I attended the INSIDE OUT premiere as a guest of Disney|Pixar to facilitate this review; all opinions are my own. Read INSIDE OUT Movie Premiere: My Candid Celebrity Snapshots for details on the red carpet experience.
INSIDE OUT Movie: The Science Behind the Story
The newest Disney|Pixar film stars five unusual characters – human emotions – that live inside the brain of an 11-year old girl. A move to a new state triggers a change inside Headquarters that affects the Islands of Personality. Sound strange? Well, it’ll all make sense once you see INSIDE OUT.
The film is based on director Pete Docter’s original idea. As a child his family relocated, and he had trouble adjusting. Then when his daughter started showing signs of adolescence it triggered some of his fears, and that led him to begin imagining just what goes in the brain during this stage in life.
The filmmakers chose to create the story around a girl because research found that girls are more attuned to emotions and expressions between the ages of 11 and 17. But where did the filmmakers discover the characters Joy, Disgust, Anger, Fear, and Sadness? Again, From science. Each of the characters is based on real human emotions. Filmmakers interviewed psychologists, scientists, and neurologists about the feelings children go through during adolescence. But it was a professor of psychology that helped them come up with the number of emotions to feature in the film.
But how many emotions does a human being have? Well, that’s the problem. Research isn’t definitive, and the number ranges from 4 to 27 which meant the filmmakers had a wealth of emotions to consider. They pushed aside embarrassment, boredom, surprise, and contempt and instead chose the five that appear on most research lists – joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness.
That same professor helped the filmmakers understand how emotions work which directed how Mind World was organized and the way the characters interact. Headquarters was created as the central hub and the emotions oscillate, each taking a turn at being in charge while the others move to the background. It’s this interaction of emotions that give Riley, the 11-year old girl in the film, the balance she needs to be happy. But when Joy is no longer able to manage Headquarters and things that should bring happiness instead bring sadness, Riley’s behavior, and demeanor changes, and that affects the way she communicates with her family and friends.
These changes are compounded when Sadness and Joy go missing from Headquarters and Riley’s life becomes even more complicated. The filmmakers again relied on science to choose which emotions would go missing and ultimately chose joy and sadness. It’s not unusual for adolescents to have trouble feeling happiness or showing empathy, especially after a life-changing event. That leaves her with only disgust, fear, and anger to guide her.
This lack of joy and sadness triggers a significant shift in Riley’s behavior and mannerisms, and she has difficulty finding happiness with her parents, her new school, and the sport she always loved. But she’s not the only one who’s changing. In the attempt to find their way back to headquarters, Sadness and Joy are met with challenges that seem insurmountable, and it’s during this time that Joy redefines her definition of happiness.
But don’t’ worry, INSIDE OUT isn’t all sadness and gloom. There are plenty of lighthearted and fun scenes, quirky sidekicks, and more. Parents will be touched by the tender message about children growing up, and kids will love the characters. It’s a great movie to start a conversation about emotions, how they work together, and how when they’re out of balance it makes life harder, but they can be put back in sync.
This film is rated PG, and it’s well worth a full-price theater ticket.