The first time I saw the Pixar film Inside Out, I had to hold back an all-out convulsive sob. My 7-year-old son, whose caring, sensitive soul constantly amazes me, looked up at me to see tears streaming down my face, and the pace of his own tears quickened. We saw the film a second time with my mother and 91-year-old grandmother, and four generations of tears flowed. The smartest and saddest movie Pixar has ever made, Inside Out comes to Blu-Ray Nov. 3 so you can cry with as many members of your family as you want in the comfort of your own home.
The film takes place inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley, who learns to wrangle five personifications of her emotions—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger, while making the life-changing move from Minnesota to San Francisco.
There could have been as many as 21 different emotions featured in the film, such as boredom, contempt and embarrassment that make up our emotional DNA. That’s the suggestion psychologists Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner made when they first consulted on the film five years ago, when writers began the intricate task of developing human emotions as a cast of characters.
Inside Out director Pete Docter was close to adding a sixth character—pride, an early press kit for Inside Out reveals. “Or Schadenfreude, who delighted in the pain of others. But it started getting crowded in there. We ultimately landed on five,” Docter says.
“The Emotions are kind of like the voices in our heads,” says Docter, who won an Academy Award for the 2009 film Up, another tear-jerker disguised as a kid flick. “When we were just getting started on this film, we looked around at our kids, friends, co-workers and we realized that everybody has a default temperament.”
So, would you be able to name your default emotion, or the temperament you feel most often? Most of us can’t, the psychologists Ekman and Keltner say. That’s what I find amazing about Inside Out—its ability to give us a tangible handle to describe our emotions—something that stays with viewers long after the film is over.
When the story was pitched to Mindy Kaling, the voice for Disgust, she broke down in tears, explaining “I just think it’s really beautiful that you guys are making a story that tells kids that it’s difficult to grow up and it’s OK to be sad about it.”
Here are five lessons we can learn from Inside Out:
1. “All right everyone, fresh start! We’re gonna have a good day, which will turn into a good week, which will turn into a good year, which will turn into a good life!” — Joy
Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, is the bright-colored, glowing character inside Riley’s mind who measures her success by the number of happy days she can produce.
In this line from the movie, Joy thinks that a good life is one that never experiences hardship, but her short-sightedness keeps her from realizing the benefit of other emotions, such as fear, disgust or anger. Thankfully, we know that a good life is not a perfect life absent of emotion.