Pixar’s Filmmakers Surprised INSIDE OUT Helps Kids Express Emotions

When Jonas Rivera, producer of Disney•Pixar’s INSIDE OUT, saw his young daughter Ava walking around with mismatched socks, he asked if she noticed.  Turns out Ava was sporting “Joy” and “Fear” socks (two of the emotions depicted in INSIDE OUT) because she felt both emotions that day.  “She made a conscious decision as she was getting dressed,” Rivera explained and never dreamt INSIDE OUT would allow kids to better understand their emotions.  Continue reading for more of our conversation with the filmmakers for Disney•Pixar’s INSIDE OUT.

(L-R) Director of INSIDE OUT Pete Docter, Producer of INSIDE OUT Jonas Rivera and Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter at Disney’s D23 EXPO 2015 in Anaheim, Calif. Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney.

DISCLOSURE: I was hosted by Walt Disney Studios on an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco, California including airfare, hotel accommodations, transportation, and meals to attend this press event and learn more about Disney’s films and shows.  All opinions expressed are those of the author.

Pete Docter

INSIDE OUT Director Pete Docter. Photo by Debby Coleman. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.


Researching INSIDE OUT, the Pixar filmmakers worked with neuroscientists and psychologists to understand how the mind works.  When Dr. Dacher Keltner, co-director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, first suggested the movie would help kids grapple with their feelings, director Pete Docter was shocked. “I was like whoa, whoa, whoa, we’re just trying to make a funny film,” said Docter, “let’s not put too much expectation on it.”  Although once the film was released, Docter and Rivera overheard stories about how people related to and used the film – especially children with autism.  Docter mentioned a family in Minnesota that laid out all the emotions on a table and the child could come in and pick the ones he’s feeling.  It was one of the first ways the autistic child could express his emotions.

Funko Pop! Vinyls for Disney's Inside Out at Toy Fair New York 2015

Funko Pop! Vinyls for Disney’s Inside Out at Toy Fair New York 2015


The filmmakers studied adolescence and how a pre-teen might deal with traumatic events.  So it was no accident that “Joy” and “Sadness” were the two emotions that went missing.  “It all lines up with being an adolescent,” said co-director Ronnie Del Carmin.  “Riley changes and no longer feels happy – then she can’t express empathy.  She becomes your typical sullen teen.”

“Part of growing up is loss – loss of friends, loss of childhood,” said Dr. Dacher Keltner, who’s a father of two daughters who’ve survived their pre-teen years.  “Emotions oscillate,” Dr. Keltner explained, “the movie portrays the struggle over the control panel, but one of the key lessons is that you have to embrace all your emotions.”


(L-R): Joy, Sadness. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Keltner was blown away by the finished product when he finally saw INSIDE OUT.  “It’s extremely hard to put into words how the emotions inside your mind affect how you behave and how you see the world,” said Keltner, “the film achieved that remarkably well.”

The ultimate goal for Pixar’s Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera was always just to make a good movie.  The fact, the film can also help parents relate to their children (and vice versa)… “it’s a pretty cool reward,” adds Rivera, “it’s a cherry on top of the whole thing that it has done that.”

Jonas Rivera

INSIDE OUT Producer Jonas Rivera at Pixar Studios in Emeryville, CA. Photo by Deborah Coleman, courtesy Pixar

Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera

Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera in center during press junket in San Francisco


Disney•Pixar’s INSIDE OUT is available now on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere, and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray Combo Pack and On-Demand November 3rd.

The INSIDE OUT home edition includes an extensive line-up of bonus features including deleted scenes (click here for an exclusive look), the theatrical short film LAVA and an all-new animated short “Riley’s First Date?”  We were also able to screen “Riley’s First Date?” during the press junket, and talk with its director as well as the actors who voiced Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and her Dad (Kyle MacLachlan).  Stay tuned for their thoughts on this new short, and click here to catch the “Train of Thought” and read our full review of Disney•Pixar’s INSIDE OUT.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.