According to the rules of Inside Out, each person's mind is a residence for a team of five emotions, consisting of versions of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. This is the core concept of Inside Out, and therefore, these characters, and in particular Riley Andersen's emotions, are its main characters. As a result, words like "Joy" and "Sadness" have come to exclusively refer to Riley's emotions, despite other teams appearing in Inside Out as well.
As a species, emotions have unique physiques. Rather than being made of solid material, they are made out of constantly emerging and disappearing particles, and such a particle effect becomes obvious whenever the camera zooms in on an emotion. In addition, they consistently lack certain body parts, such as ears for all emotions, a nose for Anger and toes for Joy, but are in no way handicapped by this lack, still being able to hear each other as normal.
Emotions work in a person's Headquarters. During the person's waking hours, they operate the console at Headquarters, the primary function of which is to generate and later recall memories. Each memory is colored according to the emotion that created it and, extremely rarely, might be a Core Memory, which is distinguished as being brighter and being seated separately in a holder from which it can power an Island of Personality. However, as Riley is the only person with known Core Memories and Islands of Personality, it is unclear if this holds for every mind.
During the person's sleep hours, emotions sleep together with them, except for one emotion who's ordered to go on Dream Duty, watching dreams, which are acted out live by Dream Productions and broadcast to Headquarters.
As Paul Ekman was the main psychologist consulted during the making of Inside Out, the emotions appearing mostly match up with the primary emotions in his model, with the only difference being the absence of surprise in Inside Out.
As a lead emotion, Joy is focused on optimism and having fun. Riley, for whom Joy is the lead emotion, tends to be optimistic, playful and enthusiastic about virtually anything she picks up. Another example of a mind led by Joy is that of the teacher, who is excited both to introduce Riley to her new class and for her trip to the Bahamas.
Little is known about Joy as a non-lead emotion. However, Jill's mind suggests that a non-lead Joy might still be focused on optimism, but not general carelessness.
A secondary aspect of Joy is confusion, as Riley's Joy is the first to react to unexpected circumstances. This partially relates to Surprise, an emotion in Ekman's model that was nevertheless cut from Inside Out, being seen as a mixture of joy and fear.
As a lead emotion, Sadness is focused on empathy and understanding. Jill, for whom Sadness is the lead emotion, is shown to care for Riley at every step of her way, acting motherly throughout the movie.
Given the role Riley's Sadness has for most of the movie, being not given any purpose by Joy to the point of receiving "circles" to keep her away from any business, Sadness's role as a non-lead emotion is unclear. However, the general tendency is that in minds where she doesn't lead, Sadness is focused on negativity and pessimism, rather than empathy. In addition, the "role" given to Riley's Sadness at the end of Inside Out only really works when she works in tandem with Joy; the treatment given to difficult times is to feel sad about them, rather than trying to suppress the emotion, and then move on.
A secondary aspect of Sadness is romantic love. During the trip of Riley's Joy and Sadness, it is Sadness who positively reacts to the imaginary boyfriend, whereas Joy and Bing Bong are disgusted.
As a lead emotion, Anger is focused on fairness and punishment for it. Bill, for whom Anger is the lead emotion, is generally down to business, to the part where he neglects his family in favor of his startup, and is quick to judge both Riley and Jordan for their actions.
As a non-lead emotion, Anger is mostly focused on rash, uncalled for decisions. For example, Riley's Anger is the pioneer behind the idea for her to move back to Minnesota, as well as the contributor to Riley's distinct personality when he is forced to take over as leader in Joy's absence. Similarly, Jill's Anger, alongside her Disgust, is the first to be fed up with Bill's ineptitude.
A secondary aspect of Anger, shared with Disgust, is sarcasm. Riley's Anger is the one to sarcastically suggest renting an elephant to go to Minnesota, before screaming at Fear for taking it literally.
As a lead emotion, Fear appears to have two distinct characteristics: introversion and hiding behind a mask. Among those for whom Fear is the lead emotion, Jordan is an example of the former, as he has trouble talking to girls and is unable to talk about himself in front of Riley's father, while the cool girl is an example of the latter, as emotions in her mind frequently comment on how their stance is difficult to keep up.
As a non-lead emotion, Fear is focused on safety, protecting their host. For example, Riley's Fear, in his introductory scene, makes Riley careful around a wire, making her carefully step over it. On the contrary, when Joy takes the lead again, she makes Riley run like crazy without much care for whether or not destruction has occurred.
A secondary aspect of Fear is logic and literalism. In addition to taking Anger's remark literally, Riley's Fear, during his Dream Duty, does a commentary of the dream throughout, realizing its predictability.
Little is known about Disgust as a lead emotion; no major Inside Out character has Disgust as their lead, and even out of those in the end credit sequence, the Yeast of Eden cashier appears to be the only one with Disgust in the lead. However, her example suggests that, in the lead position, Disgust may be primarily associated with apathy.
As a non-lead emotion, Disgust is focused on preventing their host from getting poisoned, "both physically and socially". For example, Riley's Disgust detests broccoli, being convinced it's a poisonous food, and makes frequent comments about fashion trends, to the point where a Fashion Island is established in Riley's mind.
In addition to sarcasm, a secondary aspect of Disgust is self-consciousness. Throughout Joy and Sadness's absence, Disgust is the one spearheading the opposition against Anger, wanting to remain "cool" in front of Riley's parents; however, much like Fear, Disgust is disregarded by Anger, though not to the point of physical violence.
Towards the end of Inside Out, it is shown that two emotions can create a memory simultaneously, leading to it having multiple colors. The first two emotions to do so are Riley's Joy and Sadness, who create a multi-colored Core Memory associated with homesickness and the bittersweetness of Riley returning to her parents. Many more multi-colored memories are seen later, such as the purple and green Core Memory associated with Riley reading a book (likely to be linked to Tragic Vampire Romance Island) and the yellow and red Core Memory associated with Riley's new Hockey Island. Despite this, the true feeling associated with each of them is unclear. In addition, while these emotion combinations are clearly intended as a sign of maturity, none of the adult characters seem to have memories created by multiple emotions.
As no human Inside Out character is physically injured, it is not clear as to which emotion would be associated with physical injuries. The most likely candidates are Sadness, who deals with general misfortunes, and Disgust, who deals with physical sensations, as part of her anti-poisoning attitude.
Fear: Team Happy! Sounds great!
Disgust: I'm totally behind you, Joy.
Joy: Looks like we're going into REM. I got Dream Duty, so I'll take care of sending these to Long Term. Great day today, guys! Sleep well TEAM HAPPY!”
Riley's mind is the main focus of Inside Out, and therefore, far more details are known about it and its emotions than those of other people. The leader of Riley's emotions is Joy, with Anger taking over as deputy leader while Joy and Sadness are absent throughout the plot of Inside Out. Collectively, Riley's emotions are known as "Team Happy".
These minds have only been seen in one or two scenes of Inside Out, and are more extensively developed in the companion short, Riley's First Date?.
Anger: I could strangle him right now!
Sadness: Signal him again.”
The leader of Jill's emotions is Sadness. A key feature of Jill's mind is the Brazilian helicopter pilot memory, which, while happy, is most often recalled by Anger, whenever she is fed up with Bill.
Fear: What? Uh, sorry, Sir. No one was listening.
Anger: Is it garbage night? We left the toilet seat up? What? What is it, woman, what?!?”
The leader of Bill's emotions is Anger (voiced by Pete Docter, the director of Inside Out). However, Fear is his second-in-command, and both Fear and Disgust are entrusted with keys to unlock features such as "the Foot" and "the Boot".
Joy: Probably your dumb hat. Hahaha.
Fear: (tackles Joy)
Disgust: (laughs at Fear and Joy, then falls off his skateboard)”
There is little organization in Jordan's mind, and his emotions are never seen together. However, limited scenes imply that Fear is the leader of Jordan's mind, which complements his introverted personality.
These minds have only been seen in the credits scene of Inside Out, and mostly exist for comic relief.
Disgust: How much more of this?
Sadness: Five months, two weeks and four days until summer vacation.
Joy: Then it's off to the Bahamas with you know who!
Helicopter pilot: Come fly with me, gatinha.
All emotions: (dreamily sigh)”
The leader of the emotions of Riley's teacher is Joy. The teacher and Jill share the Brazilian helicopter pilot memory, which the teacher's Joy recalls whenever the lessons are going slowly.
Anger: I don't know. Whatever Troy's mad about.
Disgust: What's Troy mad about?
Anger: I don't know.”
The leader of the emotions of the Yeast of Eden cashier is Disgust. She and Anger, who, outside of Riley's mind, is the only emotion to not share their host's gender, engage in a lackluster dialogue.
Anger: Of course not! We're wearing eye shadow!
Sadness: Being cool is so exhausting.”
Contrary to the cool girl's facade, the leader of her emotions is Fear. This showcases the many insecurities that the cool girl may have about herself.
Jangles the ClownEdit
A clown very similar to Jangles the Clown, residing in Riley's Subconscious, is seen, failing to amuse the children. While his lead emotion is Joy, said Joy primarily expresses disappointment.
Anger: You know what? This is okay. This is fine. We just need to go to our happy place.
Gum commercial: TripleDent Gum...
All emotions: (incomprehensible arguing)”
The leader of the emotions of Gary, the bus driver, is Anger, and all his other emotions are also shaped like Anger, complete with their heads lighting up whenever they hear the TripleDent Gum jingle, a memory of which Gary shares with Riley.
Disgust: The man has food.
Fear: Get the food.”
The leader of the dog's emotions is Joy. The dog's emotions are seen sitting right next to a console, which seems to be specifically designed for dogs, and work well together. They even communicate in a language equivalent, which is translated using subtitles.
Like Jordan, the cat's emotions are not seen together. However, the cat's Fear is seen stepping on the console, implying that it might be the leader of the cat's emotions. Unlike the dog, it is unknown if the cat's emotions are able to communicate. Also unlike the dog, the cat's console looks identical to that of prepubescent Riley.
Writer's Block: The ideas generally come upstairs, to Short-Term Memory, but Creativity never lets me there...
Creativity (narrating): Gee, I wonder why I don't.”
CreativityTheEmotion's mind is prominently seen in her fanfic CreativityTheEmotion Recounts. In it, there are two teams of emotions working in a single mind, each speaking only one language, and the English-speaking Joy, who also refers to herself as CreativityTheEmotion, is shown to be responsible for the host's creative output, hence implying a quasi-leadership.
Notably, this is the actual origin of the nickname that the creator of Inside Out parodies goes by; the fanfic was originally authored as ASBusinessMagnet and parodies usually had dual credits (as "ASBusinessMagnet / CreativityTheEmotion"), before a name switch in late 2018.
Anger: I knew it. I guess we will have to enact standard ranting procedure once again.
Fear: No! Not ranting again!”
The video "Inside Hitler" depicts Adolf Hitler's mind, repurposing clips from Bill's mind in German. Like Bill, thus, the leader of Hitler's emotions is Anger, though the effects he has on Hitler's mind are much more pronounced than those on Bill.
Whose Mind is This?Edit
This series, as a mind guessing game instance, features a wide range of characters from established fiction and their minds à la Inside Out. However, their identity is initially a mystery, and therefore they are listed here as a spoiler.
Surreal Animation leaderEdit
Anger: Of course not! Remember, time spent not as an admin of Pizza Planet is time during which new members can't join.”
The Fall and Rise of Surreal Animation depicts the mind of the leader of a Discord Server rivaling Pizza Planet, during her tumultuous times, as she had gone through three distinct Discord servers in a week's time. This is shown using the "Anger plans" scenes, implying that Anger is the leader of JP8K's emotions and ideas she has are primarily rushed and not thought through.
- It has been stated by Pete Docter that each emotion's design is based on a particular object or concept: a star for Joy, a teardrop for Sadness, a brick for Anger, a raw nerve for Fear and a head of broccoli for Disgust. This, in turn, leads to ship names in the fandom, such as "Starnerve" for Joy/Fear and "Brickoli" for Anger/Disgust.
- The particle effect shown by all emotions was initially only meant for Riley's Joy, and even then, the crew of Inside Out was getting ready to cut it due to it being expensive to produce. However, when John Lasseter, the then-CCO of Pixar, saw the effect, he liked it so much he ordered for it to be placed on all emotions.