‘Inside Out’ Is a Kid-Friendly Party at the El Capitan

You don’t have to plan a themed Disney Pixar party when “Inside Out” is playing that the El Capitan–just buy tickets and go. You’ll get a pair of yellow “Joy” glasses that are not for the movie, but for “The Music of Light Show.” Moreover, Pixar has taken real science by way of child psychology and made if fun!

First, you’ll have to line up. We had to pick up our tickets in the first line. Then we got in line for the VIP orchestra section. Once we grabbed out popcorn and drink, we settled into our reserved seats. The organ player didn’t come out of the stage and there is no special exhibit downstairs for “Inside Out,” but they do have a place for taking selfies of your and the cardboard characters as well as a control center like in the movie.

Before the movie, and after the trailers, five dancers will get you into the mood to meet those little voices in your head. You put on your Joy glasses as instructed. Dancers dressed in either red, yellow, green, blue or purple  hip hop to various pop songs (e.g. Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking in the Sunshine”) that evoke different emotions while 3D live LED “illuminations” come on the screen. A lot of it draws from video games.

If that doesn’t get your kid or the kid in you hopping, wait until they break out the joyfully yellow big inflated balls and you get to play volleyball with the rest of the audience. Do not wear fragile hairstyles or hats to this theater presentation.

I imagine that eventually the 3D experience will make video games like this–dancing inside of the computer (like Tron, but with better graphics and more colorful clothes).

Before “Inside Out,” you get to see the warm love story between two volcanoes, “Lava.” There’s a pun that will make you want to groan but this animated short which is written and directed by James Ford Murphy will like make you tear up. Kuana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig sing the dialogue.


From there we plunge into the world of Riley in “Inside Out.” Riley is a girl born in Minnesota and she a happy child. There’s not much dialog at first because Riley is a baby and she grows up and still holds on to Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) as her primary emotion with the other emotions–Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black)–taking orders from her.

The five emotions live in a headquarters that is literally in Riley’s head, her conscious mind. They control Riley’s actions and memories by using a control console that looks more like the TOS Star Trek Enterprise transporter room console than the bridge of a starship.

Memories are encapsulated into spheres. The spheres are different single colors based on the primary emotion attached to that memory. Most of the memories are gold colored. When Riley goes to sleep at night, the memories made that day go to the long-term storage. The most important memories become Riley’s core memories and are placed in a special hub in headquarters. These core memories power the five islands that can be seen from the headquarters. These islands represent parts of Riley’s personality: Family Island, Friendship Island, Hockey Island, Honesty Island and Goofball Island. You’ll have to decide what your islands are.

While Joy is the primary emotion and acts as an organizer of the other emotions, all the emotions have an important purpose.  Fear keeps Riley safe. Disgust prevents her from being poisoned. Anger insures that there’s fairness in her life. However, the four emotions aren’t sure what to do with Sadness. She seems to have no function and the other emotions ignore her.

both of Riley’s  parents ice skate and she loves hockey, skating outdoors on a pond. For this family, hockey brings the family together and is a core memory. When Riley is 11, her father gets a job with a start up in, where else? San Francisco. Riley is naturally upset by leaving her school and her friends. She imagines their new home will be spectacular, but finds that it is a small house squeezed between two other houses, without a yard. The moving company is delayed and so Riley ends up sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag.

As her mother argues with the movers and her father gets called away to work, Riley attempts to stay happy. That keeps the emotions busier than usual. As the emotions are busy attempting to deal with the new situations Riley faces, Sadness touches one of the golden yellow balls and turns it from a happy yellow gold memory to a blue one. Nothing Joy can do will erase the blueness. Sadness has changed  a  memory.

Joy decides to keep Sadness preoccupied by reading the mind manuals to prevent more memories being turned sad.

When Riley has her first day of school, she begins talking about hockey in Minnesota and Sadness make her cry in front of the class. That could become a new core memory, but Joy attempts to prevent the sphere from reaching the hub of core memories. All the core memories are knocked out of the hub and the islands of Riley’s personality are shutdown.

In the struggle, Joy, Sadness and the core memories are sucked up a tube that delivers most memories to other parts of Riley’s mind–long-term memory storage. The storage area is a labyrinth of tall shelves with numerous spheres on the other side of a deep, seemingly bottomless abyss. Headquarters rises from the abyss in the middle.

Some of those spheres are removed by workers who send those spheres into an abyss that is surrounds headquarters with only narrow paths crossing over to the islands. Those spheres become faded memories and are soon lost.

Without her core memories, Riley is lost and her islands one-by-one begin to crumble and fall into the abyss. Joy and Sadness must find their way back to headquarters, but Joy is hindered by Sadness who is too sad to move and must be dragged and from time to time touches some of the long-term storage spheres, changing them into sad memories.

During their journey, Joy and Sadness meet Bing-Bong, one of Riley’s imaginary friends who is wandering through the shelves of long-term memory and acts as a guide to take Joy and Sadness through to find a way back to headquarters.

With only Disgust, Anger and Fear left in charge, Riley begins to have problems with her parents and decides to run away and return back to the place of her happy memories: Minnesota.

Of course, you can count on a happy ending, making this a funny but family-friendly film worth seeing–even as a child-free adult. This is a beautiful story about growing up although children under 6 or 7 might find it a bit long and grow restless, at least judging from the 1 p.m. crowd.

Director Peter Docter was inspired by changes in his own pre-teen daughter and the screenplay team of Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley consulted with child psychologists while writing the script, giving this script heart-warming depth. Although now my husband jokes that I’m all Joy and Anger and he wonders where Fear and Disgust are.

Pixar fans, be on the lookout for Fritz who is voiced by Pixar’s good luck charm John Ratzenberger.

El Capitan Theatre screening is Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Dolby Vision uses “extended dynamic range 4K laser projection” for brightness and contrast. Dolby Atmos moves the audio that moves around the theater for a richer experience. The “Inside Out” show continues until 19 August 2015.

Running time of just “Inside Out” is one hour and 35 minutes.

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