I was recently invited to an early, behind-the-scenes preview of Inside Out, Pixar's next movie in the pipeline. Since the movie isn't coming out for another year (in fact, a year to the date of that sneak preview, the Pixar people informed us), it's largely unfinished, but even so, it was enough to know that this is going to be another hit for Pixar...and maybe its weirdest movie to date.
Don't believe me? Here are five things you should definitely know about Pixar's next film.
1.) It might be the most funny movie Pixar has ever done
Pixar is known for its brand of humor - more adult than anything Disney dares, but with enough gentle or slapstick humor so that kids are equally entertained. Even with the animation still being very rough in spots, it was clear that Pixar has really ramped up the humor in [Inside Out](movie:332779). Those of us lucky enough to be there were laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes - seriously, I had to look around at one point and hope that I wasn't embarrassing myself by laughing so hard. Obviously, a lot of the credit for this goes to Pixar's script writers. But really, it's the strength of the voice cast that really injects the laugh-out-loudness into the story. You can't really go wrong with a cast of Amy Poehler (Joy), Lewis Black (Anger), Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Bill Hader (Fear), and Phyllis Smith (Sadness).
2.) But...this could also be Pixar's riskiest film to date
Pixar isn't exactly known for being a boring animation company. With their certain kind of genius, they've not only managed to bring to life some crazy ideas, but those crazy ideas have gone on to be some of the best-received animated films of all time, both critically and commercially. But Inside Out is a bonkers concept, even for Pixar. It's certainly the most abstract concept they've ever tried to put on screen - how do you tell the animated story of what goes on in a girl's brain as she grows up and goes through puberty? How do you animate emotions? How do you take such an intangible concept and turn it into a captivating story with an actual plot that involves humor and depth? It's a tricky concept, and while Pixar has obviously managed to do it, it will still be a harder sell than their previous movies with more straightforward stories.
3.) They did a lot of research for this...like, a LOT
When Pixar does a new film, they don't do it half-heartedly. Each Pixar film takes 3-5 years to complete, from first concept to release (and often the ideas are percolating for even longer than that). And the team behind each film jumps into research everything from subject matter, to studying the way animals move, to traveling to a specific location they're sketching, even if it's Angel Falls in Venezuela (where they traveled for Up). But director Pete Docter says they've never researched a subject as deeply or that fascinated them as much as the research they did on the human brain. They spoke to psychologists and neuroscientists, surgeons and therapists, artists and scientists alike, and what they learned is...well, we still don't know exactly how the human brain works. It's weird and it's wonderful, and none of us have figured it out yet. Which leads to...
4.) They pushed the boundaries of animation with this one
The animation from most Pixar films has been, while incredible, very much the same in certain ways. They've always tried to stick with realistic physics in their world - people move how they would move in reality. Fish swim how they would swim. And nothing, with the exception of The Incredibles, really broke that adherence to realistic physics in their animation. But with Inside Out, they are pushing the boundaries further than they ever have. What is "realistic" when you're speaking of how to animate the imagination or an intangible emotion or the joy you feel or the dark places in your head? The answer was that there is no realistic way to animate such abstract concepts. And so Pixar went all-out, breaking the boundaries of physics and their typical style. You'll see quite a few different styles of animation at work, from the old school Disney style animation, to a completely abstract part of Riley's head, to the traditional Pixar look, to rubber-limbed physicality that doesn't really exist anywhere else in the Pixar universe. How else could they have paid proper homage to the weirdness of the human mind?
5.) The song from the pre-movie short will get stuck in your head
As a special treat, we got to see the almost-completed pre-movie short, Lava, the directorial debut of Pixar's head of animation James Ford Murphy. I won't spoil the surprise, but it's an adorable little tale, and Murphy created it as an homage to island life and Hawaiian music, with which he fell in love 25 years ago when he and his wife went on their honeymoon. A song was written in the Hawaiian ukelele style for the short, and I warn you right now, it will get stuck in your head. Seriously, I'm singing it right now, and have been for days.
[Inside Out](movie:332779) hits theaters in just under a year on June 19th, 2015.