In anticipation of the Academy Awards, we polled our contributors to see who they thought should win the Oscar. Once we had our winners, we asked various writers to make the case for our selection in each category. Here, Odie Henderson makes the case for the best animated film of 2015: "Inside Out." Two winners will be announced Monday through Thursday, ending in our choices for Best Director and Best Picture on Friday.
Throughout its existence, Pixar has explored the human emotions of its characters, from the jealousy of “Toy Story” to the coping-with-grief mechanisms of “Up." This makes the main characters in “Inside Out” a logical next step in the Pixar canon: The literal representations of human feelings are an appropriate device to expand their cartoon universe while maintaining a psychological continuity. The Oscar-nominated script by Pete Docter, Meg LaFauve and Josh Cooley (with original story credits to co-directors Ronnie del Carmen & Docter) puts the viewer inside the head of a pre-adolescent girl, allowing us to observe the machinery that handles her response to everyday situations. As viewers, we not only get the inside scoop on how Anger, Sadness, Joy, Fear and Disgust wrestle for power within us, we’re also privy to a certain nostalgia factor upon which we can hang our own experiences. We can all remember things that seemed apocalyptic when we were 12, but in hindsight were so minor that we shake our heads in amusement looking back.
“Inside Out” also works as a corrective of sorts, sticking a pin in the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” narrative we’ve been fed by popular culture. Though Joy (Amy Poehler) appears to be the leader of the emotions, she eventually cedes her biggest memory to Sadness (Phyllis Smith), a teachable moment that gives credence to a feeling we too often are trained to hide or dismiss. “Inside Out” digs even deeper into this notion with the deceptively silly character of Bing Bong (Richard Kind) whose last line is a master class of tear-jerking understatement.
With its excellent voiceover work by a cast including Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader, its cleverly constructed visuals and its uncanny ability to wring buckets of laughs and tears, "Inside Out" is our pick for Best Animated Feature.