Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.“ – Matthew 5:4
My husband and I watched Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out this weekend. It was so stressful. We wondered how children managed coping with the anxiousness of the story. Riley, the heroine of the film, is an 11y/o who moved with her parents far away from her hometown. The story tells how she deals with that move with the help of her emotions (5 in particular – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust).
Happy, happy, happy little Joy is the moon-faced, darling emotion of Riley’s. The tension in the story is Joy’s attempt at damage control as little Sadness begins coloring some of Riley’s happy memories “blue”. The plot twists and turns as Joy tries to right Riley’s world. She is pulled into a journey with Sadness alongside and spends most of the film trying to get back to Riley’s “presence of mind”. Meanwhile, Anger, Fear, and Disgust do what they can to help Riley maneuver through her day…without Joy and Sadness’s help. It’s a scary prospect.
I’m thinking children must get caught up in the adventure, the mesmerizing visuals and the familiar faces of these emotions. For me, it was just stressful.
I have a huge respect and admiration for Ed Catmull after hearing him speak at Global Leadership Summit 2015. Catmull heads the work of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios. Dave recently read his book Creativity, Inc. and so enjoyed it that I’m reading it also.
Photo Credit: Brainpickings.org
Watching Inside Out, my mind wandered to the creative teams at Disney/Pixar. What were they thinking?! Then later, I had second thoughts on the film…after watching bits again as our youngest son, visiting over the weekend, watched it on pay-per-view.
He, too, also thought it was stressful, but as I watched his face, watching the film…I saw what we might have missed as older ones watching. Wonder, surprise, vexation, empathy. In the strong face of this young man, I saw the response to the film maybe hoped for by the creators. The audience identifying with the film…and in the end…understanding and a sweet resolution of the seeming conflict between Joy and Sadness.
On that second watching (both the film and watching my son watching), I liked Inside Out much better. It helped me to Google that great “Aha!” moment of Joy’s – when she discovered:
“Sadness…Mom and Dad, the team…they came to help because of sadness.”
No spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen the film, but for me, a couple of articles really resonated (see below). I struggle personally with sadness which shades the joy I also experience. Then that same joy re-colors the sadness, bringing perspective and healing. Josh Larsen, in an article on the Think Christian website, wrote beautifully about this film’s message (at a deeper level):
It’s a rich subject – one mined with Pixar’s usual combination of wit, intelligence and emotional resonance – and also one that echoes a Christian understanding of the human experience. Christianity, after all, is an expression of joy in response to – not in denial of – deep sadness…we can’t fully understand our place in God’s story unless we’ve experienced sadness of some sort. It isn’t until we recognize the deep sorrow of this world – the Fall, and our perpetuation of its effects – that we can fully appreciate the almost laughable generosity of Christ’s redemptive act. And only then will we know true joy, the fairy-tale ending that is God’s restoration of His creation. – Josh Larsen
Toward the end of the film, there’s a lovely moment between Riley and her parents. She finally comes to terms with her deep sadness in moving away from home. It’s a place all of us have been if we linger with a person grieving…a person who knows we love them.
I was reminded how sadness sometimes overtakes us and it’s best confronted head-on in all its real…on-another’s-shoulder…Riley, tears spilling down her face, doesn’t hold back as she pours out her grief to her parents. As they cradle her into their arms they, too, confess their own sadness. Then it happens…that last wet-faced shudder into Daddy’s chest; that deep sigh…all cried out.
That’s what we love about Disney/Pixar…and the God-given emotions of joy and sadness…especially when love is in the mix.