CANNES, France - The new animated feature "Inside Out" from Disney-Pixar turned the Cannes festival on its head on Monday as the film about what goes on inside a young girl's mind drew cheers from audiences and queries about why it was not competing for a prize.
The ingenious film by the Pixar studio which brought the world "Toy Story" almost 20 years ago, and more recently "Up", shows characters personifying basic human emotions of Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness acting out their roles in the head of a young girl named Riley.
The first emotion baby Riley experiences is Joy, a blue-haired sprite voiced by Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation", that makes her smile. But that is quickly followed by cries provoked by blue-hued Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), which makes her fling her broccoli from her high chair.
Much of what happens inside Riley's head, where memories take the shape of luminescent spheres the size of bowling balls, looks like a giant pinball arcade game.
Facets of Riley's personality, including her relations with her mother and father, her interactions with friends, or her love for playing ice hockey, resemble amusement park attractions - perhaps to feature someday at a Disney World near you.
The film was so warmly received by the notoriously critical audience of film specialists at the festival, where "Inside Out" is having its world premiere in advance of general release next month, that it raised questions about why it was not in competition for the Palme d'Or prize to be awarded next Sunday.
"Being here was really the prize," Pixar director and producer John Lasseter said, when asked why it was not a competition entry.
The film is being shown under the festival banner but outside of competition, which big studios like Disney often choose as a way to get international media attention without the risk of being snubbed by the festival jury.
Pete Docter, the film's director who came up with the story idea from observing his own daughter entering young adulthood, said he saw no difference between what makes a good animated film and a good live-action film.
"We often hear of animation referred to as a genre, which we don't believe in," Docter said.
"We just consider it a medium and one thing, the only real metric we work to...is make something you want to see, make something you'd be proud to show your family."
Trade publication Variety said the movie "proves to be the greatest idea the toon studio has ever had".
Peter Bradshaw, of The Guardian, wrote: "This movie is a sweet-natured coming-of-age comedy, a kind of tween-transition crisis, though with a fundamentally sunny Disneyfied worldview."