While I remain fully committed to only judging a movie by the material to be found in its digital frames, from the first flicker of storytelling life to the moment the closing credits complete their upward crawl to oblivion, there are admittedly time when knowing details of a creative path can bestow an added shimmer to an already shining cinematic effort. Inside Out, director Pete Docter’s follow-up to the tremendous Up, is a grandly inventive achievement all on its own, depicting the inner life a young girl as a sort of workplace comedy, with simple emotions personified and going about the business of orchestrating her reactions to the challenges and triumphs of her shifting life. Perhaps one of the last offerings in the remarkable Pixar Studios run of wildly original, transformative classics (four of the next five announced films from the animated studio are sequels), Inside Out clearly benefited from the famed creative process built around fiercely honest feedback loops and a willingness to adapt a project midstream. As Docter tells it, he and his collaborators (including credited co-director Ronaldo del Carmen) were struggling with the terrain of the story until it finally occurred to him that the traveling companion to Joy (Amy Poehler) in the film’s central journey should be Sadness (Phyllis Smith), a pairing that seems so obvious in retrospect that it’s a wonder it wasn’t the creators’ actual launching point. The perfect fit of Joy and Sadness isn’t simply the dynamic of opposites creating comedy of splendid fiction, though it does, but that it gives the film it’s poignant thesis. A major part of the complexity of growing older is coming to terms with sadness and its kindred feelings, such as disappointment and heartbreak, as invaluable parts of a life well lived. It is this wellspring of philosophical richness that carries Inside Out past its charming gimmick and transforms it into a sound a proper film with something deeply insightful to offer. And that is one of the surest measures of greatness in moviemaking.

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