by NEVIL GIBSON
The phenomenal creative and financial success of the Pixar Animation Studios was never guaranteed.
In the early days, co-founder Ed Catmur recounts in his book Creativity Inc, that Hollywood
resisted the idea of full-length features generated by computer graphics.
Hand-drawn cartoons were expensive and production of them dwindled, along with audience
interest. But Catmull and his collaborators John Lasseter and Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs persisted with their dream.
Apple had introduced the “graphical interface” and made computers easier to use with the
moving mouse technology.
Pixar was founded in 1986, and nine years later it released Toy Story.
In the two decades since then, Pixar has produced 15 feature films, including several sequels.
All have been hits and include some of the highest-grossing animated films in history.
Toy Story 3 exceeded $US1 billion in box-office takings, making it the second most seen feature after Frozen.
Throughout its history, Pixar has been closely associated with the Walt Disney Company, which
initially avoided computerised animation but is now its biggest user.
Pixar became a Disney subsidiary in 2006 in a $US74 billion deal, but has retained its policy of releasing just two films every three years.
This is not surprising, given the budget for most of them is now a whopping $US200 million.
Despite its limited output, which increases the risk of flops, Pixar has never failed to surprise or test its audiences by going in new directions.
This risk is lessened by the number of sequels — Toy Story, Cars and Monsters with more on
the way for Nemo and The Incredibles.
Pixar’s latest, Inside Out (Disney), goes further than most with its concept of depicting the feelings of an 11-year-old girl with comic characters.
Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is going through an emotional upheaval as her parents move from
Minnesota to San Francisco. She is leaving the world she knows and loves — including her main love, ice hockey — for what is shown as a dingy and crowded urban environment.
Her five emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust — fight for control of her mind with
a large-scale video game console.
This imaginative world also includes a repository for memories that look like theme parks and
mark the main events in Riley’s life.
This is abstract art as its most esoteric, and one sequence even imitates the two-dimensional
works of Picasso and Chagall.
This visual humour is matched by some brilliant dialogue among Riley’s warring emotions. But
the best is reserved for brief glimpses inside the minds of her parents.
This shows up the main faults in the story, which drags considerably when Joy (voiced by Amy
Poehler) leaves the control room as Riley breaks down and tries to return to Minnesota.
Inside Out has been greeted with critical acclaim and favourable box office. But this will depend on whether audiences relate to some difficult areas of psychology, such as the subconscious.
This is not a film for the very young and is far more challenging as entertainment than any other Pixar production.
All screenings are preceded by a delightful short, Lava, which is also available on You Tube.
Rating: General audiences; 94 minutes.
by NEVIL GIBSON