Study Guide

Inside Out Introduction

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Inside Out Introduction

Release Year: 2015

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Director: Pete Docter

Writer: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen

Stars: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black

Admit it: Sometimes, you hear voices.

They tell you not to eat that third piece of birthday cake. They tell you to definitely eat that seventh slice of pizza. They remind you that "Tearin' Up My Heart" is still (secretly) your favorite song ever, and that if you want to be on time for soccer practice, you really should get up right. Now.

Inside Out is all about the voices in 11-year-old Riley Andersen's head. The film, produced by Disney-Pixar, takes a deep dive into Riley's noggin to examine the role that our emotions play in why we are the way we are.

There's no bad guy, just Riley's five personified emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear—teaming up to restore order to Riley's mental world as she deals with a difficult cross-country move and inches closer to her tumultuous teenage years.

This isn't your average animated kiddie flick (obviously). It's what studio heads, critics, and your pretentious cousin Connor (the first-year film student) call "high concept," yet it manages to remain completely accessible—to everyone.

Inside Out hit U.S. theatres on June 19, 2015, raking in $90,440,272 and opening at #2 behind a little arthouse film called Jurassic World. It would go on to earn $857,611,174 worldwide and scoop up the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. (Source)

While its storytelling is rich and moving, it probably didn't hurt that Inside Out's voice-acting cast is a comedy dream team that includes Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black. That's comedy gold right there.

Inside Out is the third Pixar flick directed and co-written by Pete Docter, the guy who brought us Monsters, Inc. and Up. As anyone who sobbed through the first five minutes of Up will tell you, he's no stranger to combining a hearty laugh with a lump in the throat.

Inside Out takes complex brain science and wraps it up in a user-friendly package that appeals to both kids and their parents. You don't watch Inside Out for the science, though—or at least we hope you don't get your science from animated movies. Kids dig the vibrant world of Riley's brain and the colorful cast of characters who populate it.

Adults, meanwhile, can appreciate the poignant portrayal of childhood's end—and hedge about whether those were tears or just "allergies" they had at the end of the movie. It's a film about what it means to be young, what it means to be a grown-up, and what happens when you realize the best of times is now.


What is Inside Out About and Why Should I Care?

If we surveyed 100 people, Family Feud style, about what they remember most about their childhoods, here's what we predict the top five answers on the board would be:

  • Their best Christmas ever
  • Throwing water balloons filled with pudding at that old abandoned shed
  • Peanut butter and okra sandwiches with the crusts cut off
  • The way Dad would "do the voices" when he read Dr. Seuss
  • That time they barfed at Disney World

Here's what we predict wouldn't make the list—not even close:

  • The heart-wrenching poignancy of it all

But that's what Inside Out is all about.

Poignancy—kind of a mashup of sad and deeply moving—comes from the awareness that everything has an expiration date. That awesome vacation in Alaska. That delicious carton of eggnog in the fridge. The Office. Your life. At some point, they're all going to end.

Too dark? Here's a video of a one-day-old sea otter snuggling with its mom to lighten the mood.

Okay, back to work.

Inside Out addresses the powerful poignancy of childhood, the sort of significance that only comes with loss. Little kids don't experience poignancy. It's too complex, and little kids live in the moment. When they're having the time of their lives in the pool, they're not thinking about the fact that summer's going to end.

Teens and adults sure do, though, and Inside Out sees Riley evolve from a carefree kid into a young adult who starts bidding farewell to her childhood.

Over the course of the film, her memories of Minnesota begin to morph. What were once purely happy recollections of frozen ponds and hanging with her BFF Meg become tinged with sorrow, as Riley experiences the very grown-up feeling of nostalgia.

Minions, this is not. (No offense, Stuart and Dave.) Inside Out tells kids that it's perfectly okay to be sad sometimes. It relieves the enormous pressure we put on the pint-sized members of our family to be Mom and Dad's happy little girl or boy 24/7, and it shows them that not only is it okay to be sad sometimes—it's actually good for you.

Asking for help, communicating, and having a good cry from time to time are healthy. We mean, where are all those tears going to go if we don't unleash the waterworks on occasion, right?

On second thought, don't answer that.

Inside Out is the rare kids film that deals with what happens when we stop being kids, and start appreciating the moment because we know it'll soon be history. Maybe that's why parents dig Inside Out just as much as their kids do.

The film manages to convey some pretty important emotional lessons without hitting us over the head with them. They're embedded in the story so seamlessly that we don't even realize we're in psychology class.


The filmmakers originally considered 27 different emotions for Riley, but ultimately trimmed the list down to the tight five we see in the film. Pride and Trust both got the ax. Ironically, Horror did not. (Source)

Joy's personality is so bright that she doesn't have a shadow. The other emotions do, although we can neither confirm nor deny that Fear is scared of his. (Source)

Small details in the film differ depending on the country of release. For example, in some countries, Dad daydreams about soccer, not hockey. In Japan, Riley's fine with broccoli; it's green bell peppers that gross her out. What's Japan's got against green peppers? (Source)

Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, voices one of the two Mind Worker cops in Cloud Town. Who knew Riley was so into '90s funk rock? (Source)

Inside Out Resources


The Official Inside Out Website
Here's where you'll find character profiles, a photo gallery, printable puzzles and games, and, of course, lots of Disney-sanctioned Inside Out merch.

Inside Out at
Go behind the scenes at Pixar HQ with concept art for the characters and settings, as well as interviews with the film's animators.

The Official Inside Out Twitter
It may not be updated anymore, but it stands as an awesome look back at the film's release, as well as its run through awards season.

The Official Inside Out Tumblr
If you ever wanted to see Anger dressed as a Christmas tree, the Inside Out Tumblr has your back. It features tons of social media-ready graphics, as well as videos and fan art.

The Official Inside Out Instagram
Just like the film's Twitter account, their 'gram isn't updated anymore, either, but it remains a great way to document the film's release and reception.

Time on Their Hands at MIT
The smart folks at MIT have a website with lots of games and art and even a quiz you can take to see which Inside Out character fits you best. Shmoop took the quiz, and…well, we're not sayin'.

Book or TV Adaptations

Driven by Emotions by Elise Allen
In this chapbook aimed at older kids and pre-teens, each of Riley's emotions gets a chance to retell the events from the film from their perspective.

The Art of Inside Out by Disney-Pixar
Just in case that title doesn't tell you everything you need to know, this book serves up the art of Inside Out, including early sketches and concept art.

Articles and Interviews

"Inside Out: Interview with the Creators" from Psychologies
Director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera sit down with the British psych mag to discuss how they created the world between Riley's ears.

"The Science of Inside Out" by Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman
Keltner and Ekman are a pair of scientists who've studied emotions for decades. The crew at Pixar wisely brought them on as consultants. This essay discusses the nuts and bolts of how they helped the animators bring the mind of Riley to life—and kept it rooted in legit science.

"The Inside Out Emotions That Didn't End Up in the Movie Are So Cute" by Michael Walsh
We don't know if we'd call Gloom "cute," but this collection of concept art for cut characters is super-interesting.

"How Inside Out Explains the Science of Memory" by JV Chamary
After reading this article that digs deep into how recall works, you'll wonder why the movie didn't include an anthropomorphized hippocampus. We mean, come on: she could've looked like a hippo and everything.

Bill Hader Describes Working on Pixar's Inside Out
Hader sits down with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos to do exactly what the title of this video clip says.


Inside Out Trailer
"Do you ever look at someone and wonder, 'What is going on inside their head?"

Meet Joy
Inside Out star Amy Poehler introduces her emotional alter ego.

Meet Anger
Lewis Black gets worked up previewing Anger's role in Inside Out.

Inside Out Behind the Scenes
Watch the voice cast of Inside Out lay down some dialogue with the help of Pete Docter.

"We Are Not Eating That"
In this deleted scene, Joy and Disgust debate the five-second rule after Riley drops a grape on the ground.

"Just Like Joy"
With Joy and Sadness MIA, Fear, Anger, and Disgust try to figure out what Joy would do after Riley has a rotten day at school. Spoiler alert: It does not go well.

"The Day the Prairie Dogs Lost the Big Playoff Game"
Joy has an epiphany while stuck in the Memory Dump. You know, like you do.


The Inside Out Soundtrack
Four out of five physicians agree that listening to this while you study for your next French test will result in a better grade. (Fine. We made that up. It is good homework music, though. Trust us.)

"It's All in Your Head: Director Pete Docter Gets Emotional in Inside Out"
Take a break from reading and listen to this NPR interview where Docter dishes on everything from the science of sadness to how the story originally paired Joy up with Fear. (Yup, there's a transcript, too.)


Inside Out Movie Poster
It's so hard to get everybody to smile at the same time.

Concept Art for Joy
She was originally less "Tinkerbell shops at Hot Topic" and more "pawn from your dad's chess game that you drew on when you were five."

Digital Concept Art for Headquarters
They really spruced up the place for the final cut, didn't they?

Inside Out Cast and Filmmakers
"I'm going to wear my colorful sunglasses. No, I said I was going to wear my colorful sunglasses."

Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Phyllis Smith at the Inside Out Press Conference
Joy, Fear, and Sadness yuk it up (and show off their jazz hands).

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