If you haven’t noticed, Pixar has yet to create a female-centric movie that doesn’t involve princesses. As much as I love Brave, the first Pixar story with a female protagonist, I want to see a regular girl doing amazing things, and leading the way. Many male-driven films have proven that you don’t have to be royalty to take on an adventure or set out on a personal odyssey. I’ve heard the sorry excuse, “well, people don’t want to watch a movie about a girl,” but the success of Brave (as well as Frozen and Tangled) have paved the way for change. We’ve wanted another female-driven Pixar film—particularly one about a regular girl—for some time now, and it seems like we’ll be getting our wish.
Inside Out, Pixar’s newest venture for next year, is not at all about a princess. It’s about a girl named Riley, although from what I’ve read, Riley is more than just a singular character. Her alter-egos play more pronounced roles. Joy (who will be voiced by Amy Poehler!) is Riley’s happy, positive self. She’s also got Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). All emotions function together as a team to help lead Riley through the growing stages of life.
At first, Joy is the dominant voice in Riley’s head, but that all changes. As they say, you can’t stay a kid forever. You start getting zits. Your body becomes more and more alien. Your parents are no longer friendly giants, but antagonists who have the power to ground you if your report card is less than spectacular. Inside Out follows that psychological shift as Joy’s role in Riley’s life is suddenly usurped by Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. This band of negativity transforms Riley into an angsty, moody tween, and it’s up to Joy to find a way to compromise with all four emotions so Riley can be rescued from herself.
What’s so incredible about this movie, is that it’s about a young girl who faces internal struggles many of us are too familiar with. There’s no man saving her here, and she doesn’t have the classic sidekick. She solely has herself (well, parts of herself). I know when I was thirteen, I didn’t have anyone to ask, “why am I feeling so frustrated all the time, or so inexplicably sad?” I had to figure it out on my own, and I think many of us have had to do the same. This movie could serve as a guide for all those kids going through the emotional rip-tides of adolescence.
Heartwarmingly enough, the story was inspired by director Pete Docter and his experience watching his daughter Ellie grow up. He said that as she grew older, her natural happiness seemed to fade away and be replaced by negativity brought on by self-consciousness and self-doubt. Docter wondered why this happened, so when he was brainstorming Inside Out, he actually did his research and consulted with psychologists. They told him that girls between the ages of 12 and 16 are remarkably emotionally attuned. “They are just totally dialed in to read everything – for whatever reason, it’s sociologically true,” explains Docter in an interview with Vulture. Well, I’ll say.
I have the sinking feeling that some will question why a girl, rather than a boy is the focus of the film’s emotional turmoil. But this sounds like a movie that can cross gender lines to connect with all kinds of viewers. It’s a movie about growing up, becoming more independent, and becoming attuned with your sense of self. It’s something every human goes through, just like every human will lose the one they love and find a way to conquer that despair (Up), or one day discover their child is not a defenseless baby anymore (Finding Nemo), or finally find love in the strangest of places (Wall-E). Inside Out will be another film that encapsulates the human condition, but this time, a girl will star in it and show us the way. And for that, yes, I’m excited.