'Inside Out 2' adds the new emotion Anxiety. Why that's important for kids.

Seeing frazzled Anxiety in animated form on the big screen will help children better understand the feelings that go along with that emotion.

Anxiety is a new emotion in the Inside Out sequel — and she steals the show in the film's trailer. (Pixar)

The Inside Out sequel will be dealing with some big feelings — and that's a good thing, according to one child development expert.

The trailer for the Disney Pixar film introduces the character Anxiety, who arrives with an armful of baggage as Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" plays. The new addition, voiced by Maya Hawke, is a fitting because Riley is now a teen in the midst of puberty and feeling more complex emotions beyond Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale, taking over for Bill Hader) and Disgust (Liza Lapira, taking over for Mindy Kaling). Anxiety is joined by other big feelings — reportedly Ennui, Embarrassment and Envy — but is clearly the new scene-stealer.

“I’m especially excited about Anxiety,” director Kelsey Mann told Empire magazine via the Direct. “There are a lot of different types of anxiety, but we’re really leaning into social anxiety, wanting to fit in and be part of a group. Wondering, ‘Am I good enough?’ Kids have a much deeper language of their emotions than I did as a kid. ... I think that’s fantastic. We need to be talking about it more. I’m hoping with this film we’re really able to open up the conversation.”

‘It embodies kids’ lived experience’

That's what psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore is hoping as well. A fan of the 2015 original film for its way of giving kids a clever, vivid way to understand emotions, she's excited to see Anxiety join the mix.

"I thought it was hilarious that she was carrying a lot of baggage," says Kennedy-Moore, author of Growing Feelings: A Kids' Guide to Dealing with Emotions about Friends and Other Kids. "I suspect this is going to be a movie that adults enjoy at a different level than kids. There will be humor for us, as well as for the kids."

Seeing frazzled Anxiety in animated form on the big screen will help children better understand the feelings — of tension and worried thoughts that can be longer lasting.

“I think it embodies kids’ lived experience, which is wonderful,” says Kennedy-Moore, adding that 80% of patients in her practice are in treatment for anxiety. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 9.4% of U.S. children, about 5.8 million, have been diagnosed with anxiety. While temporary and mild anxiety are common, for some it can be intense enough to interfere with one’s ability to function in daily life.)

There's a developmental sequence in which children experience and understand emotions, she explains. For instance, the average 2-year-old can only categorize facial expressions as happy or angry. As they grow, they start to be able to differentiate an angry face from other negative emotions. Between ages 7 and 10, the speed in which they can label emotions and identify less intense feelings improves noticeably. So it makes sense developmentally that as Riley gets older, and is now 13, her feelings are more complex.

“The first film covered five basic emotions, but the beauty of human beings is that our experiences are so layered and nuanced. So I’m thrilled that they’re going to be getting into some of that,” says Kennedy-Moore, who hopes the self-conscious emotions like guilt, pride, shame and jealousy are woven in as well as they are age appropriate. “These are the emotions that kids get as they grow older.”

The new poster for the
In the new "Inside Out" movie, the five existing emotions —Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust — are joined by Anxiety and others, reportedly including Ennui, Embarrassment and Envy. (Disney Pixar)

She hopes the film demonstrates something that she's always trying to teach her patients, which is that “feelings are not a thing to be gotten rid of.”

“A lot of the advice that kids get about dealing with feelings is pretty generic,” says Kennedy-Moore, who doles out her own in her Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic weekly podcast. “There are things like ‘take deep breaths,’ which is good as far as that goes, but it doesn’t say anything about how to deal with the relationships or how you should cope and communicate. Another one that I see is ‘punch pillows.’ Well, I can think of a lot of situations where that’s simply not an option. It’s also not supported by the research, which tells us that acting aggressively rehearses and intensifies angry feelings.”

She continues, “Feelings ... are a source of information about ourselves, and what's going on around us. So we want to try to understand that and then make choices about how we view it and how we respond to it. An analogy that I use with kids is: Feelings are kind of like smells. They can be mild or intense, pleasant or unpleasant, but they’re never dangerous.”

Kennedy-Moore said she finds that often anxious kids have vivid imaginations. “And I would never want to limit their imaginations, but we can actually harness that imagination to deal with anxiety” through different strategies.

She’s optimistic that “Inside Out 2” will further the conversation about emotion to a wide audience, as the first was the sixth-highest-grossing Pixar film of all time.

“I was a big fan of the previous movie,” she said. “And I think children are hungry for this kind of information. Kids can have these conversations. They can understand their emotional lives. They want to.”

Poehler promised sequel will be ‘deeper’

When the film sequel was announced in 2022, Poehler, who plays the blue-haired but perennially cheery Joy promised it would go "deeper" in discovering the complexity of emotions than the original because "a lot has happened since the first film in terms of the emotional intelligence and how we think about mental health and how our emotions can affect us physically, and what's really going on inside our head,” she tells People.

(Disney Pixar)
Poehler's Joy — the leader of the original gang — has to share the control board with Anxiety and the other newbies who arrive to shake things up. (Disney Pixar)

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Smart Girls founder added that she hopes to tell Riley's story “through her whole life,” with future sequels of her as a woman.

“Because at every stage of your life, these feelings come in that you do not believe are now in charge of your brain,” Poehler said.

Inside Out 2 will premiere in theaters on June 14.