Inside Out

School is back in session here in Wales, but not so for my kiddos. We moved down from Edinburgh over the summer, and although there have been many things to love, a frustration is the wait for open spaces for the elder two most-certainly-school-aged kids. In the meantime, they’ve been doing Home School with Headmistress Mummy and Class Gerbil Little Brother.

And as a, er, special treat, they got an assignment this morning from Guest Lecturer Doctor Daddy. Though I toil at my new office Monday to Friday, I was able to take the elders to the local arts centre Sunday afternoon to watch Disney’s Inside Out.

I’d heard just a little about the movie – we’re rather a little bit “those people” and don’t have a telly at home, and going out to movies… well, I mentioned the Class Gerbil Little Brother, right? Scotches that kind of thing except in the most exceptional of circumstances, or when we divide and conquer. As we did Sunday. But as you can see from the clip above, there’s a lot going on here that merits unpacking. I was really struck by the supremacy of Joy and the denial of Sadness, which you can see at 0:51. Just talking tonight after dinner, I realised that the treatment of Sadness is something I’ve just been working with on a blog post I wrote just a couple of weeks ago for a groovy group of UniEdinburgh postgrads.

So, in true now-I-have-my-PhD-and-everything-must-be-considered-more-deeply fashion, I didn’t just take the kids to the movie. I gave them an assignment. And here it is – names replaced with age designations cuz that’s how I roll. Also, watch for the Bonus Question, as there is a bit of a SPOILER.


Inside Out: Assignments
Dr. Daddy, PhD


Inside Out is an animated film which imagines the interior (the inside) world of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley Andersen. The movie takes place in two spaces simultaneously (at the same time): the outside world of Riley, with her parents and friends, her home and other places; and the imagined world inside Riley’s head. This second space is populated by five emotions which are personified (given human qualities), and their actions and adventures have an effect on what Riley does in the outside world.


Q1 (9YO and 6YO):

We meet five emotional attributes for Riley (and, to a lesser extent, other characters in the film): Joy, Disgust, Fear, Anger, and Sadness. They all work together and take turns at the control station of Riley’s inside world, and they seem to be in control of certain memories that Riley has – that is, memories of things that happen to Riley are represented by coloured spheres, and the colours match the different emotions (gold for Joy, red for Anger, etc.)

What is one memory of your life (if you can think of two, that would be great!) that you would colour
-gold for Joy
-blue for Sadness
-green for Disgust
-purple for Fear
-red for Anger?
(Hint: if you have a hard time with Disgust, remember that it is the second emotion that joins Baby Riley, and it is described as the thing that keeps her safe from things that could hurt her, like, according to the film, broccoli. So, disgust could colour a memory of something you didn’t like.)


Q2 (6YO):

I noticed that the memory spheres for Riley have a single colour to them – blue for Sadness, red for Anger, etc. But think about Joy’s discovery that a memory can start with one colour and turn another colour later. What is the memory Joy discovers that has both Sadness and Joy?


Q3 (9YO):

When Joy introduces herself and the other emotions, she says that they haven’t figured out what Sadness is there for. She and the others seem kind of embarrassed by her, and they are desperate to make sure she doesn’t make any core memories blue. They are, in effect, denying Sadness in Riley’s life.

3a: Do you think it is accurate that babies and little kids are mostly happy? Why or why not?

3b: What does Joy learn about Sadness as they try to make their way back to headquarters?

3c: Why do you think sadness is so important for Riley in her experience of moving from Minnesota to San Francisco?


Bonus Question [EDIT: REMEMBER THE SPOLER ALERT] – (make notes and talk to me when I get home):

Why was it important for Bing-Bong to jump off the rocket in order for Joy and Sadness to get back to headquarters? You can answer with a straight-up discussion about the adventure story, but can you also think about this as a metaphor? You can discuss this with Headmistress Mummy, but remember that she hasn’t seen the film, so if you want to think it through, you have to give her the details of who Bing-Bong is, how the rocket worked, what was happening to Bing-Bong in the scene I’ve mentioned, and what they all were trying to do.


Thanks for going to the film with me. I really enjoyed it, and I think it was a good film for all of us to see at a time when we’ve done the same thing as Riley and her parents in the movie. Edinburgh is not as far away from Cardiff as Minnesota is from San Francisco, but when you’re small and can’t travel on your own, that really doesn’t matter, does it? It might as well be just as far. Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and I hope we build some good Personality Islands soon.

With love,
Dr. Daddy

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