The last animated Disney feature I saw was “Fantasia.” When Mickey Mouse, the sorcerer’s apprentice, started hatchetizing the multiplying brooms and water started sloshing out of the buckets, I had my first panic attack. Just now I am realizing why I still feel a little rill of fear when someone mentions bucket lists.
Because of the Fantasia-induced trauma, I successfully avoided most Disney animations. I begged off invitations from friends for special birthday field trips to the movies, “Nah, thanks, I’ve got tickets to ‘The Song of Bernadette.’”
In my single digited youth, I was a charter member of the Mickey Mouse Club. Who needed cartoon features when you could follow, with growing excitement, the animated adventure of Annette Funicello’s darling breast buds under her short-sleeved, white cashmere turtleneck?
I have been a bad aunt to my nieces and nephews, both blood, chosen and grand, because I have not seen “Antz,” “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” the lingua franca of their youth. When my pre-verbal next-door neighbor was belting out some song, I was unable to personally shazam it as the theme song to “Frozen.” I meant to see “Up.”
The morning after a deep-freeze induced, cabin-fever related spontaneous pizza/dance party with the kids across the hall, their Mom knocked on our door, handed me a DVD and said, “Would you just watch this?” She put “Inside Out” in my hand. I had embarrassed myself the night before with my filmic ignorance as we tried to reach a group consensus on a movie to watch. “Karate Kid III?” Seriously?
I don’t know from Pixar, anime, 3-D, but “Inside Out” is gorgeous, colorful and vibrant, especially if in your peripheral vision, the sky outside the window is a wintry, Northeastern cement-colored monochrome. The story is ingeniously told from the point of view of a girl, Riley. Her feelings – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger – are the film’s characters. The narrative arc follows baby Riley to baby butch Riley, an 11-year-old hockey-playing tomboy. The family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. Epic hijinks ensue.
In the control room of Riley’s psyche, the relentlessly perky Joy rides herd on a blue Sadness, purple Fear, green Disgust and a red Anger. A malfunction in the combo Star Trek/Xbox console expels Joy and Sadness from home base. The fellow travelers, accompanied by Bing Bong an imaginary friend, try to get back home through the landscape of imagination, abstract thought and memory. Their mission is to reconstitute the disintegrating Riley.
I know. I now sound like a small child answering the question, “Did you like the movie?” Twirling a curl, staring ahead, watching a movie replayed on the back of the eyeballs, speaking in a trance. “And then he …, and then she…, and then. . ., and then. . ..
(“Hail Caesar” inspired no such a recitation. Though it is hilarious. Besides my freebie, George Clooney, you should check out Alden Ehrenreich as cowboy Hobie Doyle.)
“Inside Out” inspired a welcomed, childlike reassessment of my own tired adult emotions: fear of Facism, disgust at the profundity of misogyny, sadness for immigrants displaced by war and mind-burning anger about the state of the republic. Refresh. For a little while they were just pixillated toons managed by an irrepressible Joy. EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER.
“Inside Out” is the only Oscar nominee I’m rooting for this season.