As our girl Riley enters her teen years, the emotions of Inside Out are back just in time for an eventful sequel to the beloved Pixar film.

In Inside Out 2, returning characters like Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), Disgust (Liza Lapira), and Joy (Amy Poehler) help Riley navigate her teenage years, but not without the assistance of newcomers: Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Envy (Ayo Edebiri). The emotions find themselves at a crossroads, debating the best way to help Riley as she deals with new feelings and puberty. They soon realize that the only person who truly matters in all of this is their sweet Riley.

The age of Riley in 'Inside Out 2'

“I think we wanted her to be at that age where she’s just become a teenager,” director Kelsey Mann told Blavity. “When I started this movie in January 2020, my daughter was 13 and my son was 14. It’s such an interesting time because you’re going through a lot of changes. She had a growth spurt, she was suddenly taller than my wife, and you start to get braces… there’s a lot of changes going on. You’re also transitioning from middle school to high school, and I wanted to mark that age versus having been in high school for a couple of years. That’s why I chose 13.”

The new emotions in 'Inside Out 2'

Producer Mark Nielsen also explained the vetting process for bringing on new emotions like Anxiety.

“Kelsey and I talked a lot with experts about what emotions come on strong at this age,” Nielsen said. “Anxiety was one that Kelsey had been thinking of from the very beginning, even pre-pandemic. It’s something you could relate to from your childhood. Anxiety seemed like a really rich one to explore. Since the pandemic, it’s increased in teens and adults. It’s very relevant today, so we wanted to explore how to have that be the character that would stage a bit of a takeover in this movie. But we wanted to also treat her not too villainously, because we want to be truthful to anxiety and the fact that it does have a place in our lives.”

The distinction between fear and anxiety

It was important for the filmmakers and cast alike to understand each of the emotions and how they work together to coexist in a person’s life.

“When I started this project, I really wanted a distinction between fear and anxiety,” said Tony Hale, who voices Fear in both the original Inside Out and the sequel. “Fear is the reaction to an actual threat, and anxiety is the perceived threat. With Riley, just with hockey, everything’s like, ‘She needs her mouth guard, watch out.’ When the sarcasm shows up, he’s going to react to that. Whereas anxiety creates all these scenarios of the ‘what if’ and ‘if I do this,’ she’s more the planner while Fear is focused on what’s in front of him.”

“They’re cut from the same cloth,” he continued, honing in on his character’s fascination with newcomer Anxiety. “Just like everybody, Fear kind of feels like, ‘Is anybody else watching out? Is anybody else kind of paying attention to this chaos we’re in?’ And when she’s the one that’s paying attention to the chaos, he doesn’t feel so alone. He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a partner here.’”

“I think it’s of the time period that we’re in,” Maya Hawke explained of Anxiety’s place in the film and in Riley’s life. “There’s a lot of different emotions that take on different significance at different moments in time. It’s been a brutal last couple of years, and it’s a really anxious time to be a person. So I feel so lucky that I get to voice this character that feels so necessary right now.”

As the new emotions learn their roles in Riley’s life, the old ones are learning important lessons about growing alongside her.

“I think all of those core emotions from the first one have evolved in the sense that they’ve understood, after the time that has passed and because of maturity, how much each one needs each other,” said Lewis Black. “So there’s growth in terms of that. My character’s beginning to show some empathy, which is really unbelievable. But really, they begin to understand how to use their emotion to help the other emotions.”

Similarly, Liza Lapira shared that Disgust’s role in Riley’s life is more important than ever and extremely necessary in her teen years.

“She’s the most suited for the teenage years because, when I first got the job, I thought Disgust is the most teenager-like. ‘I’m not going to do that. That’s gross. I’m not going to wear that. That’s disgusting. It’s not cool enough.’ And she, too, integrates the emotions now. They’re not working on their own. Like, Anger in this movie has a moment with Joy where they integrate and work together, and that’s what happens with Disgust. She works with Anger and Fear a lot, too.”

Ultimately, the biggest lesson for all the emotions, old and new, is to learn that it’s okay to take a backseat as Riley grows older. It won’t be possible to keep her happy and away from danger all the time.

“What she learned is that joy can’t be forced,” said Amy Poehler, who voices Joy. “And when it is forced, it can actually make someone feel pretty lonely and not seen. So there’s room for Joy, just like all the emotions, but you can’t force it. I think she also learns that change is inevitable. Just when we think we’ve got something down, there’s a great beginning in the film where Riley is 12 and Joy’s like, ‘We are done. We did it.’ And I think Joy learns that the only thing you can count on is change.”

When 'Inside Out 2' will be on Disney+ and more

Inside Out 2 is now playing in theaters nationwide, and will be available for streaming on Disney+ in the coming months.

Fans also have the opportunity to engage further with the film through new Disneyland offerings, including “Emotional Rollercoaster,” a limited-time water short presented ahead of “World of Color – ONE,” and a character experience with Anger at the Pixar Pier Band Shell in Disney California Adventure Park.