This film’s directed by Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) and Ronnie del Carmen (he’s done a lot of cool stuff). There’s a lot of sentimental fluff around a little girl, much like Monsters, Inc. and much like Boo, this girl, Riley, is pretty much just along for the ride.

Most of the story takes place in her head, where her emotions are in control and have outward consequences. Initially, Joy pretty much runs the show, which seems fitting. As a dad I can say that my kids’ primary goal is to have fun. But as the story goes on, the other emotions come forward and work together to keep her balanced, productive and a functional part of humanity. Joy never understood why Sadness was even there because all she did was make Riley mopey and blah. But we’ll soon understand that, without Sadness, Riley would forever be alone.


Core Memories – Riley’s personality was built around her experiences. When a major event in her life takes place, she develops what’s called a “Core Memory”. It isn’t explained in the film who decides which memories will be core, but it does show that they have a profound effect on Riley, making her who she is in the world.

We as Christians should help our brains decide which memories should be core. Primarily, those memories should be times or events where God has been clearly revealed to us. With such memories, we can always fall back on them when we get confused or scared. The Bible tells us to remember God’s miracles, to tell our kids about His great works. This involves our personal experiences of God’s power, as well as those throughout History that have brought us to this point. We have the fullest, most honest view of the world when we stand on His faithfulness.

sadSadness – Joy doesn’t understand Sadness and pretty much never lets her near the control panel because, frankly, she’s a downer. Sadness takes the best moments in Riley’s life and turns them blue. It seems like Riley would be better off without Sadness in her head. But Joy eventually realizes that it is in Sadness that Riley realizes she needs other people, and in seeing her sad that other people come together to build her back up again.

A question that is often asked by seekers is, “Why does a good God allow sadness?” And this film shows us why. Without it, we wouldn’t know that something was wrong. We wouldn’t know that we were missing something, Someone. God. Without sadness, we would forever be alone. In our sadness we realize that something isn’t right, that we aren’t ok on our own. We find fellowship with others who come along side us to build us up, and we also find God waiting with open arms saying, “I’ve been waiting for this day, the day you would come back to Me.” In our sadness we realize our need for God. Of course, in Eternity, sadness will pass away because we will be with Him in every way.


Joy – Joy realizes that our memories don’t have to be 100% joyful, 100% angry, etc. The emotions team gets a control panel with which they all work together (instead of just one big button, like Joy started with) and the memories they make can be blends of emotion. When they are, they are more powerful memories. The core memory that Sadness and Joy made together became a “land” that’s much larger and more sustainable than any of the earlier ones, which were all based on solely joyful memories.

This is a beautiful illustration of what the Bible tells us to do. That is rejoice in all circumstances. When we are angry, rejoice as well. When we are disgusted, rejoice! When we are scared or sad, rejoice! Joy does play a really important role, she reminds us to rejoice in the Lord always.


The Title “Inside Out” – The flow of who we are on the inside goes out into the world: Inside -> Out. We do bad things because we are at our core broken/wrong/evil. This is a consequence of original sin and of our individual bends. Christ said it is not what goes into a man that makes him evil, but what comes out of him.

By grace, we have been saved and indwelt with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inside of us is what allows us to choose to do what’s right. With Him, we press the right buttons, flip the right switches and get the right ideas. Of course, the old man rises up from time to time which can really bring us down. But in our Sadness, re’Joy’ce, and draw close to Him.


Discussion Questions:

  1. The Core Memories were important memories that helped make Riley a strong and pleasant girl. The Bible tells us to remember the times when God has done great things in the world or in our lives so that we can look back on them and know that He was with us and will always be with us. What is a “Core Memory” you’d like to remember from your life? (Psalm 105:5, Matthew 28:20)
  2. At first, Sadness seemed like a real downer and everyone, even herself, thought that Riley would be better off without her. As it turns out, Sadness is what made Riley draw close to her family and friends, and what made them draw close to her. In a similar way, when we are sad, it reminds us that we need God, and that this world is not how it is meant to be. We can look forward to Eternity, when we will be with God in a perfect world without any need for sadness. Aren’t you glad that we have sadness so that we know something isn’t right and to seek God? (Jer 29:1-14, 2 Cor 7:10, Isaiah 35:10)
  3. In the end, Joy realizes that the best memories are a mix of different emotions. In fact, it is possible to have Joy in all situations, even sad and angry ones. The Bible tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. Because in all things God is working out His good plan. How can we rejoice when things don’t go well? [Remember that we can always trust in the Lord and that He’ll turn it around in the End.] (Philippians 4:4, Romans 8:28, Psalm 33:11)

Bonus: Do you remember someone in the film that gave up his life for a friend, just like Jesus did for us? (Bing-Bong, the imaginary friend, died to save Joy and ultimately Riley.)

Pray about it: Thank God for the gift of sadness, because without it we wouldn’t know we need Him or even that anything is wrong in the world.