I’m probably alone on this — usually alone on my stance with all things Pixar — but Pixar’s been in a bit of a rut lately. Not commercially, obviously, but in regards to new ideas. Many were blown away by Inside Out (which cleverly disguised The Good Dinosaur’s shortcomings later that year). But while Inside Out was notable, it could’ve been groundbreaking had they stuck with the original idea and made it a sequel to UP.
(No, I have no insider knowledge that this was the case, only stray observations coming from a background in marketing for gerontology.)
I believe Inside Out started as a sequel to UP with Carl suffering dementia. For instance, replace each of the emotions with an age of Carl: Fear being the child Carl, Joy being the recently wed Carl, Anger being the grumpy Carl we see at the beginning of UP, and Sadness being the aged and decrepit Carl suffering dementia (Let’s be real, Disgust just rounded out the four).
Throughout the movie, Carl loses his memories and the different ages of himself alternate taking control. He experiences mood swings and personality shifts, sundowning and so forth. His mood is erratic and eventually his aged, sad self and joyous young self are dropped away from the command center where they must find their way back.
Then they meet Bing Bong, which… I don’t know about anyone else, but I had no emotional attachment to this character. It backs up my “this should’ve been UP 2” theory because I think Bing Bong was purposefully written to be emotionally unavailable to audiences. I think they did this because A) they didn’t want to make kids cry, and B) they overcompensated in the opposite direction because they previously had one of the most likable characters in his place: Ellie. She’s Carl’s anchor, his constant, and the joyous young self believes they’ll always be together, but the older, sad self can barely look at her.
Of course, the most pivotal scene in the movie would have been when the joyous Carl and Ellie fall into the pit of forgotten memories and try to fly back up. Carl and Ellie always wanted to fly together, they both find an their old model aircraft and recall the memory of taking their flight.
But Carl is suffering dementia. The joyous Carl is trapped in a time that never experienced Ellie’s illness.
Carl and Ellie try to fly out, but even the memory of Ellie knows she never made the flight; they never accomplished their dream. They continue to trying to soar and the sound of piggie banks breaking echoes in this forgotten chamber. Ellie recognizes that she never actually made the flight… And she opts to stay in the forgotten memories. Young adult Carl (Joy) soars up through the air and as he ascends, he ages back to the Carl we spent all our time with in UP,. When he reaches the top, he realizes he doesn’t remember Ellie when she was happy and healthy, only when she was sick.
Realistically, they’d never do this. I mean UP didn’t hit the sales they wanted in the merchandising department anyway — who wants an old man toy? But how would you advertise a Pixar movie that deals with one of the most debilitating, unexplained and incurable diseases?
But it would have redefined the animated film category. And it could’ve made an alright film (Inside Out) ground-breaking.
The fact is, Inside Out had some flaws and not enough to warrant calling it a “bad” movie or even mediocre, Inside Out is good, but not without problems. For instance, Sadness and Joy clearly experience joy and sadness (respectively), begging the question of synecdoche (i.e. what’s going on inside the emotions’ heads?). Whereas with dementia, the range of emotions makes sense.