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Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ Debuts to Emotional Crowd at CinemaCon

It’s been nearly two years since Pixar last had a film in theaters, but given the strong reaction that “Inside Out” enjoyed from exhibitors Wednesday at CinemaCon, the wait was worth it.

The animated family comedy received enthusiastic applause — and a few tears from the crowd.

Inside Out’s” concept is a heady one. It offers up a colorful story of the inner emotional workings of an 11-year-old girl whose family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. A running joke about the jingle for Triple-dent gum proved especially popular, while the poignancy of a little girl becoming so sad that she starts running away from home turned on the tear ducts for more than a few exhibitors.

Nearly all of the film is set within the brain of Riley Andersonn with five emotions — Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness — trying to lead her through life.

Some audience members wondered if the film will be too high-concept to attract family crowds, but Disney has pulled off the trick before, most notably with “Wall-E,” which boasted long, dialogue-free stretches.

It may be hard to explain, but the studio appears likely to try to sell “Inside Out” to the masses on the strength of its goofy visuals and witty banter by a voice cast that includes Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling. The premise worked well enough that the closing credits — consisting mostly of scenes set in other characters’ brains — generated plenty of laughs at the screening.

The 94-minute movie’s debut was introduced by director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera. Docter, who directed 2009’s “Up,” noted that the inspiration for “Inside Out” came from his daughter Elizabeth, who had voiced the child version of Ellie Fredricksen in the film.

“When she turned 11, she started rolling her eyes at us, and we began to wonder what it was like inside her to make her do that,” he said.

“Inside Out” appears at first glance to be reminiscent of 2009’s “Up” in its look and feel. “Up” was an unqualified success despite its downbeat premise of a widower dealing with the loss of his spouse. It  grossed $730 million worldwide and went on to win the best animated feature Oscar.

The June 19 opening for “Inside Out” comes almost two years exactly since the last Pixar film — “Monsters University” — opened and grossed $740 million worldwide.

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