If Inside Out proves one thing, it's the masterful ability of Pixar to tell stories.
The concept is a bizarre one. Inside our heads live tiny characters that represent our key conflicting emotions and control us through an elaborate control panel. Memories are stored in bowling ball-like orbs that collect each day and are later stored. Key memories are stored separately and power up personality islands. Then there are lightbulbs of ideas, a Hollywood-esque dream studio, an Imagination Land of abstract thoughts, and a thought train to link them all together.
Yet somehow, within minutes, this all makes perfect sense. The opening exposition is carefully constructed to slowly layer each element, introducing this cartoon world of pop psychology piece by piece. From here, the narrative is perfectly paced: it's a hugely enjoyable fantasy journey through human emotions, whilst also providing exploration and development of character that builds towards an emotional climax. It's clear that story arc is of primary importance in Pixar's work, forming a central core to the film that's established before the aesthetics.
Really, this is two parallel stories in one. On the outside, we have ten year old girl Riley dealing with moving home, losing friends and generally learning to grow up - notions that children and adults can relate to. On the inside, we have the cartoon world of the brain, its colourful and emotional inhabitants who must learn to do what's best for Riley. What's so clever is how these two strands relate. The writers have managed to convey quite complex psychological concepts in an imaginative yet understandable way. As with all Pixar films, Inside Out is an entertaining adventure for children, whilst adults will dig deeper into its layered narrative.
What Pixar also do well is to tap into the zeitgeist. Having a girl protagonist who's something of a tomboy (she plays ice hockey) fits well with the current wave of feminism, whilst remaining a neutral avatar for the whole audience. Meanwhile, comedienne of the moment Amy Poehler voices lead emotion Joy - her voice instantly recognisable and well-suited to the character.
Inside Out doesn't quite have the distinct aesthetic charm of Pixar's best - the characters feel a little too generic - but it tells a thought-provoking story that's joyful and sad in equal measure. You will probably shed a tear.
Watch: Inside Out is out now.