'Inside Out 2' cast on why the messages of the film are universal

"Inside Out 2" is now playing in theaters nationwide.

June 14, 2024, 4:13 AM

Disney and Pixar's "Inside Out 2" is finally here!

The Kelsey Mann-directed film picks up not long after where the 2015 hit "Inside Out” left off and explores new emotional themes.

Riley (Kensington Tallman), now 13 and entering her teenage years, navigates life with a kaleidoscope of emotions in her mind, including Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Tony Hale), Disgust (Liza Lapira) and Anger (Lewis Black) -- characters familiar from the first film.

Joining them are a group of new emotions: Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) and even a few brief moments of Nostalgia (June Squibb).

In an interview with "Good Morning America," the cast and crew discussed how Riley transitions into her teenage years in the new movie, making the emotional landscape more complex and unpredictable, reflecting the chaotic journey of adolescence.

Inside Out 2, releases only in theaters Summer 2024.
PIXAR

Relevance to today's youth

To authentically reflect the feelings faced by today's youth, the sequel addresses the heightened anxiety and stress that come with entering your teenage years.

"This generation of kids has been through the pandemic and everything else we've had to go through," said Hawke, whose new character Anxiety plays an integral role in the film. "They are dealing with a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, and a lot of social discomfort from learning how to reincorporate their lives with other young people."

"I think that this movie takes that seriously and actualizes these feelings," she added.

Mann said the team consulted a group of "incredibly helpful" 13-year-old girls while making the film to ensure Riley's emotional state was reflected accurately.

"I guess the best part was getting their notes on what what resonated with them -- what felt true, what felt like they could they could relate to," he said. "To have their direct connection to it was immensely helpful."

Hauser, who voices Embarrassment, reiterated the idea that the film isn't just for kids, though, and adults can also gain valuable insights into the emotional worlds of teenagers through the film.

Speaking on the message of the film, he shared, "Your emotions are going to brim up and feel like they're overflowing, but you don't have to change who you are your core -- or stretch your ethical moral value in moments of choppy waters. You just have to cling to the people, like your friends and your family, and also be able to talk about it. And I think these movies really start conversations for people to talk about emotions -- young or old."

A scene from "Inside Out 2."
PIXAR

'A period of significant change and growth'

"Inside Out 2" begins with chaos, reflecting the turmoil of adolescence.

"I had an idea very early on, and I wanted a wrecking ball to come smashing through Headquarters," Mann told "GMA." "That came from the research of what goes on in our brains at this age -- we go through a lot of changes, which I think is fantastic for a sequel."

Mann emphasized the importance of evolution in sequels, aiming to expand and grow rather than simply repeating past successes.

Approaching nine years since the release of the first film, technological advancements have played a crucial role in bringing this sequel to life.

(L-R) Mark Nielsen and Kelsey Mann attend the World Premiere of Disney and Pixar's "Inside Out 2" at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. on June 10, 2024.
Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Mark Nielsen, the film's producer, noted, "The technology totally changed in those nine years. We had to reconfigure the underlying technology for how to create the emotions and what they were going to look like.”

This leap allowed Pixar to enhance the visual storytelling, making Riley's emotional journey even more vivid and relatable.

"It was a lot of work by our technical teams, huge groups of people working for over a year, just to bring the characters up so they looked like the ones you know and love from the first film," Nielsen said.

'There is no such thing as a bad emotion'

At its core, "Inside Out 2" reinforces the message that all emotions are valid and serve a purpose.

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Poehler, reprising her role as Joy, underscored this, sharing, "There is no such thing as a bad emotion. Emotions come to help us. Even Anxiety, which might seem like the villain, can be helpful and beautiful if integrated with the others."

Tallman, who voices Riley, said, "Riley's sense of self really starts to change -- her personality starts to change with her new emotions coming in. She really wants to try to fit in, which is totally normal. I understand that completely."

PHOTO: Kensington Tallman, Liza Lapira, June Squibb, Yvette Nicole Brown, Maya Hawke, Amy Poehler, Ayo Edebiri, Tony Hale and Lewis Black attend the World Premiere of Disney and Pixar's "Inside Out 2" at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on June 10, 2024.
(L-R) Kensington Tallman, Liza Lapira, June Squibb, Yvette Nicole Brown, Maya Hawke, Amy Poehler, Ayo Edebiri, Tony Hale and Lewis Black attend the World Premiere of Disney and Pixar's "Inside Out 2" at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. on June 10, 2024.
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

She added, "But what Riley taught me is that it's OK. Just being ourselves is enough."

Lapira, joining the cast as the voice of Disgust, also highlighted the protective nature of emotions.

"I want people to know that these emotions aren't good or bad and that they exist to protect us … they're supposed to be accepted and listened to," said Lapira.

Hale, who voices Fear, added that he hopes the film will help people to feel "more seen" and serve as a reminder that "you're not defined by just one emotion."

"Inside Out 2" is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News and "Good Morning America."

ABC News' Abigail Shalawylo contributed to this report.

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