July 7, 2016
Dear Hyde Park Family,
I remember watching Toy Story for the first time, at the Salem Mall movie theater in Dayton, Ohio. I must have missed half the movie, mostly because my jaw kept hitting the ground and I kept turning to my friend Kelly in disbelief.
I had seen lots of cartoon movies in my life. More than I can count, really. And I’ve seen plenty of films that mix live action with animation. But never had I seen an animated film that looked so realistic that it blurred the lines between animation and reality. There were so many such scenes in Toy Story – the texture of the asphalt on the street, the glimmer of the leaves on the trees, the sway of the grass in the wind – that I couldn’t believe I was watching a cartoon.
By now, we have seen enough Pixar films to know that even though realistic-looking animation is a hallmark of their craft, it is not their highest priority. What they emphasize more than anything else is telling a good story, an original story, a story with enough pathos and punch that we learn some new deep truth about ourselves and the world around us.
In other words, Hollywood film making at its finest.
I know I’m opening a debate for which there are no winners, but here is my entirely subjective, non-scientific ranking of my top-three favorite Pixar films:
- The Incredibles. Take the action of a blockbuster movie, add the heart of a family working out its issues, and throw in some social commentary about notions of greatness and mediocrity. An easy number one for me.
- Finding Nemo. The first movie Grace ever saw in the theater, and a magical movie about the bonds between parent and child.
- Toy Story. The sequel made me cheer out loud. The third one made me cry. But it was the first one that was love at first sight.
And what is number four on my list? Well, in fact, it is the movie that is the subject of the next installment of our “Hyde Park At the Movies” worship series.
When Inside Out came out last summer, it became an instant favorite for me and the girls. It is the story of a young girl named Riley, moving across the country with her parents to San Francisco. On the surface, it is about all the changes that Riley had to deal with, both in adjusting to her new environment and in growing up through adolescence.
It is the focus on the latter that gives the film its unique perspective. We see the inner workings of Riley’s emotions in the form of five characters: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Sadness, and Anger, all of whom interact with each other to determine Riley’s emotional state at any given time.
At first, Joy is the predominant character, and she gets to control Riley’s mood most of the time. But over the course of the film, as Riley deals with the difficulties of moving and learns to come to terms with her adolescent changes, the other emotions begin to display more and more influence.
The result is a charming, often hilarious look into the way the human psyche works. And by the end of the film, I thought I had just received a crash course in college psychology and human development. True to Pixar’s form, it was a stirring story told with eye-popping animation.
Once again, you are invited to watch the film this Saturday at 11 a.m. at Britton 8 theater on S. Dale Mabry, at a screening for our congregation. The cost is free, and a free-will offering will be received. Or, you can watch the film on your own in advance of this Sunday, when we will unpack the film for its Christian themes.
In preparation for the film, here are some things you might consider:
- The film’s writers consulted an impressive team of professional psychologists to develop the five main emotional characters in Riley’s head. Do you agree with the five that they chose? If not, what emotions would you add, to make it more representative of your life?
- In what ways do you identify with the character of Riley? When have you had to go through a such significant change in your life? What enabled you to negotiate those changes? What was the key to mastering your feelings during that time of transition?
- Read Galatians 5:22-26. In what ways might Paul’s list of Christian qualities be similar to the main emotional characters in the film?
- What is the lesson that Joy learns at the end of the film? How is that lesson a secret to dealing with emotional changes in our lives? And how is that lesson related to Paul’s instructions to the Galatian church?
See you at the movies!
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist