We’ve not done movie reviews for a while but for this movie, I’m willing to make an exception because, as parents, there are some really good takeaways from the show.
Is it suitable for children?
There has been some talk online by concerned parents if the show would be recommended for children. And if so, from how old? Given that it is an animation with cute characters, lots of bright colours and plenty of humour and animated slapstick antics, yes. Kids of all ages will be quite entertained but if so why the concern? A synopsis would be appropriate beforehand.
Inside Out traces the development of a young girl (Riley)’s emotions right from birth to pre-teen. Joy (the protagonist), Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger – the 5 emotions form part of the child’s core memories as well as general memories. Collectively, these memories then form the child’s personality. In Riley’s case, it was represented by 4 main ‘islands’ – Family (her parents), Hockey (her talents), Friendship (her childhood friends) and Goofball Islands (the fun and wacky moments she had with her parents).
Joy, the domineering emotion usually takes charge and rarely allows the other emotions to play any part in Riley’s life. However, after the family’s sudden move to bustling San Francisco, Joy and Sadness were accidentally deactivated and they struggled to find their way back to the control center (i.e. Riley’s mind). The rest of the emotions – Fear, Disgust and Anger now had free reign to manage Riley. Immediately, we see a transformation – from a cheerful, confident and caring girl, Riley became moody and temperamental which took her parents by surprise.
These mood changes caused Riley, all of 11 years old, to steal from her mother to buy a bus ticket to run away from her new home in San Francisco back to Minnesota (her original hometown) in a bid to find happiness again. This is what some parents are concerned about – for their kids to see a young child on the big screen, stealing and attempting to run away from home. I can understand the hesitance: how do we explain to our children that this is not the right behaviour? Thankfully, that particular scene was relatively short, paced quickly and ended with the family reconciling.
How We Managed:
We brought 7 year-old Dana to watch the movie with us. She thoroughly enjoyed it. When it came to the stealing and running-away scene, we let her watch through it as part of the whole movie experience. We did not interrupt as we wanted her to appreciate the context in which Riley made the ‘mistake’. After the movie, we discussed about the 4 islands Riley had and asked Dana to share with us which islands were present and important in her life too. We also contextualised Riley’s dishonest act by helping her see that when we are angry, we often make the wrong decisions (or say the wrong words). It also helps that ever since Dana entered Primary 1 this year, she had to make some tough decisions on her own in school in our absence (some were right and others not) so we used those situations she had been through to help her empathize with the emotions Riley experienced.
During our car ride home, our conversation went something like this:
- Why do you think Riley made the decision of running away? Do you think Riley would have really enjoyed it being away from her parents (without a home to stay?)
- The emotions (of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger) were all inside Riley’s head. When we ignore unpleasant feelings, problems can sometimes get worse. Do you think her parents would know how she’s feeling if she doesn’t tell them?
- All emotions have a part to play in our lives. It’s impossible to feel happy and joyful al the time (E.g. when Great Grandma passed away, all of us were very sad…etc) but it’s important to speak to Mommy & Daddy when you feel angry, fearful or sad etc.
- It’s normal to feel sad, angry and fearful but what is more important is what you do when you feel like this. There are many appropriate ways to let out our negative feelings: through sports, through talking to our parents, a hug from friends or sometimes all we need is a good cry.
- Having multiple feelings (or mixed emotions) can sometimes be a good thing. For e.g. When we try a new sport (like Rollerblading or Cycling, we often feel both happy and fearful or scared at the same time but that is not a bad thing as it makes us become more cautious to prevent accidents from taking place).
- Sometimes we make wrong decisions and our ‘islands’ of personality come crashing down (like how her island of Honesty collapsed after she stole her Mom’s money) but it’s ok. We can work to re-built the ‘islands’ again, just like Riley did.
Beyond the Scene – Mommy and Daddy’s Takeaways:
We have always enjoyed Disney Pixar’s animation movies but this one in particular, is quite special. As parents, Angie and I were reminded that:
1. Our children’s emotions are affected by the decisions we make, big or small, regardless of intentions. A major transition in their lives (e.g. new school, new routines) can trigger off new emotions which we did not anticipate.
2. As our children grow up, their range of emotions are no longer just plain and simple. In fact, they become more complicated. If left to navigate on their own, some children may be unable to handle their own emotional outbursts. We have to be there to walk them through, bearing in mind that they too, are entitled to express their emotions.
3. We cannot always shield our children from the ‘negative’ emotions in this complex world. As our children grow, they will be subjected to a bag of mixed emotions and we have a role to model for them how to balance our emotions with reasoning and rational thinking.
4. Some of these negative emotions actually help to make good decisions (e.g. fear keeps us away from danger). What is important is for u, parents to be there and help them process it.
5. When our children make mistakes, it is important to assure them that it is still safe to come back to our arms (even though we may be upset with them). They must know that home is still the safest place for them to be. While there are consequences or punishments to be meted out, we should address the behaviours and not at them as a person because our love for them will always be unconditional.
6. Everyday new memories are made and stored. Some experiences go into long-term memory while others become core memories that shape who we are. As parents, one of our main tasks is to build as many joyful core memories as possible when they are young so that when they reach their puberty years where they are assaulted with multiple stresses and challenges, they have these core happy memories to fall back on.
Inside Out uses everyday scenarios and struggles in the plot – no science-fiction, fantasy and therefore no ‘profound’ allegories. Just plain, simple and straight forward parent and child relationship which helps us reflect on our own family life, our own parenting styles, our struggles (and successes) in parenting.
We absolutely love this show because it opens up so much possibilities for parents to discuss issues of the heart (our emotions) which are rarely addressed in the Asian culture we are brought up in. We highly recommend all families (especially those with primary school-going kids and pre-teens AND their parents) to watch and build on the teaching moments. The movie is highly entertaining, humorous and best of all, developmental for children and their parents. In fact for us, almost immediately, we find ourselves making references to the 5 emotions and the 4 personality islands to talk to Dana about her choice of decisions and reactions over situations. We can’t wait for the DVD to be out so we can watch it again as a family and rediscover more nuggets of wisdom from it.
Disney Pixar’s Inside Out opens in Singapore cinemas on 27 August 2015.
Check out Disney Pixar’s website to meet each of the emotions and play games such as this very cool “Train of Thought” Board Game. You can also download the interactive Inside Out Storybook Deluxe from the Apple App Store.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are ours and movie pictures are credited to Disney Pixar.