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Just rewatched Inside Out. It has become my favorite Pixar movie. And one I pray will never get a sequel. Why?

I read something once, I think it was from David Gerrole, two basic rules of story-telling. The first is that it must be the most important story ever in the main character's life (or why are you telling THIS story instead of the other one?). The second is that there always has to be a lesson to be learned. There's no place like home, value you're friends, a hero is someone who keeps people safe. It doesn't HAVE to be learned, that's one thing that makes many tales into tragedies, but we as the audience should see someone not learning it.

Obviously these can't be taken as absolutes or as the only rules that matter. As I recall, he was pointing out how episodic TV like Star Trek had to break it (with many stories each season, and they could be aired in any order so characters had to end pretty much where they were). But when I look at the movies and books I love most, there's a lot of truth in it.

Sometimes, books are written as series (the Harry Potter series is one story, broken up into episodes). And sometimes, you get a great sequel by changing the focus of the story. (The Godfather Part II is largely the story of the son, and how it differs.) And sometimes, you can just break the rules and do great stuff.

But still, they aren't bad rules. And Inside Out is a great example. SPOILERS BELOW.

The main character of the movie is Joy, the main emotion of a girl named Riley. There's also Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but it's pretty much accepted that Joy is in charge, and a good day is when the memories are mostly joyful. A bad day is when Sadness gets near the memories or the console and Riley is sad.

Things go badly wrong, Joy and Sadness are sucked out of Headquarters with the core memories that make up Riley's personality, and the movie is mostly about the struggle to get back there (plus the problems that the other emotions have trying to run the show and the effect on Riley's life). In the process, Joy realizes that she's hurting, not helping Riley by keeping sadness locked away and not allowing her to work through the times she's unhappy. When Joy and Sadness return to Headquarters, she has Sadness take control, letting Riley cry out her troubles and have her parents see her unhappy and help her rather than relying on Riley to cheer everything up. Moving on, they now have a control where all emotions have a role to play, and the memories developed have twinges of multiple emotions.

It was a really great movie, the kind Pixar used to do but slipped a bit recently. It's also been financially successful and a critical hit. So I'm sure that Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, is thinking "sequel!"

Don't do it, Bob, don't do it.

This clearly was Joy and Sadness's most important story, that journey back. In the world they've created, the emotions never leave HQ, it's unheard of. So a story of another trip out just isn't reasonable. There will never be another story as big as this for the emotions. Yes, Riley will go on to bigger adventures, but Inside Out isn't about her except as the effect of the story that the emotions go through.

And more important - Joy has learned her lesson. She will want Riley to be happy and give her lots of happy memories, but she knows now that it's more complicated than that, that the other emotions have a role to play in Riley's development and mental health. To do a new story where she's unlearned that lesson, well, that's just going to make a very weak sequel.

That's not to say that I won't enjoy little shorts, like "Riley's First Date?", they can be short and cute and just for fun. Just no sequel.

BTW, I have very similar concerns about a sequel to The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible had to learn about living in the present, caring for his family and people around him. That's what lifted it from Just Another Superhero movie (and I say that as someone who often likes Just Another Superhero movie). Not sure where to go with a sequel, and apparently that question is what has delayed it. I trust Brad Byrd when he says that they got the right story for the sequel, but it's why I'm glad they did let it go so long.

Posted on November 7, 2015, 6:50 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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