Amy Poehler says Inside Out 2's approach to anxiety ‘so smart’

The Joy voice actor speaks to Yahoo UK about the dangers of letting anxiety take over

Watch: Amy Poehler discusses Inside Out 2's approach to anxiety

Pixar's Inside Out brought emotions into the spotlight, and helped give viewers whether they were adults or children the chance to speak openly about them and understand them better, something the sequel hopes to do with anxiety star Amy Poehler says.

Inside Out 2 returns to the mind of Riley, who has become a teen since the events of the first Inside Out and is going through all the confusing emotions that puberty brings. Anxiety (Maya Hawke) is the leader of the pack of new emotions, who pushes Joy (Poehler) and the others out in order to take control.

Poehler tells Yahoo UK that having this narrative at the Pixar film's heart is "so smart" because it is something that will resonate with audience members at any age, and will even help those who are older to "talk to [their] younger selves" about the danger of letting anxiety take over.

"I think what Pixar does so well is they take these high concepts and they create this visual landscape that can help us communicate better and talk about stuff," the Joy voice actor says.

Inside Out 2 (Disney)
Inside Out 2 introduces Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, who takes over Riley's emotional state and wreaks havoc as a result. (Pixar/Disney)

"In the first one they managed to find a way to remind us that sadness is[okay], it's okay to sit with sadness and just stay there, which is such a beautiful idea, and [in] the second one anxiety shows up and gets everyone all bothered.

"And what they do creatively and visually is they make it... the best way I can describe is there are scenes in the film where anxiety is taking over and changing things, the way in which anxiety is enlisting other people to worry is super funny and so smart.

"So I think it's going to be another version of that where you're going to be able to talk to your younger self or your young kids about what anxiety does when it's left unchecked, and in a funny, interesting visual way."

Emotions Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (Liza Lapira) must make room for new Emotions, including Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Anxiety (Maya Hawke) and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) in Inside Out 2. (Pixar/Disney)
Amy Poehler, who voices Joy, said of the film: 'The way in which anxiety is enlisting other people to worry is super funny and so smart.' (Pixar/Disney)

"You're just like, 'yep, that's how it feels and that's how it looks,'" Poehler adds. "Like who knew that it would look like this big mouth with crazy teeth [and] electric hair."

The film's director Kelsey Mann said that he hopes the film will be "helpful" to everyone who watches, as he says: "That's the part that was so exciting about working on this movie is that the first film does three things: it's a really funny movie, that's the hope, it's really imaginative and it made a meaningful impact on the world.

"I want to do all three of these with this movie, and especially that last one too. Rile's a teenager so she's getting into more things and that was a really hard time in my life, being a teenager. And so if we can do something to kind of expand out that vocabulary and have people talk about those more complicated emotions, it'll just be helpful."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 03: Amy Poehler attends the UK Talent Photocall & Q+A Event for Pixar's
Amy Poehler said thanks to the film 'you're going to be able to talk to your younger self or your young kids about what anxiety does when it's left unchecked'. (Getty Images)

Poehler first played Joy in the 2015 animated movie and admits she was pleasantly surprised by how it "resonated" with viewers which she was mindful of when returning to the sequel almost a decade later.

"I think I felt a great responsibility to do a good job and to deliver," the actor says. "I just felt really privileged and honoured to be part of the first one, I couldn't believe what a beautiful movie it was. The journey of winning the Oscar and going around the world and promoting it, like we're doing now, was so joyous, truly.

"So I just wanted to make sure that I showed up and did my job, and did it well. I did learn people care very, very much about what that movie meant to them, and I think that ten years later they've grown up and they're excited to see if the movie has too."

One way that the film does so is by exploring the idea of a person's belief system and how it can develop into their sense of self, with Riley's experiences and memories shaping who she is. Poehler was particularly impressed with this notion, she says: "Pixar creates this beautiful visual, it's almost looks like these harp strings come out from the bottom of Riley and it's 'who am I? What do I care about? Am I a good friend? Do I steal? Do I want to win?' the stuff that we all start to build in our life.

Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Joy (Amy Poehler) walking through Riley's Sense of Self. (Pixar/Disney)
Sadness and Joy walking through Riley's Sense of Self, and Amy Poehler said: 'I love that as an idea, because I do think that our belief systems have to constantly be challenged'. (Pixar/Disney)

"And so they set up the system that anxiety starts to compromise. I love that as an idea, because I do think that our belief systems have to constantly be challenged, maintained cleaned. They can get corrupted, that big idea is so juicy, but in typical Pixar form it's just funny, beautiful and cool."

The actor adds that she is "100%" behind Pixar continuing to explore Riley's life as she gets older, saying that "it could be as simple as we meet Riley when she's graduating high school to she's having her first experience of romantic love."

"I mean anything I can think of Pixar would think of a much better, more creative version," Poehler jokes. "But yes, it would be amazing to keep following her and in a way, and keep tracking [her emotions] because that's really what we're doing."

Inside Out 2 is out now in cinemas.