedly, to this day, I'm not a fan of change; I have a hard time dealing with transitions and surprises. It's still something I have to work on.

However, the film shows, through Riley's progression from babbling toddler to sullen pre-teen, that change can be good. We see how Riley was able to eventually make new friends, join a new hockey team, and still find support from her parents.

2. I loved the interplay between emotions and imagination.

Bing Bong, a secondary character in the story, was the literal visualization of Riley's imagination. An elephant-dolphin-cotton candy-kitten hybrid, he was Riley's imaginary friend when she was a toddler, and he was tossed into the realm of Long Term Memories as she grew older. Joy encounters Bing Bong when she and Sadness accidentally leave "headquarters", a.k.a. the command center of Riley's brain. Bing Bong developed a wonderful relationship with Joy; this makes total sense, since figments of children's imaginations are usually a result of happiness. 

Naïveté is the bubble that surrounds the many scenes where we see Joy and Bing Bong happily running along, as they try to leave Sadness out of the picture. However, at one point, even Bing Bong recognizes that imagination finally has to take the back seat to reality when he helps Joy get back to (brain) headquarters. As he fades into oblivion — this was painful to watch! — he tells Joy: "Take her to the moon for me."

(Cue the collective tears of everyone in the audience. Sadness must've had a field day.)

This hit me the hardest. I guess the "artist" (or wannabe artist) in me, whose life has always revolved around words and visuals, felt really bad when I realized how, for many people, imagination no longer has a place in their lives. I still (and probably always will) imagine, and I believe that imagination will be that one thing that allows people to embrace their inner child. I just hope that everyone manages to unearth that side of them that dreams, as long as they are grounded by reality.

3. I loved how the film visualized the complexities of emotions.

Where do I begin here? There were so many manifestations of this.

First, we see how, in one experience alone, each of the feelings will want to take their turn at pressing the "feeling" button. This was most apparent in the scene where Riley is fed broccoli for the first time. Fear wanted Riley to cry, Sadness wished she were being fed something else, Disgust wanted her to spit it out, and Anger wanted her to throw a tantrum. However, Riley's dad pulls out one of the tricks in the parenting bag: the "airplane". As soon as he starts doing plane sound effects while waving the spoon around, Joy takes over the control booth and Riley excitedly welcomes the broccoli. This was a great way to demonstrate to both kids and adults that, in any given situation, different emotions can surface; it's just up to each of us to react the right way.

Second, we see how, when Sadness started touching each of the memory balls (which were previously colored yellow, thanks to Joy), they started having tinges of blue. Towards the end of the movie, each of the memory balls started looking more like multicolored marbles, with shades of yellow, green, red, blue, and purple. I felt that this was sheer genius. It showed in a simplistic manner that each experience or memory can be tainted by different emotions, and usually, our memory fails us by overriding one emotion over another. It was a clever way to show just how layered emotions can be, when associating them with experiences and memories.

Third, we see how, when the movie would cut to the "brains" of Riley's mom and dad, that there were no "lead" emotions. Unlike Riley, who was still a child and had Joy as the "lead" emotion, the emotions of Riley's parents all had equal billing. Clearly, one learns that through time, there is no one emotion that we could call on to affect or define an experience.

Riley's mom's brain, where all of her emotions are in check.
Photo from pixarplanet.com.

Riley's brain, where Joy is usually the leader.
Photo from moviepilot.com.

Fourth, we see how Joy came to recognize that she had to work hand in hand with Sadness, especially towards the end of the film. She gave Sadness the floor to work the control booth, as well as the opportunity to touch the memory balls, tainting them with "sadness blue". While watching these scenes, I couldn't help but think of compassion and empathy. In order to truly put ourselves in someone else's shoes, we have to call on Joy and Sadness in equal measure. Also, I realized that in order to appreciate the polar opposites in the emotion spectrum — which are, actually, Joy and Sadness — one has to feel both: one can't be truly joyful without having been sad; one can't recognize what true sadness is without having felt joyful. Each one will enrich and build on the other emotion.

4. I loved how, for what seems to be the first time in Disney-Pixar history, there was no outright villain; neither was there an outright sidekick.

In any story, you will usually encounter that hero vs. villain formula. There will always be a good guy who triumphs over the bad guy. In the case of Inside Out, though, there is no bad guy. Riley never encounters a school bully; not even someone who decides she shouldn't make it to the hockey team; neither is there any singular obstacle stopping Joy (and Sadness) from returning to headquarters. Although many of us already know this, we will come to realize once more how, at times, we are our own worst enemy and we can also be our own best friends. There wasn't anyone who caused Riley to want to run away; she did it to herself. At the same time, there wasn't anyone who told her to reconsider that decision to run away; she also thought of it herself. In any given situation, one could choose to put himself/herself up or down.

5. I loved how it showed us the different facets that make up each person.

From memories that can sometimes fail us, to core memories that will always be etched in our hearts, to figments of one's childhood imagination, to the different aspects of one's personality (I hear 'ya, Riley; I'd probably have a Goofball Island, too), to abstract reasoning, to all of these feelings — truly, the human mind is extremely complex, and we were given a glimpse of this.

However, because of all the complexities (as a Bible-believing Christian, I can't help but marvel at how God amazingly designed each one of us!), Inside Out couldn't fully capture what exactly goes on in our brains. I'm not sure how spot-on it was in terms of psychology, physiology, and other related branches of science (and because of this, I'm sure professionals from these fields must've raised an eyebrow or two while watching it). I highly doubt that it would be possible to paint the whole picture of the intricacies of the human brain in any full-length film; let alone an animated film for children.

Still, I loved the attempt at telling a story about feelings. Not everyone wants to talk about feelings; not everyone even shows what they're feeling. Heck, I don't like broadcasting to people that I'm sad or angry; everything must be sunny in my part of town.

But this film teaches us that it's okay to feel and to talk about them (kids, listen well: if you're feeling bad, please tell someone, and if you believe in God, tell Him first); that we shouldn't always be boxed into one feeling or another; that memories and experiences (whether good or bad) will shape our personalities; and that we can always choose to be a better person because of them (especially through prayer and God's guidance). 

Thank you, Disney and Pixar, for giving us all the right feels, especially when it comes to feelings. I'm sure children will enjoy the film on a visual and storytelling level; the vividness and characterization of each emotion, the humor (you can't have a Disney-Pixar film without it!), as well as the engaging plot, make for an unpredictable ride ahead. Adults, on the other hand, will most definitely take home with them a wide range of realizations and feelings (sorry for making this my most overused word of the day!).

Cheers!

Illustrated by yours truly.

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