Psychology Students will have a field day on Pixar’s Inside Out

Inside Out, Pixar’s new release is an intelligent and witty insight into the human mind. Psychology students will have a field day as the creators delve into cognitive thinking, bringing to life the extraordinary workings of a child’s mind.

It is the story of an eleven-year-old girl, Riley. From birth, we are taken inside her mind and introduced to five emotions personified into Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). These characters control her feelings and behaviour from the Headquarters of her mind. Those familiar with America’s late night comedy, Saturday Night Live will know that Poehler, Hader and the voice of Riley’s mother, Tina Fey, are all veterans of the programme, showcasing Pixar’s ability to appeal to both adults and children.

Inside Out is an allegory of how each one of these emotions has a vital part to play and how sadness is needed
in order to feel truly happy. No matter how hard Joy tries to make everything better, it is through her acceptance of Sadness that Riley is able to express herself. When she accepted her role in the film, Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) was moved by the message the film conveys to children; it’s OK to feel sad sometimes. Indeed, it is a big statement for Pixar to make when so many Americans are brought up believing that it’s better to put on a fake smile than to be openly unhappy.

Although these characters seem rather strange at first, they soon grow on the audience – thanks to the clever and witty script written by director Pete Docter, who is also responsible for childhood favourites such as Monsters Inc. and Up. Beneath the humour lies the fact that children are vulnerable and risk undergoing traumatic experiences, which can deeply affect their behaviour and emotional development.

When Riley attempts to run away after her father (Kyle MacLachan, Blue Velvet) moves the family from their idyllic life in Minnesota to the alien, concrete jungle of San Francisco, it is Sadness, who makes her realise what she would lose if she left.

The film depicts metaphorical islands of happiness, which represent the foundations of her identity. It is gruelling to watch them crumble away as Riley loses her sense of self, as we see how easily happiness and stability can be undermined.

Inside Out is therefore a film that can be appreciated by all as it tackles the recesses of the mind in a light-hearted way. It sensitively explores what it means to be a child and how even small events can have a significant impact.

Its powerful and insightful messages, typical of Pixar’s ever-consistent creative talent, will resound long after the film’s cinema residency and will really make you think about how we handle our emotions. Inside Out is yet another ageless Pixar animation: one not to miss.

Olivia Neilson

Images: Disney Wiki, movies.disney.com

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