This is one of the best animated films I have ever seen, ranking right up there with the Toy Story Trilogy and Shrek! Although children will enjoy it, I think adults will appreciate it even more. It is a brilliant and extremely creative film about our inner lives.
Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is conflicted about the family move from Minnesota to San Francisco. She was happy in Minnesota, having many friends and playing hockey. She feels angry, sad, anxious, guilty, and excited about the move. Her parents are also under stress. Her father’s business is having cash flow problems, and the moving van hasn’t even arrived yet, so her mother can’t set up the house. Riley starts feeling guilty, since she doesn’t want to burden her already-stressed-out parents with her negative feelings, so she subconsciously defends against them. Her parents are also exerting subtle pressure on Riley to “put on a happy face.”
The movie primarily takes place within Riley’s brain. Her ability to cope with the stress of the family move is determined by the interplay of five emotions, each played by a different animated character. (Joy-Amy Poehler, Sadness-Phyllis Smith, Fear-Bill Hader, Disgust-Mindy Kaling, and Anger-Lewis Black). There is a Control Room with a large console that determines which feeling has dominance at any particular time. Often, the emotions are in conflict about who should take the lead in a given situation.
Memories are represented as orbs that take on the color of the primary emotion associated with it. Neural networks are represented by a train and railroad tracks. A cluster of memories about an important aspect of life (e.g. friendship) are represented as island theme parks, etc.
The plot is about how Riley gets her mixed feelings about the move into perspective by experiencing and integrating them rather than by denying or repressing them. As a psychiatrist, I was blown away how well all this was conveyed. The film, however, is not quite perfect. If I had been a consultant, I would have chosen Guilt instead of Disgust to be one of the characters, since guilt plays a much more important role in our psychic life. The film was also about 15 minutes too long and, at times, frenetic, but none of this is of any real consequence.
This is an AWW film and a Must-See!