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Pete Docter’s View of Emotionalism as Portrayed in His Computer Animated Movie, Inside Out

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Inside Out is the Oscar-winning film by Pete Docter. It opens with Riley being born, and a manifestation of emotion – Joy – with her. Sadness follows suit, along with Fear, Disgust, and Anger. Joy explains how memory and emotion are tied together as Riley grows up, with each memory being tied to one of the five basic emotional responses. Core Memories are what fuel Riley’s Personality islands. As Riley approached her teen years, she moves to San Francisco with her loving mother and father. As the other four emotions aren’t completely sure of Sadness’s purpose, she meddles without aim and slowly ends up tainting memories with sadness. This continues until Joy isolates Sadness.

Everything seems to be going well until, on the first day of school, Riley cries in front of her classmates and teacher. This overwhelming situation creates Riley’s first sad Core Memory. Joy, distressed, tries to get rid of the sad Core Memory while protecting the happy ones from Sadness, but ends up knocking them all from their slots in Headquarters. In an attempt to retrieve them, Joy and Sadness get sucked out of Headquarters by a recall tube and flung into Long Term Memory, by the Personality islands. This leaves Riley essentially functioning without Joy or Sadness, while the other three emotions are left to control Riley. As normal life goes on and Riley lives without her Personality islands powered, they slowly break down. Joy and Sadness attempt to make their way back to Headquarters and stumble upon Goofball island crumbling, assuming the other islands will soon be following suit. As things fall apart in Headquarters and Riley begins to lose more and more aspects of her personality, Anger has an idea to give to Riley. He proposes that they get Riley to run away to her old home in Minnesota and make more happy memories there.

While this plan is set into action, Joy and Sadness meet Riley’s nearly-forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong. After adventures throughout Riley’s stranger and more abstract thoughts, Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong take the Train of Thought towards Headquarters, but their way is destroyed as another Personality island falls. As the entirety of their routes back seem to crumble, Joy sees a recall tube. She decides that Riley needs her Joy, and leaves Sadness as she gets tubed back. The tube breaks, however, and Bing Bong falls with Joy into the Memory Dump. The two, despondent, try to find a way out, and find Bing Bong’s rocket, fueled by song.

They try time and time again to get out of the pit that is the Memory Dump, but they come just short. Bing Bong realizes they cannot escape together, so he stays while Joy goes alone. She promises to take Riley to the moon, for Bing Bong. Joy launches herself into Sadness and they splatter into Headquarters, and they return to command just as Riley gets on the bus towards Minnesota. Joy realizes that Sadness is necessary for Riley, and as she lets Sadness take over the Core Memories, Riley wants to return home. Sadness removes the idea from Riley and her distressed parents embrace her. As everything returns to normal, with old and new Personality islands to enjoy.

The cast of Inside Out was not one of the stronger points of the movie. Although nobody felt like they were miscast, the voice actors won’t be recognized for this film. The better performances were Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, and Richard Kind as Bing Bong. Amy Poehler’s voice seemed to match Joy and her bubbly animations really helped make the voice seem genuine. Sadness’s voice fit as well, with Smith being funny yet despondent at the same time. Richard Kind may have been the best performance as Bing Bong. His death wouldn’t have been nearly as heartbreaking without the heartfelt delivery of the line, “Take her to the moon for me.”

The best thing about Inside Out was the fresh and original idea for a film, handled with animation no less. I really enjoyed the movie conceptually, as the premise of the film sounds like something I would watch even the movie wasn’t critically acclaimed. The little things were very enjoyable, like how they dealt with abstract thought or how the Memory Dump was a pit, which traditionally symbolize death in literature. One of the things that was ruined for me in the film was the fact that everyone kept saying that it’s “such a sad movie”. I went into the movie expecting to get pretty emotional, but the only tear-jerking part was Bing Bong’s “death”. Although not a gripe with the film itself, I did not really connect with the plot and characters as much as everyone else did.

The biggest theme of Inside Out is the emphasis of sentimentality and its importance to happiness and one’s overall character. As the film opens, it explains that your memories and the Personality islands that are created from them are what make you, you. Although it may seem out of context, a quote from The Incredibles ties in with this film – “When everyone’s super, no one will be.” It’s the same for emotion – when everyone’s happy and sadness is nonexistent, it isn’t true happiness, as you haven’t experienced true sadness.

The fact that, at the conclusion of Inside Out, Sadness is given control over the memories only emphasizes the importance of sadness to sentimentality. Sentimentality is shown to be important to one’s inner self because as Sadness takes over the controls to save Riley, the rest of the emotions accept Sadness to be just as important to Riley as they are. This acceptance opens up the possibilities for a more complex control console and an enlarged Personality island ring. As a result, Riley can experience more complexities in her mind and emotional state, symbolizing her growing up and finding her identity.

Inside Out, while winning Best Animated Feature, is slightly lower on my personal list than the other Pixar films. That said, it is a great film still – easily recommendable to not just families, but to most audiences. It’s hard to dislike, but doesn’t quite reach the top tier of animated films, personally. It’s definitely worth a watch – I don’t know who I wouldn’t recommend this film to, as it appeals to the emotional side in that it handles a sort of tenderness that can’t really be shown in most films, and the logical side that is curious as to how such a complex subject is handled in this form of media. If you’re lacking a brain or heart, then this film isn’t for you. The film is rated PG appropriately – more mature themes are definitely present, but it is ultimately designed for children, so it is kept tame and under control. Growing up, Pixar movies have always been great movies to watch with anyone in any mood, and Inside Out is no exception.

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Pete Docter’s View of Emotionalism as Portrayed in His Computer Animated Movie, Inside Out. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from
“Pete Docter’s View of Emotionalism as Portrayed in His Computer Animated Movie, Inside Out.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2019,
Pete Docter’s View of Emotionalism as Portrayed in His Computer Animated Movie, Inside Out. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2021].
Pete Docter’s View of Emotionalism as Portrayed in His Computer Animated Movie, Inside Out [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 03 [cited 2021 Dec 6]. Available from:
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