Kate Roberts Ph.D.

Savvy Parenting

Inside Out Movie Focuses on the Importance of Emotions

Disney’s Inside Out Movie is a Worthwhile Explanation of Emotions

Posted Jul 27, 2015

The new Pixar movie Inside Out, is Disney’s latest masterpiece for children and parents alike with a deep and powerful message that emotions matter! The movie is an entertaining and insightful 90 minutes of fun with meaning; pretty good for a children’s Pixar movie.  

Inside and Out of the story  of 11 year old girl Riley who has a strong and  established sense of that is until she is uprooted from her life and caste into an new one overnight, literally. At first she tries to adjust by assuming her joyful persona and even attempting to make her conflicted parents happy –Yikes, that does not work-ever!

 The movie is narrated and  takes place through the eyes of cartoon characters that are her emotions  inside her head- Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. These emotions compete for air time and depending on what’s happening in Riley’s life, they more or less get it. When they take over, they literally push buttons- her buttons.

 The message is that when Riley doesn't allow herself to be anything but joyful, she can't adjust to her move. All emotions- positive and negative must be experienced  order for growth to happen.

Here a 7 teachable messages from the movie:

1. Don’t act like Riley’s parents. If a family is undergoing major transition, don’t pretend you’re not. Riley’s parents moved and although her mother was sensitive at times, how Riley is feeling is not a priority and it should be! Both parents expected her to just adjust to school and adjust to new sports, as if it’s just another day in her life. That always backfires because kids need transition time, just like adults and parents.

2. Accept feelings. Many times parents tell children “Don’t feel angry or disappointed or even sad”, and by doing this they are basically saying you know that “down” part of you, it’s not important, just get over it or pretend it’s not there. The thing is that doesn’t make the feelings disappear, it only makes them bigger and more problematic. And besides when parents say don’t feel such and such, it’s too late anyway because the child already feel that way.   But what also happens is that the child can feel disapproved of and alone without help of an adult to process difficult and painful feelings.

3. Understanding self.  The movie nicely depicts the self as being comprised of a variety of events, experiences, relationships and places that are colored by the emotions that are associated with them.

4. Emotions color and shape experiences. The example in the movie is that when Riley lost her hockey game and her team sought her out to comfort her, and thus she associated joy with losing not sadness and shame, because she had support from loved ones. Therefore negative emotions can bring people closer.

5. Sadness is underrated. Expecting children to be happy all the time just makes them want to run away literally. Whereas acknowledging and even embracing sadness allows kids to connect to all their emotions resulting in connection to others and a return of joy.


6. Memories are central to development of self. Imagine how you’d view life differently if you didn’t’ have memories that make you who you are.  Core memories as they are called in the movie are the foundation for which people frame there experiences.

7. Kids are resilient. Kids more than any other age group can embrace change and adjust easliy with proper support and perspective.

The movie is a simplistic view of emotions that is basic and therefore understandable for children and that’s its aim. The movie introduces memories as a way to refocus negative emotions, however, even without memories, the healthiest people often process and then redirect negative emotions into positive actions rather than dwell on them.

Inside Out makes a statement to parents and children alike. It says that emotions are important and need to be validated and understood as part of a child’s development. Parents can form deeper connections to their children and understand them better by accepting first their own and then their child’s emotions.

More Posts