Danger: Some (tiny) spoilers ahead!
It has been a long time since I saw an animated movie that I loved as much as Inside Out. Pixar’s newest creation offers lessons for people at every age and stage—and will also make you laugh out loud. And cry. (Yes, there were tears amongst my boxes of Junior Mints and Goobers!)
Inside Out centers around middle-school-aged Riley, who just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, and her five core emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. Generally joyful and silly, Riley goes through challenging times and things get a little crazy in ‘headquarters’ (where her core emotions are in charge of brain function). Joy and Sadness end up on an adventure together to set things right and along the way learn a little about each other.
In addition to just making me feel plain happy (Pixar tends to have that effect!), my favorite aspect of the movie was the care with which the psychological concepts were presented. During development of the film, Pixar collaborated with several psychologists, including UC Berkeley professor Dr. Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab and Greater Good Science Center.
In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, he explained that our culture has an interesting relationship with our emotions—often we consider joy to be the optimal state, but an emotional balance might be a bit more important. “In our culture, we’re tough on sadness, but it’s a powerful trigger for seeking comfort and bonding,” Keltner says. “Meanwhile, anger is often about the sense of being treated unfairly, and can be a motivator for social change.”
Even if choosing what to feel might be a stretch, at the very least, Inside Out gives kids (and adults!) a framework for understanding and expressing our emotions. It’s okay to let Sadness or Fear be in charge every once in a while—and it is okay to tell others about this. Life is about a balance of emotions and how you interpret them.
With components of science, beautiful animation, sharp writing, and great voice acting, no wonder it took over five years for Pixar to complete this movie! Go see it.