Pixar celebrates Cannes return with original ‘Inside Out’

Actors Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith pose for photographers during a photo call for the film "Inside Out." (Photo credit: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Actors Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith pose for photographers during a photo call for the film “Inside Out.” (Photo credit: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

AP Film Writer

CANNES, France — After a two-year hiatus, Pixar has made a sensational return to the Cannes Film Festival with “Inside Out,” the kind of fresh take on animation that the studio built itself on.

“Inside Out” premiered Monday at Cannes and was among the most enthusiastically received films of the festival. Because Pixar delayed its planned 2014 release, “Good Dinosaur,” it was the Disney studio’s first new film since 2013’s “Monsters University” and first non-sequel since 2012’s “Brave.”

“Inside Out” is a Pixar-styled “Inception” where the story unfolds both in reality and in the mind. It partly take place inside the head of an 11-year-old girl, where voices like Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Anger (Lewis Black) compete for the girl’s emotions and memories.

The high concept is sometimes rather abstract, but nevertheless packs an emotional wallop that left many teary-eyed. The story is by Pete Docter, who also co-directs, and it contains some of the tenderness of his 2009 Pixar release “Up.”

The Hollywood Reporter said it “ingeniously personifies the furiously erupting sensations associated with the onset of adolescence as a bunch of emotionally competitive cartoon characters.” Variety wrote that although “Inside Out” sounds like “another lunatic gamble,” it proves to be “the greatest idea the toon studio has ever had.”

Such a strong response was much needed for Pixar.

Although the animation studio had an unparalleled run of critical and box-office successes with the “Toy Story” films, “Wall-E,” ”Up” and “Ratatouille,” doubt in Pixar’s ability to sustain its nearly unblemished record began to creep in after the less well-reviewed “Brave” and the studio’s increasing output of sequels.

“Inside Out,” which Disney will release on June 19, is Pixar’s second original film in a row to feature a female protagonist.

“It’s very important for us, both at Pixar and at Disney, of having female and ethnic characters — protagonists and all through,” said John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer. “You’ll see in future films we really are paying attention to that.”

The reception to “Inside Out” was so good that some at Cannes wondered whether it should have been included in the festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or competition.

Poehler quixotically hoped for the impossible.

“It’s not up for the … what do you call it?” said Poehler, referring to Cannes’ top film honor. “But it could still win, right?”

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