Riley is a normal 11-year-old girl. Her thoughts are manipulated by her emotions, depicted as bubbly Joy, short-tempered Anger, sardonic Disgust, jumpy Fear, and melancholic Sadness. When Joy and Sadness accidentally fall out of emotion HQ and land in the vast ‘long term memory’, Riley becomes sullen and unable to feel happiness. Joy and Sadness must fight to get back before it is too late, but although every memory Sadness touches becomes ‘sad’, Joy will have to learn that Riley needs Sadness just as much as any other emotion.

Inside Out (2015) – Director: Pete Doctor, Ronaldo Del Carmen

is inside out suitable for children

Rating: U

Running Length: 94 minutes

Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind

Genre: Animated, Comedy


In the middle of somewhat of a sequel laden production cycle for Pixar (with more ‘Cars’, ‘Toy Story’ and Incredibles’ movies in development), ‘Inside Out’s original concept is like a breath of fresh air. Having an insight into the emotional workings of an 11-year-old girl during a time of upheaval is an immensely relatable story.

The conflicting nature of bickering emotions (and their control over decision-making) was evident from the trailers for ‘Inside Out’. What was less expected was the fact that this framing device bookends a supremely imaginative animation spectacle, anchored by the relationship between Joy and Sadness. Whilst trying to get back to HQ, Joy and Sadness take us through such mental landscapes as: Imagination Land; the Subconscious; and a Hollywood-style Dream production centre. Throughout, Joy strives desperately to maintain childish (somewhat naïve) happiness but begins to realise the importance that the ever-sidelined Sadness takes in Riley’s mental health.

Packed full of daft jokes, deft touches, heart-breaking maturity, and knock-out performances; ‘Inside Out’ is a return to form for Pixar on par with ‘Up’ and ‘Wall-E’. And this time around, the box office seems to agree, with ‘Inside Out’ breaking records for the highest-grossing weekend for an original script. This is a testament to the skill in which ‘Inside Out’ seeks to entertain, but also explore what makes us all tick.


One flash-back memory early on (which will no doubt be hysterical for children!) shows a toddler-age Riley naked, facing away from the camera, and slapping her bare behind to taunt her parents whilst they all laugh.

There are several references to ‘curse words’ by Anger. These range from suggesting that Riley ‘lock the door and say that curse word we know’ to delight at an extended control panel with a ‘curse word library’. Anger says, in delight, ‘this is the *&$%!’, with the last word completely obscured by the repeat of a loud beep heard a few moments ago.

Memories produce orbs which are coloured based on which emotion dominates them. There are ‘core memories’ which are central to Riley’s personality and shown to be very happy. However, when Sadness touches these they start to turn blue and the memory becomes sad. Children may find the idea of making loved memories sad to be upsetting. However, Sadness is always apologetic when this happens.

When Riley has to introduce herself to a new class, Sadness ends up in control of her emotions. She becomes very upset at remembering how much fun she had at her old house and begins to cry in class. Any child who has moved house, or is sensitive to the upset of others, may get upset during this scene.

The core memories set up ‘islands’ in Riley’s mind that constitute her personality. Throughout the movie these islands begin to disintegrate and collapse into the ‘memory dump’. The memory dump is depicted as a black, deep pit from which nothing ever returns. When an island collapses the characters are upset and panicked.

On the way to ‘Imagination Land’, Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong (Riley’s childhood imaginary friend) pass through an ‘abstract thought’ corridor. This gets turned on and causes their physical forms to get jumbled. They are very worried and run to escape as there are explained to be 4 ‘stages’. The implication is that at the end of the 4th stage they will be ‘stuck here forever’. This scene is mostly played as funny (with the characters’ bodies falling apart; becoming 2 dimensional), and only lasts a few minutes but the concern of the characters may upset some children.

In Imagination Land there is an ‘imaginary boyfriend’ daydream which produces from a conveyor belt a-typical ‘cool’ young teenager who dramatically states he would ‘die for Riley’. This is a quick scene but is returned to later, for comedic effect.

Bing Bong has a ‘rocket’ which is set up as a nostalgic thing that he and Riley used to play in. When this is lost Bing Bong is devastated and cries (albeit that he ‘cries candy’). He remains sad for several minutes, which could upset some children as previously he had been a very upbeat character.

During a ‘dream production’ a pretend dog is apparently halved, and each half chases the other. Fear is watching the dream and gets comically frightened. Later, Joy and Sadness find themselves in ‘the Subconscious’, which is depicted as a prison where ‘all the trouble makers’ are. In the Subconscious there is a very large, sleeping, clown that is associated with a real clown at a birthday party of Riley’s. All the characters are afraid of it. It wakes and chases them and they run from it. The clown is not aggressive or malicious but it is deranged in wanting to have a fun birthday party and the very large size could be distressing.

Some characters fall into the ‘memory dump’ and become very scared. It is full of ‘dead’ memory orbs that randomly evaporate into nothingness. There is a long upsetting scene where happy ‘baby’ memories shown to being forgotten and this is overlaid with sad memories. One character is crestfallen at this happening. On trying to escape, one character makes a very upsetting sacrificial decision and the other character is heartbroken when realising what has happened. However, the character who made a sacrifice tries to cheer them up and is at peace with their decision.

Riley needs money for a bus trip and can’t tell her parents about it. She resolves to take the money from her mum’s purse and this is shown by her sneakily removing a credit / debit card from behind her mum’s back.

** The Pixar short before ‘Inside Out’ is called ‘Lava’. It is about a volcano in the sea that happily pines for a partner. It sings the same song every day but there is shown to be many many years when it is alone and eventually it ‘turns to stone’ and sinks beneath the sea. Although another ‘female’ volcano rises out of the sea to find him, there is around a minute where the volcano is upset and sad music plays over the top. This is very sweet but quite sad and may upset some children.



‘Inside Out’ is a triumph of both creative imagination and mature, but child-friendly, story telling. With the support emotions of Fear, Disgust and Anger there is plenty of room to have fun but by also exploring the essence of what makes childhood progress into young adulthood, ‘Inside Out’ manages to appeal to a broad range of ages without weakening its core message – we need all emotions to make us whole. Due to the upsetting scenes we would advise caution to emotive children and you may wish to take your child out (particularly during the ‘memory dump’ scene) if they get too upset. Notwithstanding that, we would recommend this movie as appropriate for children aged 5 and older.

  • Violence: 0/5
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (several upsetting scenes and some are lingered upon for over a minute with characters shown to be upset)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (the memory dump is reminiscent of a graveyard. The clown from the subconscious is large and intimidating)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5       
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (several references to ‘curse words’. One character calls another a ‘moron’)
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (When Riley’s family is going to move house, Anger states ‘Dad doesn’t love us anymore!’. Later Anger grumbles, ‘Stupid Mom and Dad’)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of isolation, depression, moving home, maturity, childhood, accepting that life involves many emotions, and listening to other’s point of views.

Words by Michael Record

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