This new Disney Pixar animation was a winner with all five of us when we saw it last week. Told through the emotions of an 11 year old girl, Riley - we hear the perspectives of the 5 major feelings she has: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, all who control her brain headquarters. Throughout a happy childhood with a strong family, good friends, fun playing ice hockey and general fun times, Joy has ruled the roost until now. She has helped the other feelings find moments of happiness and tried to downplay all the sadness, anger, fear, etc.
But when Riley’s family moves to San Francisco, everything is turned upside down. Joy gets accidentally locked out of the brain control room with Sadness, and the rest of the movie is then trying to get back to Headquarters where Anger, Fear and Disgust are trying to keep things running smoothly. At the same time we see Riley trying to cope with her world changing – house, school friends and how she is managing (or not) with it all.
The movie makers have done an excellent job of illustrating each of the five feelings, from Joy’s yellow spiky cheerful nature, to Sadness’s dumpy blue, red Anger’s fiery head when provoked, Fear’s angular anxiousness at everything and green Disgust’s distaste at the general world. Adults and children will recognise and associate with each easily. Even more impressively was how they manage to explain in an understandable way how the mind works: how memories are made and stored, how imagination works, our subconscious, dreams, etc. For the majority of us with no specific knowledge in this area, this is probably as good a representation as we are likely to get that we can comprehend and later recall. We have referred to it as a family in the last week to illustrate a point, such as how a memory fades or imagination works.
Kids watching this will be helped to realise that the emotions they feel are real: true joy at points, yet also true sadness and hurt along the way. We also see that as we get older emotions are more often complex and multilayered: some memories are happy and sad; and anger, fear and disgust can help us out at times. For me, one of the best aspects of the story line was that it was the strength of her family relationship that held it all together at the end.
The main point of correction we talked about afterwards was that the feelings inside you don’t control you. When my daughter said: “Anger pushes the button and that’s why you get angry”, we thought “uh oh, no – not at all!” So we talked about how that is not the case: your feelings don’t control your reactions, rather you are in control of your reactions. It’s normal and natural to have feelings of fear, anger, sadness and so on, but how you choose to act on them is always your decision. It led to yet another discussion about self-control and how we are always responsible for our reactions, a conversation we seem to be having often at the moment!
I highly recommend seeing this one with your kids. All three of ours (ages 12, 10, & 7) enjoyed it and it provoked good discussion afterwards.