Inside Out 2 Is For The Anxious Girls & Amy Poehler Thinks That’s A Good Thing

After nine long years, Pixar has finally returned with the highly anticipated sequel to everyone's favorite moody animation film: Inside Out 2. The original movie, Inside Out, carved a special place in our hearts with its clever yet hauntingly accurate portrayal of complex emotions, shining a light on often overlooked feelings like sadness, grief, and loss. While it's technically a children's film, the Pixar classic also offered invaluable lessons to many adults, helping us to understand ourselves and emotions better. It gently embraced our inner children, teaching us to move forward with compassion and to hold space for all our feelings — the big ones, the little ones, the joyful ones, and the sad ones.
Set within the mind, the Inside Out world sees major actors take on major feelings, including Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Lewis Black as Anger, Bill Hader as Fear, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, and of course, award-winning comedian and film legend Amy Poehler as the always peppy and bubbly Joy.
Now, Inside Out 2 follows Riley as she grows from an 11-year-old to a 13-year-old, officially entering her teenage years and all the challenges that come with them, including puberty. Notably, Riley's journey through adolescence introduces a few new emotions many of us know all too well, including Embarrassment and Ennui (the French word for boredom). Joining the emotional lineup are Envy, voiced by Emmy winner Ayo Edebiri, and Maya Hawke taking on perhaps the most relatable and debilitating emotion of all — Anxiety.
While conversations about mental health have come a long way since the first movie was released, experiences of anxiety and mental health issues can still be quite stigmatizing. But for Poehler, the arrival of Anxiety is an opportunity to normalize discussions and conversations about mental health.
"Anxiety shows up for a reason," Amy Poehler tells Refinery29. "I think we tend to want to push anxiety away — 'Don't worry about it, it's fine!' We want to kind of get it out of our life. But what I think is really cool is they [the filmmakers] let anxiety show up to protect Riley."

"This movie does not gaslight you."

Amy Poehler on Inside Out 2
Like its predecessor, Inside Out 2 seeks to educate children about their emotions and help adults understand what may have been happening in their minds for years but that they've never quite been able to verbalize. Anyone who has experienced anxiety will know the feeling all too well: the inability to stop ruminating, clammy hands, and a perpetually racing heart. The sense that something bad is about to happen, even though it never really does. A constant hum in your chest and at the bottom of your throat. With often debilitating symptoms like these, it can be hard to see any silver linings to anxiety.
But Amy Poehler does. "Anxiety gives us a lot of information," she says. "It can be really like an engine that gets us to do things and it's not all bad."
"But what is unfortunate is when anxiety takes over the controls and kind of stops us from the joy we're supposed to have or even just gets in the way of relationships, like when it really shuts us down," she continues. "A little anxiety is okay, it's why we survive. It's okay to be a little cautious or to have a big feeling about the world. The world is a scary place and there's a lot to worry about."
"This movie does not gaslight you," she laughs.
For Poehler, the sequel comes at a crucial time. Amid climate change, a raging cost-of-living crisis, and never-ending conflict, our feeds are filled with anxiety-inducing material that we doom-scroll without even thinking. Poehler acknowledges the pervasive anxiety many young people are experiencing: "We throw the word anxious around a lot, but it's real," she says. "There's an epidemic of anxiety all across the world; young people really feel it."
But she hopes the film will help people gain a sense of belonging and understanding with others who might be experiencing similar struggles. "What Inside Out does so well is it kind of hides all of those vegetables in just a very funny, active comedy," she explains. "So you're not feeling like you're being taught or lectured to — you just walk away thinking, 'Oh, isn't that funny that I do that too?'"

"One of the sad and hard things about getting older is you have to make room for joy. It doesn't come as naturally as when you're little. So you have to keep making sure you make some room for it."

Amy Poehler
When it comes to her own experiences, Poehler says that she resonates deeply with the feelings of anxiety depicted in the film. Having previously spoken about her ongoing social anxiety and her battle with postpartum depression, the actress, comedian, writer, producer, and director is no stranger to the emotions that Inside Out 2 brings to the forefront.
At 52 years old, Poehler says that her relationship with anxiety and happiness has changed over the years. "One of the sad and hard things about getting older is you have to make room for joy," she shares. "It doesn't come as naturally as when you're little. So you have to keep making sure you make some room for it."
In Inside Out 2, Poehler embodies Joy in the most literal sense. While the relationship between comedians and poor mental health has been extensively documented (dubbed the 'Sad Clown Paradox'), Poehler says that while she does gravitate towards happier roles and seeks to make people laugh, one of the gifts about getting older is that she's able to sit in all her emotions — not just the "good" ones.
"I've played a lot of characters that are kind of like the engine who pushes things along, you know, at best, they're joyous, at worst, they're pushy and it's self-serving," she says, seemingly nodding to her iconic role as the effervescent Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation. "But I think we all have complex sides of ourselves," she continues. "I don't feel that anymore — that I have to be particularly one way or the other. It's nice!"
"I think that's one of the nice things about getting older," she says. "You hopefully have some experience with a bunch of emotions and you can see who shows up."
Inside Out 2 is in theaters June 14.

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