Get ready. “Inside Out” isn’t just the way little kids put on their shirts anymore. Critics everywhere already agree – Inside Out is like no other children’s movie before it. It’s all about the conflicting emotions that 11-year-old Riley faces after she and her parents move away from their home. Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation alum, lends her voice to one of those emotions, Joy.
The character is a lot like Leslie Knope, the Parks and Rec protagonist Poehler played for seven seasons on NBC. Joy is spunky and tries to get people to see everything her way. Maybe she’s a little bossy, but really, she’s looking out for her pals. In Joy’s case, those pals are actually feelings – Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). As a matter of fact, the primary conflict in the film is between Joy and Sadness, and Poehler and Smith have quite a bit of commentary on their characters.
Where Joy is concerned, Poehler really wanted her to be “someone you root for.” With Poehler’s charisma and feistiness, we imagine that she’ll easy captivate audiences. But what Poehler is really excited about is that the movie is “a tool to talk to your kids.” When feelings become more like people, it’s easier for kids to get in touch with them. We build relationships with relatives all the time. Why not build relationships with our feelings? It seems to us that this is the goal of Inside Out.
Smith, who lends her voice to Sadness, is already being commended as just a doll of a character. The drawing looks like Willy Wonka’s Violet Beauregard post-gum chewing incident but much cuter, softer, and kinder. The actor, best known for playing Phyllis Vance on The Office, said that she and director Pete Docter worked on developing Sadness as a character who’s more than only, well, sad. Smith reports that she and Docter channeled a lot of energy from Smith’s own experiences with insecurity and self-esteem. This is her first voice-over role.
But what a first voice-over role it was. Apparently, Poehler and Smith had the chance to do three recording sessions as a pair. Yes, we mean in the same booth. This is rare but also quite crucial to the plot, according to many critics. Inside Out already seems like a most unusual and destined-to-be-beloved film.
The cartoon hits theaters on June 19 all around the United States.