Disney’s Inside Out 2 has a new character – and it’s an emotion we need to talk about with our kids

The Academy Award-winning animation returns to our screens next summer

New Inside Out 2 character Anxiety
(Image credit: Disney+)

Inside Out 2 is set to be released in June 2024, and with it, comes a brand new character: Anxiety. 

Voiced by Maya Hawke, Anxiety makes a big entrance, and introduces herself to main character Riley’s other main emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – complete with her six suitcases of emotional baggage. 

It’s been eight years since the first film was released, which quickly became one of the must-see Disney movies for kids. Now that Riley is a teenager in the sequel, it’s no surprise to see this new emotion turn up – and become the ‘villain’ in the movie. Following her dramatic arrival – as shown in the trailer below – it surely won’t be long before she takes over the other emotions Riley has to deal with. 

The introduction of this new emotion is a welcome move by the director – Pete Docter – helping to normalise signs of anxiety in a world where supporting children’s mental health is arguably more important than ever.

Helping to normalise anxious feelings 

Psychologist and Relationship Adviser, Barbara Santini, tells us that recognising anxiety as a vital part of the emotional spectrum is crucial for children: “By giving Anxiety a character, the film normalises this often-stigmatised emotion. 

“It's an opportunity to educate children that feeling anxious is not inherently bad and that it can be a natural response to certain situations.” 

As Riley learns to deal with difficult situations like discovering her identity, pressures at school, and making friends as a 13-year-old, viewers get to see her capacity for emotions expanding which, in turn, helps children – and adults – identify what triggers anxiety, and how to cope with it, says Barbara: “Whether it’s deep breathing, mindfulness or seeking support, these strategies can be woven into the narrative, providing children and parents with practical tools.” 

According to charity Young Minds, one in six children aged between five and 16 were predicted to have problems with their mental health and so this inclusion of Anxiety has the potential to really open doors for more of a parent-child dialogue too, explains Barbara. 

“It encourages openness and can be a starting point for families to discuss their own experiences with anxiety, fostering understanding and support. Inside Out and its sequel are not only tools for understanding emotions, but also platforms for discussion and education about mental health,” she concludes.

Emotions from Inside Out 2: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness

Emotions Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness meeting Anxiety for the first time.

(Image credit: Disney+)

How Inside Out helped us talk to kids about their emotions 

When it hit our screens back in 2015, Inside Out was praised for its ability to teach kids about emotions and mental health in an engaging and accessible way. It gave parents a gateway to how to start a conversation about mental health with your children, and helped them to understand that it’s OK to feel a range of emotions, including sadness or anger.

Goodto Family Editor, Stephanie Lowe, is a big fan of Inside Out for this very reason: “As a mum, I am obsessed with feelings – allowing space for them, teaching that it’s okay and normal to have them, and learning how to regulate them – both mine and my son's.

“This movie was the gift that kept on giving in terms of ideas for me on how to navigate my son’s feelings, especially when he was a toddler and the frustration was huge. It’s quite complex for kids to fully understand though, such as how important it is to show your emotions so that other people will know when you need care and attention.

“This can be tricky for kids aged four to six, as they have the feeling but developmentally they won’t know how to communicate that feeling as they don’t know the words.”

“This movie was the gift that kept on giving in terms of ideas for me on how to navigate my son’s feelings"

Goodto Family Editor Stephanie Lowe

4 things to talk to your kids about after watching Inside Out

  • 1. Starting the conversation: Inside Out is all about welcoming emotions – good and bad – so it may be useful to talk to them about when they’ve felt these emotions, and how they’ve dealt with them. 
  • 2. Dealing with complex emotions: The film illustrates how emotions can work in tandem. Help your children to understand that emotions can coexist and use Barbara’s example for guidance: you can feel sad about a loss and still find moments of joy in memories.
  • 3. Encouraging emotional intelligence and empathy: It’s important for children to recognise feelings in others and pick up emotional cues so they can make stronger bonds. Talk to them about how they can respect those feelings, and react to them – if they feel angry, they might need some space, or if someone is feeling down, you can help to cheer them up by making them laugh. 
  • 4. Coping with change and loss: Another big theme of the show is grief and loss, and how significant experiences shape a person’s identity and personality. Discuss how inner thoughts and feelings are easier to deal with when they are shared with someone they trust. 

Watch the trailer for Inside Out 2 

How Inside Out used expert research

Director Pete Docter sought advice from emotion consultants to create Inside Out. Scientists from the Paul Ekman Group (PEG) were at the heart of this research, and offered their expert insights to the Inside Out writing team to portray the complex nature of emotions.

Inparticular, they focussed on a new approach to sadness. A blog on the PEG website reads: Its central insight: Embrace sadness, let it unfold, engage patiently with a preteen’s emotional struggles. Sadness will clarify what has been lost (childhood) and move the family toward what is to be gained: the foundations of new identities, for children and parents alike.”

In an interview for the Pacific Standard, Emotions Expert Dacher Keltner, who advised director Pete Docter, said having emotions like Joy and Sadness work together was a pivotal part of the movie: “One of the things I really resonated with is that we have a naive view in the West that happiness is all about the positive stuff. But happiness in a meaningful life is really about the full array of emotions, and finding them in the right place. 

“I think that is a subtext of the movie: The parents want Riley to just be their happy little girl. And she can't. She has to have this full complement of emotions to develop. I think we all need to remember that. This is a weakness in Western culture and the United States. You need sadness, you need anger, you need fear.”

For more film recommendations, we think these are the 50 family movies every child should watch before they turn 16 and discover how watching Disney films with your kids can be beneficial for their emotional growth. 

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.