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Inside Out 2: Keep in Mind

Of the newer Pixar IPs that audiences would have liked to see a sequel to, it’s a safe assumption that Inside Out was at the top of most peoples’ lists. Not only is the mind such a vast, expansive place that can house much more ideas than only one film can catalog, but with how it grows and changes it seemed like a no brainer to eventually explore what comes next in Riley’s life, and how relatable topics like change at an older age can be explored in the context of the emotions in her head. Luckily, Inside Out 2 sticks the landing with a multitude of new characters, concepts, locations, and ideas that come together in a package just about as well-rounded as the initial entry in the series.

The start of puberty and the onset of anxiety go together like clockwork in the eyes of many, so the introduction of Anxiety as the main focus of the four new emotions (along with Envy, Ennui, and Embarrassment) was one of the more predictable plotpoints of the film. What the film does to help subvert this is by making Anxiety’s character go even deeper than a few of the initial five emotions from the original film. The character, voiced by Maya Hawke, is full of energy and is constantly jumping around and fidgeting, perfectly representative of the uncertain nature the emotion brings. In that same vain, Anxiety seems to have numerous ambitions and plans she would love to put in action, but has an unsure air about her when anything goes even slightly differently. Comparing this with Joy, who has grown since the last film in that she’s always looking for the next idea to keep moving forward, it’s clear that these new emotions aren’t repackaged characters from the initial Inside Out or useless in any way. They all serve to build out the world inside all our heads and help explain and break down many complex concepts that aren’t fun to deal with the reality of.

Speaking of the other new emotions, all three of their actors knock it out of the park. I was particularly looking forward to Ayo Edebiri as Envy, as while knowing her best from her work in FX’s The Bear, the energetic nature she puts out in interviews and on the internet is something perfect for voice acting, and she absolutely nailed the character. Adèle Exarchopoulos does an exceptional job as Ennui as well, the character whose job is seemingly nothing at all, reflecting the boredom of the emotion. Exarchopoulos previously voiced Ember in the French dub of Pixar’s Elemental, and while it’s great seeing her back here in the original language version of Inside Out 2, what I find even greater is that she reprises her role of Ennui in the French dub of this film as well. It reminded me of Antonio Banderas’ portrayal of the titular character in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish in both the English and Spanish versions, and I hope more foreign actors cast in overseas animated films continue this trend of reprising their roles in dubs.

It’s really fantastic to see just how well this film has done and continues to do at the box office. Inside Out 2 currently holds the record for the fastest any animated feature ever has passed the billion-dollar milestone at the box office, and is currently the first and only film of 2024 to do so. The film’s weekend drops following its release have been impressively low as more and more moviegoers continue to watch the film in theaters, and is currently on track to beat the worldwide grosses of Finding Dory, as well as Toy Story 3 and 4. At this point, it’s not impossible for the film to push past Incredibles 2 and become Pixar’s highest grossing film of all time.

The story of Pixar being caught in the crossfire of Disney’s recent financial woes is one known to almost all moviegoers at this point, especially those closely following feature-length animated film news and trends this decade. 2020 was a rough year for many studios and Pixar was no different, with its first film of the decade Onward releasing less than a week before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared as such. The studio’s next three films, Soul, Luca, and Turning Red, were forced onto Disney’s streaming platform by the parent company, a decision criticized even by those within Pixar. Lightyear, Pixar’s return to theaters in 2022, failed to break even at the box office, a threat their next film Elemental faced briefly as well until ticket sales picked up later in the film’s lifespan. In an interview with Variety, chief creative officer of Pixar Pete Docter partly attributed these films’ underperformance to the aforementioned direct-to-streaming model Disney adopted during the pandemic, claiming audiences had been “trained” on said model to the point that they could expect to just wait until Disney films came to streaming, being less expensive than four tickets to a theater.

Due to these financial struggles on Pixar’s end, the company experienced numerous layoffs in May and announced its plans to veer away from their focus on original titles they began at the start of the decade. At the end of May, Bloomberg reported the studio’s goal would be to intersperse their original titles among spinoffs and sequels of already existing Pixar IP, similar to their filmography from the mid-to-late 2010s. The loss of a focus on original films from the studio is undoubtedly heartbreaking, especially when keeping in mind the bumps in the road this recent batch had faced, though hopefully this new strategy from the studio will help re-establish Pixar and its IPs (legacy and newer titles) as household names once again. If the output is as consistent as the quality of Inside Out 2, we could potentially enter a Pixar renaissance.

Inside Out 2 is now playing in theaters worldwide.