The Pixar List #1: Inside Out

The Stake

We’re ranking the films of Pixar Studios, leading up to the release of Inside Out.

inside out

Inside Out
Directed: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Writers: Pete Docter, Meg LaFauve, et al.

The success of Pixar has always depended on their refusal to pander to emotional depth of children. The longing of Woody to return to his friends in Toy Story, the fear that grips Nemo’s father in Finding Nemo, the loss Carl Fredricksen feels for his dead wife in Up, all of these stories are capable of reaching children and adults emotionally, though not in the exact same ways. Being adult means something different than being a child. We all grow up; our emotional complexity increases with age and experience. Children may lack that complexity of emotion, but they feel their emotions with equal, or even more, intensity.

Now, Pixar has made this intensity, and the…

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Yes, it’s yet another movie out of Sundance with a socially awkward teenage protagonist coming of age and documenting his experience in a college application essay. Just one thing: this time the kid in question is black, lives in Ingleside, and his troubles are a bit bigger than whether the quirky girl likes him or not.

The movie is Dope, which does double-duty as both title and description. The boy is Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a ’90s obsessed geek living on a modern-day neighborhood called “The Bottoms”, which is as promising as it sounds. He and his friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) have a ska-punk band called Awreeoh (with songs by co-producer Pharrell Williams), and Malcolm wants to take his straight-As off to Harvard, which his principal (Bruce Beatty) helpfully tells him is never going to happen.

Then one day some gang member bullies try to steal…

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Inside Out


Pixar movies have always had a nice, broad spectrum of content for both kids and the adults who accompany them to the theater. The balance alters a bit here and there; Cars 2 has little for the adults beyond a few gags, while Queen Elinor’s arc in Brave adds a subtle counterpoint younger viewers are likely to miss. But with Inside Out we’re all the way into Rango territory: this is an animated film for adults, structured around a fun and brightly-colored adventure any child can enjoy.

Built around the psychological theories of Dr. Paul Ekman — most famous for popularizing the idea of micro-expressions in The Human Face and Lie to Me — and his post-doctoral student Dr. Dacher Keltner, Inside Out tells the story of a difficult point in an eleven-year-old girl’s life through the lens of her five core emotions: Joy (Amy Pohler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger…

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