Inside Out 2: Riley Navigates Puberty’s Emotional Rollercoaster in Disney-Pixar Sequel

Nearly a month after its release, Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out 2 continues to rule the box office.

The sequel to the 2015 film revisits the mind of Riley Andersen (Kensington Tallman) as she enters puberty. After winning the middle school hockey championship, she and her long-time friends and teammates are invited to participate in the high school training camp. However, Joy (Amy Poehler) is quickly replaced by Anxiety (Maya Hawke) when Riley realizes that her friends have been placed in a different high school next year. As she navigates new emotions, physical changes, and moral dilemmas, Riley and her emotions begin to reconstruct her Sense of Self. 

Original emotions including Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Liza Lapira), Fear (Tony Hale), and Anger (Lewis Black) make their return with new emotions Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) , Ennui/Boredom (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and Nostalgia (June Squibb) making their debut. 

The film is quick to jump into the story and the conflict without much of a recap of the first film. Audiences are expected to have seen the first film and to understand who each emotion is and their roles. 

Like the original, Inside Out 2 takes the complex concept of the mind and breaks it down into something that’s easily digestible for any age. 

When Riley gets sent to the penalty box during scrimmage, she begins to experience her first anxiety attack. Not only is the scene incredibly impactful, but it is also a perfect representation of what anxiety looks and feels like. It gives a child, or even an adult a way to recognize it, visualize it, and perhaps even manage it. 

Still from Disney Pixar's Inside Out 2
Courtesy Disney/Pixar

The filmmakers and animators also creatively represent sarcasm as a chasm, or divide. After Riley tries out sarcasm with her new group of friends, a chasm forms blocking the emotion’s path. When the emotions try to ask for help from construction workers preparing for puberty, any requests yelled across the chasm turn from genuine to mocking. 

The film also introduces the concept of a strong Sense of Self. At the beginning of the film, Joy is intent on creating a Sense of Self for Riley that is devoid of any negative associations. Any memories that could taint that positive Sense of Self are sent to the back of the mind. However, as the film progresses and Joy loses control of Riley and her emotions, she realizes the value of those memories and how their inclusion creates a more robust and more deeply rooted Sense of Self and makes Riley more equipped to handle challenging situations. The film makes this concept understandable by visualizing the Sense of Self as a tree that has roots that grow deep below headquarters. 

Still from Inside Out 2
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

As new emotions take charge, the original emotions are kicked out of headquarters and shut in the vault with Riley’s deepest secrets including Bloofy (Ron Funches), Pouchy (James Austin Johnson), and Lance Slashblade (Yong Yea), characters from childhood shows and video games that Riley still secretly enjoys in her adolescence. Like her memories, these secrets are suppressed, but a huge part of who Riley is.  Although their introduction seems abrupt and awkward, they serve as major plot drivers and contributors to her memories, and ultimately her Sense of Self. 

Overall, Inside Out 2 is a moving representation of the importance of managing mental health and how it can evolve throughout one’s life. 

Catch Inside Out 2 before it skates out of theaters. And here’s a secret that doesn’t have to stay in the vault, stay through the credits for an extra scene.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Disney/Pixar