Photo Credit: Disney Pixar
What a great job Pixar has done in creating a movie about emotions. It's inventive, fun and teaches us that all emotions are okay and necessary. Of course, I love it - the message mirrors that of my book, Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid's Guide to Feelings. Like Pixar, I wrote the book to help kids understand the purpose and usefulness of each of our emotions.
Emotions have gotten a bad rap; we tend to consider them troublesome, rather than helpful. Pixar challenges this perspective and shows that emotions help us enjoy life and cope with difficult situations. Life is full of both ups and downs; this is represented in the movie by Joy and Sadness. There is tension between the two until they recognize how they are each unique and can help Riley, but in very different ways.
Inside Out takes us inside 11 year old Riley's mind. We see her five emotions ready for action in front of a control panel. Joy sports short blue hair and is a kind of perky Tinkerbell. Sadness is a blue blob in a sloppy sweater and big round glasses. Anger looks like a red Sponge Bob. Fear is a frantic long nosed character in bow tie and then there is Disgust with sparkly green hair and lashes.
In general, Joy is in charge and focuses on keeping Riley happy. She's creative and persistent in finding ways to make difficult situations better. The other emotions fill in as needed. Joy is often seen running interference to keep Sadness from influencing Riley's experience, or from coloring her memories a sadder shade. At one point, frustrated by Sadness' negative interpretation of things, Joy restricts her to a tiny circle on the floor.
Joy's commitment to Riley's happiness is amplified by Riley's parents who have always experienced Riley as their "happy girl." It's clearly hard for them to see her unhappy. Of course, it's always hard for parents to witness a child's unhappiness. But if we ignore or shield them from difficult experiences, we inadvertently deprive them of the opportunity to master those situations. We also teach them that it's not okay to be sad. As we see in the movie, when Riley's parents try to get her to be cheerful, when she's clearly not, she feels less understood and more downhearted.
So what's happened to Riley? Her life has been turned up-side down and nothing feels right. Her family has moved to a new state and everything is different and uncomfortable. Her new house is not cozy like her old one, and even seems kind of spooky. There's no backyard swing or pond for ice skating. The kids in her new school look different and she's not sure she fits in. Her best friend back home in Minnesota has already made friends with the girl who's taken Riley's place on the hockey team. This makes her feel as if she's not even missed.
When she tries out for a new hockey team she hasn't the confidence to do well. Her parents are preoccupied - Mom talking with the movers who haven't delivered any of their belongings; Dad is busy on the phone or away trying to sort out work problems. Riley is starting to feel overwhelmed and her sense of security is threatened. Her usual anchors, represented as islands of her personality, are crumbling.
Part II coming next week...