“I zeroed in on the idea of Anxiety being a major character,” says ‘Inside Out’ director Kelsey Mann

A sequel to the 2015 Oscar-winning animated film about the five emotions that govern the mind of a young girl, Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” revisits the characters who made feelings famous. Joy, Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness are all back to play havoc in Riley Andersen’s mind, but this time, they are joined by Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment and Ennui.

(L-R) Sam Richardson, Ayo Edebiri, and Nicole Boyd attend the World Premiere of Inside Out 2 at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California

Now on the verge of puberty and about to begin high school, it’s the perfect canvas for Anxiety as Riley craves acceptance and juggles social interactions with new friends. Hockey is still Riley’s passion and a big part of her story this time, and as the film begins, she and her besties (voiced by Grace Lu and Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green) are invited to join an elite summer hockey camp before they start high school.

(L-R) Samantha Smith, Kensington Tallman and Tony Hale at the film’s premiere

She desperately wants to succeed at camp and with new friends, tryouts and big changes, Anxiety is determined to make sure Riley fits in with her high school peers at all costs. She’s armed with a meticulously organized list to ensure she never makes a mistake. Before we know it, Joy and Sadness are swept away and more sophisticated and suppressed emotions make their debut inside her mind.

Joy, Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness return to Inside Out 2

“Inside, Riley is still that eternally happy kid her friends and family know and love, but with her Sense of Self rapidly changing, she struggles to balance the challenges of her new world. “Physically,” says Mann, “she’s had a huge growth spurt, she has braces and she’s got acne.”

Anxiety is a major character in the sequel

It’s a relatable sequel which hits all the right emotional notes with Anxiety resonating the most especially as Mental Health Awareness was just celebrated last month.

As with any kid flick, everything always works out, but it’s Riley’s emotional and mental journey that makes it watchable as the film acknowledges that as kids grow into teens, more complex emotions enter the picture.

Joining the cast are Maya Hawke as Anxiety, Ayo Edebiri as Envy, Paul Walter Hauser as Embarrassment and Adèle Exarchopoulos as Ennui (Disdain/Boredom/Blase).

(L-R) Amy Poehler and Ayo Edebiri

“I zeroed in on the idea of Anxiety being a major character,” Mann continues. “It’s something that really starts to appear as we become teenagers—we can all relate. I remember doing a lot of research early on about what happens in our brains at this age that triggered this idea of a wrecking ball coming through Headquarters—a bunch of workers piling in and tearing everything down. It’s a renovation—that’s kind of what it feels like to be a teenager. It’s chaotic.”

The movie also wraps up with an affecting message that it’s okay to be anxious. This also reflects Joy, the persistent leader who’s been trying hard to keep Riley as positive as possible as she strives to impress her no-nonsense hockey coach (voiced by Yvette Nicole Brown) who isn’t afraid to dole out consequences.

Ayo Edebiri

It’s a tale about the pain of growing up and handling bigger and newer emotions and it’s a sequel that has the charm and humor that one expects from a Pixar flick.

“Inside Out 2” releases in theaters June 14th

Samantha Ofole-Prince is a journalist and movie critic who covers industry-specific news that includes television and film. She serves as the Entertainment Editor for Trendy Africa. Premiere photos by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images for Disney/Pixar

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