INSIDE OUT will have you feeling every emotion. The new animated feature is a bright spot for the summer but better than that, it’s a new bright spot from the house that the Lamp built.

For a while now, the direction at Pixar has been a bit worrisome. With the exception of Toy Story 3, the past 5 years of features from the studio has been somewhat disappointing when compared to the overall catalog of films. Sure, Brave was a refreshing foray into new territory (with mixed results) but after that it was more sequels that were not as compelling.

INSIDE OUT is a refreshing imaginative adventure and it showcases what Pixar can do so well… answer the question of WHAT IF? In this case, what if the voices inside your head actually were unique voices? In fact, what if each of those voices controlled your individual emotions? Enter Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). They are the voices inside of the head of 11-year old Riley. As it turns out, we all have five similar emotions inside our own heads!

Riley’s emotions help guide her through her life; they have been there since her early infant moments and they run the Headquarters of her mind. The five emotions work in unison controlling every idea, thought, and feeling that makes her a unique person. The leader of the pack is Joy, she lives up to her name as the ever-optimistic leader that keeps everything happily humming… to a fault.

Joy is so wrapped up in keeping Riley always happy that it leads to events inside of Riley’s mind that set her on an emotional roller coaster following a big move from Minnesota to San Francisco. As Riley navigates her new life in a new city with a new school, the inner turmoil inside leads her (and the five emotions) to push forward into unfamiliar territory of new feelings.

The film is a JOY. (Yea, totally went there.) The level of creativity in the film is absolutely astounding as we explore the inner workings of Riley’s mind. We learn a great deal about how it all ticks; we find islands of personality, get a look at long term memory (careful you’ll get lost in there!), find out how dreams are made, see why some memories get lost and others stored forever and so much more. The tongue in cheek prowess that the studio masters is in FULL FORCE and it’s awesome.

This is truly the first “PIXAR” film to come from Pixar since UP or Wall-E. It takes familiar tropes and turns them on their side using the trademark WHAT IF filter, all with surprising, humorous, and delightful effect. Pixar works at its strongest when it takes the familiar routine of life and amplifies it on the big screen with comedic results. This is a unique piece of DNA that was missing from Brave. The Pixar Studio really fires on all cylinders when its films are set in modern storylines.

What it boils down to is that it’s a great time to be a fan of animation, especially from the umbrella of Disney. We may just be smack dab in the middle–or beginning–of another golden age of Disney Animation. Both Disney and Pixar are blazing a new trail for the company. There were small moments in INSIDE OUT when I was reminded of Wreck it Ralph and Big Hero 6. To think, Pixar being reminiscent of Disney Animation. A novel thought! Just more proof of the overall strength of the effect that the Pixar acquistion has had at the House of Mouse. The rising tide lifts all ships.

Another interesting component is that INSIDE OUT is perhaps the youngest-feeling story of all their pictures–I mean, the protagonist is an 11-year-old girl. Still, it works for viewers of any age. The jokes, maturity of storytelling, and overall direction are what fans have come to appreciate and expect. The jokes are effortless and the film overall has a trademark witty charm.

Is INSIDE OUT the best picture yet from PIXAR? I suspect for some people it very well may be. I’d probably rank it within my own personal Top 5. One thing is for sure, INSIDE OUT is definitely a must-see film and it should have you experiencing all the feels!