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Inside Out

The Happy Thoughts Academy team are obsessed with the film Inside Out by Disney/Pixar. We have mentioned it before on our social media but it is such an incredible tool for helping children express and process their emotions that we wanted to dedicate a page to it.


If we look at the film from an academic point of view. The five emotions that control the brain in the film are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. These are based on the teachings of American psychologist Paul Ekman. He served as a scientific adviser on this film. Having worked personally with the Dalai Lama on their webisodes for Developing Global Compassion, involved in a hit TV series, author of many books and his own micro expression training he was an excellent candidate for the job.

The film begins with the main character Riley as a baby. The only emotion present in the brain is joy, from there sadness comes in and explains the sudden changes of the crying to laughing of a baby. Developing into disgust and anger with the parents trying to add broccoli into Riley’s diet and the story goes on from there.

disgust anger.jpg

Each memory is turned into a marble with the colour of the emotion it is associated with. These short-term memories are sent to the long-term memory library at night and the workers are seen going through and deciding which memories to keep and which to send to place where memories are forgotten and can no longer be recalled. There are also core memories which make up Riley’s character along with the lands that are her personality including goofball island, family island, friendship island and so on.


We don’t want to ruin the film for you because YOU NEED TO WATCH IT (tip-have a box of tissues at the ready!) but the way it explains what is going on in your head as a child is just magical.

The overall message of the film is that sadness in an essential emotion for our overall happiness. Which is something that is nice to be reminded of even as adults. We need the rain to see the rainbow.

This film creates a model for children that is engaging and scientific. It allows them to feel what they are feeling and gives them the understanding of emotional intelligence without them even realising.

Train Your Brain

As well as watching the film (seriously-tissues!) we wanted to think of a way to use the characters to express emotions.


Disney/Pixar please don’t sue us for using your images, we love you and we just want to spread the word of your film.

Inside Out’s Character Art Director Albert Lozano discusses how each of the characters were developed from a basic shape as shown in the images below.

  • Joy is energy bursting into a star shape.

  • Sadness is a circle, developed into a tear drop.

  • Anger is a square, very blunt and sharp.

  • Disgust is a triangle as shown through her dress.

  • Fear is a wobbling question mark.

inside out chracters.jpg

Why not use these shapes to create a focusing and listening exercise? Teach your children the correlating body shapes below.​

  1. Dance around the room listening to your favourite music (we love to do that here at the Happy Thoughts Academy HQ) once the music stops shout out an emotion and get them to make the shape.

  2. Once they begin to know which shapes go with each emotion, you could develop this into nursery rhymes and short stories. Read the stories and get them to show which emotion they would be feeling if the story happened to them.

Once they have done this with external games and stories you ask them to use the shapes to tell you how they are feeling in everyday situations. Or you can use any of images above below to ask them to point to which one they are feeling and discuss why.


You could also develop this further into knowing that it's OK to have these feelings but we can develop them into a positive (if they aren’t already) How can we turn this Joy – (the star)?


Seriously though guys – Watch the film, you will all love it! (P.S. I promise we aren’t on commission!)

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