Pixar’s new movie “Inside Out” takes place in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, as she navigates life ruled by her five competing emotions. Amy Poehler plays “Joy,” a bundle of upbeat energy that works to keep Riley optimistic as she balances the more negative forces of Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Anger (played by Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith and Lewis Black, respectively).
Speaking to Vanity Fair's Julie Miller at Cannes, a newly redheaded Amy Poehler discusses why she was so intrigued by the project (other than that it was Pixar, which she refers to as “the gold standard”).
“I do feel like I love that time when we were not polluted yet by boyfriends and society and starting to have to narrow down who we are and what we want to do,” Poehler explained. “But just that sweaty 11-year-old body. Girls that age are just, like, super-free—not all of them—but they haven’t yet put as many limitations on themselves. It’s really a nostalgic time and you don’t have to be a parent to connect with the subject.”
The themes of the film are ones Poehler has tackled before; Through her Smart Girls’ Organization, Poehler has worked to pioneer a new mode of educational programming that helps "young people cultivate their authentic selves" while emphasizing "intelligence and imagination over fitting in," according to the organization's mission statement. “The interesting thing about the young generation is that they’ve grown up in this digital age, so they can spot authenticity really fast," Poehler told VF. "So if you just say, 'I think I want to see what young girls are up to,' it doesn’t work. They know where you are coming from—a manufactured place. And Pete Docter, who did 'Inside Out'—the film is based on his daughter’s [emotional coming-of-age], who was the voice in 'Up.' So her tiny little voice is the girl in 'Up' and then, like every kid does, even though you try to stop it, they grow up. So his stuff came from a real place. So that baseline informs the movie.”
Poehler also fielded a question about young women making a difference in the world today (like Emma Watson, who she agrees "is doing an amazing job") with an answer that seemed to come right from the mouth of Joy herself.
“From just a straight-up artistic, creative, and dramatic perspective, I have so much faith in the generation that is coming up, and young women are very inspiring to me," she said. "The way that some women are using their capital, and figuring out what their currency is—‘What do I want to do with the currency that was either earned or given to me?’ And when people use it in an unexpected or empowering way, or they add value... because it’s not always someone’s first instinct or the easiest path.”