How the Imaginary Friend in Pixar’s Inside Out Emotionally Destroyed Me

Inside Out's Bing Bong -

Ok, so destroyed is a little dramatic but I cried like a fool watching Pixar’s newest movie, Inside Out, and I am an emotional wreck ever since.  I seriously can NOT get it out of my head!  YES, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW!

I love Disney.  And I love, love, love Pixar.  I have always been a fan of children’s literature and just love how Pixar brings stories to life for the young and the old.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, any one at any age can thoroughly enjoy (and learn from) a Pixar movie.  Inside Out is a story about the emotions inside an 11 year old (Riley)’s head.  It personifies 5 core feelings into characters: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.  The main story line is Joy and Sadness get separated from headquarters and need to find their way back while Anger, Fear, and Disgust unintentionally set Riley into an emotional journey as she leaves childhood and heads towards adolescence.

Inside Out's Bing Bong -

Why We Cry:

  1. The audience is already emotionally vulnerable before it even begins from thinking that an old lonely volcano may die without ever meeting his true love in the incredible Pixar Short, Lava.  I mean, REALLY Pixar?!?!  I am sure they did that on purpose, right?
  2. This film connects with parents and their forever wish for their children just to be happy.
  3. Everyone can relate to growing up and the pains involved with your emotions maturing.

Why I am a Mess:

The first time I saw Inside Out, I think I was most affected by the reality that kids inevitably grow up and that my babies won’t be babies forever.  This idea that memories may fade or completely disappear really made me sad.  There have been times when I witnessed my children in their most blissful/happiest moments and I stop and realize that they probably won’t even remember this age or this day or this moment.  It is so crazy to think that our day to day life right now will soon be forgotten.  There is so much that I have already forgotten.  My girls are SO happy right now.  Their emotions are almost all Joy.  This movie reminded me that this will change as my kids grow closer to preteen and teenage years.

The second time I saw Inside Out, I was incredibly struck by Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong.  What amazing character development for such a short part of the story.  And not only of a fictitious character, but an imaginary one at that.  That is part elephant.  And dolphin.  And cat.  And cotton candy.  What an impact Bing Bong makes on the audience.  At first he seems to be some sort of odd vaudeville vagabond character that is lost in Riley’s long term memory.  But soon he just tears my heart IN HALF!!!  (REMINDER THAT THERE ARE SPOILERS IN HERE!) As the movie progresses, and Joy and Sadness desperately try to find their way back to headquarters, Bing Bong slowly starts disappearing.  And when he and Joy are stuck in the Memory Dump (where no memories return), Bing Bong sacrifices himself in order for Riley to find Joy.  I recently read an article that said that Richard Kind was crying when he delivered that heartbreaking line, “Take her to the moon for me, Joy.”  I think parents connect with this idea of sacrificing anything and everything for the happiness of your child.  I also read that Pete Docter said that Bing Bong is THE. SPIRIT. OF. CHILDHOOD!!!  OMG SERIOUSLY?!?!?!  Oh Sadness, I need a hug!!!  This is the core of it, right?  As a child, Life is almost all Joy with occasional, but completely separate moments of Sadness and Anger.  But as you grow out of childhood, emotions become much more complicated.  And hard to define.  And harder to separate.  Life becomes more complicated.  Life isn’t always full of Joy.  Goofball Land is harder to find and harder to remember as you get older.  And imaginary friends and the joy they bring are forgotten.  And the spirit of childhood is lost forever.  

I could go on, and on, and on here about how fantastic this movie is.  I loved every part of it.  The recognition of the importance of Sadness.  (They did a GREAT job with this character.)  The details are just so creative (like Dreamland Productions, Imagination Land, and the Train of Thought).  It is rated PG and might be a little sad for younger children but my kids loved it (age 7 and 9).

When I was a teacher I remember realizing that the most important life skill to learn as a child is coping skills.  Education is important, and good grades will give you opportunities, but at the and of the day, your Happiness depends on how you cope with life’s challenges.  Inside Out is a complex film about Life, Relationships, and Coping.  It embraces the fact that Life is challenging and it is ok to feel sad or confused.  I love the conversations this film has opened up when discussing emotions with my daughters.

Have you seen Inside Out?  How did it affect you?

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