Tropical Storm Bill wasn’t the only thing dropping moisture as it spread across the United States this weekend.
While the wet weather outside inspired many parents to treat their kids to the new Pixar movie, Inside Out, there weren’t many dry adult eyes in the theater as this sentimental movie about emotions proved it isn’t just a kids’ movie.
From the director of Up, Pete Docter was inspired to write Inside Out after watching his daughter Ellie grow up.
The plot involves 11-year-old Riley, whose family is in the midst of a move from Minnesota to San Francisco. But the real action takes place inside Riley’s head, with the emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust all becoming characters and vying for control.
Joy (played by Amy Pohler) has had a good run in the driver’s seat for most of Riley’s short life, and the film is about how Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is beginning to steer as the age of innocence turns into the dawning of adolescence.
Docter consulted scientists and doctors during the writing process, which deals with many brainy topics such as long- and short-term memory, abstract thought, imagination and imaginary friends.
I asked some of our experts who viewed the movie over the weekend for their thoughts about the science behind this animated film.
Dr. Todd Ponsky, a pediatric surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital, gives the movie a thumbs up after taking his daughters – 3, 5 and 9 years old – to see it.
“I can’t stop thinking about this movie,” said Dr. Ponsky. “Disney is slowly becoming deeper in their messages to children through their movies. Frozen taught about the importance of family and that blood is thicker than water. Inside Out does not have a flashy soundtrack and may not necessarily be as popular among little children as Frozen, but the power of this movie is how subtly smart it is.”
Dr. Michael Forbes, who works in the pediatric intensive care unit at Akron Children’s Hospital, also felt the science of the movie was spot on.
“I loved the neuroscience references throughout,” said Dr. Forbes. “They had very good consultants and they weaved hilarious science through the story. Every once in a while a movie comes along that changes movies. This is that kind of movie. Incredibly creative, original entertainment.”
Dr. Ponsky was especially impressed with the psychological aspects of the story. In a country where people are so obsessed with being happy that they medicate themselves to feel only joy, perhaps it’s a good reminder there actually is a place for sadness in our lives.
“The deep message of this movie is that the key to getting through tough times may not always be to try to be happy but rather to be OK with being sad,” Dr. Ponsky said. “The writers were clearly well advised by child therapists and psychiatrists as the movie was very accurate and up to date with the modern teaching in this field. It was funny, cute, entertaining and even sad at times.”
Pediatric psychiatrist Laura Markley agreed and liked the overall message that we should encourage kids to experience and express all emotions.
“Too often, kids are expected to be happy or content all of the time, and that is an unrealistic expectation,” Dr. Markley said. “The movie showed great examples of characters showing empathy and understanding rather than just trying to ‘cheer someone up.'”
Not sure your young ones can grasp all these heady concepts and ideas? Take them anyway.
Inside Out is one of those rare children’s movies where children and adults will walk away entertained. And budding young scientists will be intrigued by the cool portrayal of the inner workings of the mind.
“I’m not sure how much my 3 daughters took away from this movie, but it certainly opened up a great opportunity for us to talk about their feelings with a new twist that they may be able to more easily relate to,” said Dr. Ponsky.
For Dr. Markley, the movie’s biggest shortcoming was the idea that emotions are solely in control of your thoughts and actions.
“The most healthy minds are ones that balance our logical/intelligent thoughts with our emotions,” she said. “It’s often when our emotions take over that we can get ourselves into negative situations. I would have really liked to have had her logical voice put up some resistance to the negative ideas her emotions were giving her.”
Dr. Ponsky enjoyed Inside Out so much, he’s going to see it again.
“Congratulations, Pixar! I never see movies twice but I want to see this again to pick up more of the subtleties,” he said.
My 7-year-old daughter, Sarah, basically echoed that desire. The closing credits were still flashing when she asked me if we could go buy it on DVD and watch it again. (I highly recommend you stay for the credits because you get to peer inside the minds of so many types of people and it’s a fascinating display.)
I think Sarah knew a lot of the concepts were over her head, so she wanted to have a chance to really study it.
Like many of us, she’s fascinated with the human mind and maybe also for the journey to adolescence that is soon to come. Which brings me back to the inches of precipitation, in the form of sentimental tears for me.