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Meet Riley, a sweet baby born to loving parents. On that very first moment of life, Joy is the only one in her head. But it isn’t long before Sadness joins her. As Riley grows, other emotions join them in Headquarters in order to help and protect Riley: Fear, Anger and Disgust. Joy is able to see the roles that these new emotions play: Fear helps to keep the child physically safe. Anger helps to make sure that things are fair. Finally, Disgust helps to keep their sweet girl from being poisoned, either physically or emotionally. Joy, however, cannot figure out Sadness’ purpose in Riley’s life, so she usually just tries to keep Sadness out of the way. At the age of 11, Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, California. Joy does her best to keep everyone positive about their new adventure, but nothing seems to go right as they try to adjust to their new home. An unfortunate event between Joy and Sadness ends up casting them out of Headquarters and into the infinite winding paths of Riley’s memory. Thus begins their elaborate journey through the various aspects of Riley’s mind and personality as they desperately try to make their way back to Headquarters. They manage to stumble upon Riley’s old imaginary friend, Bing Bong, who helps them as best he can, since he has been wandering through the hidden parts of Riley’s mind for ages. Their biggest obstacle, though, is that since they are not in Headquarters, Riley cannot feel either Joy nor Sadness, and the islands of personality that make her who she is are shutting down one by one. Joy and Sadness must work together to get back to headquarters, so that they can restore order to Riley’s world.
This is a wonderful journey through not only the human mind, but the mind of a child. We see how core memories shape our personalities, and the roles that each of our main emotions play in making us who we are. We also see how the world around us affects us deep down, and that it is important to listen to other’s express their emotions. True, happiness is important, but not only is it impossible to be happy all of the time, it really isn’t healthy. Since Joy believed that there was nothing more important than Riley’s happiness, she did everything she could to keep Sadness at bay. However, not every situation can be looked at from a positive point of view. Joy learns that sometimes, the only way to true happiness, is to allow oneself to grieve.
(If you have additional ideas on how this film can be used for educational purposes, please let us know in the comments below.)
Fear: All right! We did not die today. I call that an unqualified success.
Sadness: Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.
Joy: All these facts and opinions look the same. I can’t tell them apart.
Bing Bong: (Throwing them all in the same box) Happens to me all the time. Don’t worry about it.
Joy: Sadness…Mom and Dad… the team…They came to help…because of…Sadness.
Cool Girl Emotions: Being cool is exhausting.