I enjoyed Pixar’s Inside Out a lot more than I thought I would. It was cute and quirky how Disney incorporated a “theme-park” setting inside Riley’s brain such as HQ, the mazes of long-term memory, the train of thought, etc. Complicated cognitive processes are transformed into clever representations such as imagination land, dream productions, the secret vault (deleted scene), and more.
Disney has a knack for entertaining children and adults alike. I’m not sure if it’s because I deal with many parents at my part-time, but I can definitely see how Inside Out can become an effective parenting tool to help teach kids the role of emotions and how our actions result from them.
The 3 themes I enjoyed the most from Inside Out were growing up, emotional pressure, and changes.
The loss of childhood
Take her to the moon for me, Joy.
I never had an imaginary friend when I was younger mostly because I had my sister to play with, but thinking about it now, an imaginary friend is the epitome of childhood imagination. It is more than just seeing lava on the ground or a spaceship out of a cardboard box. It is a whole lively entity completely conjured up through imagination.
From the first scene where Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend, appears, I knew where it would be heading. You know Bing Bong is not going to stay around. Riley is 11 years old, quite past the age to still play around with an imaginary friend. Bing Bong’s dream reunion with Riley is never fulfilled and his disappearance was a mixture of bittersweet sadness.
Riley is growing up and in this process, there is a loss of childhood, one of the major themes from this movie. During this transition, we also lose a chunk of innocence and fantasy, and I think that is a sentiment that really hit me and the other adults/parents in the theatre as well (as they think about their own kids).
Joy often takes control of the Riley’s dashboard. She is proud that all of Riley’s core memories are “happy” and doesn’t understand why Sadness is even around.
Side note: Sadness is so hilarious. I love how she is always going around touching things and turning them blue (i.e. turning them into “sad” memories). It’s a good depiction of how sadness can creep up on you all the time.
Riley faces heavy emotional pressure to “be happy”, not only from Joy inside her brain, but also from her parents. I’m sure her parents had no ill intentions (they seem like perfect classic Disney parents… who don’t die in the movie, thank goodness). Riley is constantly encouraged to be a “happy girl”, to “stay positive” and all the works.
Well, you can’t be happy all the time. When you continuously force yourself to “be happy”, you are not truly being happy. Instead, you are bottling up your frustrations and sadness and sooner or later, you will explode.
While it is great to strive for positivity in life, we also have to allow ourselves to feel negative emotions. Let us appreciate and embrace fear, anger, and sadness, but not let it completely take over us.
I bawled like a baby in the scene when Riley returns home after attempting to run away. Joy lets Sadness control the dashboard, and memories come flashing in Riley’s mind- being lonely at her new school, the growing distance with her old friends, the unfamiliar surroundings of San Francisco (the city that ruined pizza, apparently), and the subconscious resentment she feels towards her parents as the cause of all this.
More than the fear of getting lost on her way back to Minnesota, more than the anger she felt at her parents, Riley felt sad about her situation and how she couldn’t be happy. When she reveals this to her parents, they comfort her and tell her that they miss home as well.
The scene reminded me of when I transferred schools and moved homes. It took me a long time to accept the changes in my life and I struggled through it. I lost friends, hated going to school, and hated my parents even though I knew it wasn’t their fault. I especially liked how Riley’s parents confessed that they missed home too, because during my teenage angst I had never really thought about what my parents missed about our old home. It felt like I was the only one missing our old life, but that could not have been the case.
It felt like I was the only one letting Sadness take over, but that could not have been the case.
P.S. I could not have been the only one who loved the short at the beginning? “I lava you!”
P.P.S. More on transfering schools