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For Amy Poehler, there’s plenty of joy — and fear, sadness and anxiety — in making Inside Out

“When I get to work on it, it’s so deep,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively of the 2015 Pixar and Disney animated film and its new sequel. “Because it’s like talking to your inner child, talking to you as a parent, talking to you as yourself, talking to the future version of you.”

Personal epiphanies happen in the voiceover booth “big time,” she adds. “You have to really go there. It’s really satisfying to do it.”

Before the 2024 CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards, where Poehler, 52, received the Vanguard Award on April 11, the actress introduced footage of Inside Out 2 to a crowd in Caesars Palace. 

A story about a pre-teen facing the inevitability of puberty, the Parks and Recreation star says the viewer can’t help but feel relatable. “That feeling of, ‘Who am I? How should I act?’ The inner feeling of, ‘What should I be worried about? What should I let go of? How do I take care of myself?’ We can all relate to that.”

“Inside Out 2”.

PIXAR


Inside Out 2 follows Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman), a 13-year-old girl whose inner emotions — including Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale) and Disgust (Liza Lapira) — help guide her through what Poehler calls “a moment in a young person’s life where they’re trying to figure out, ‘What are my values?’ ”

While the Oscar-winning 2015 original featured only those five emotions, its sequel introduces more: Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and even Nostalgia (June Squibb). 

“The stuff they did in this next film is so good,” says Poehler of director Kelsey Mann, writer Meg LeFauve and the rest of the filmmakers. “The movie’s growing with all of us… I love the research and the depth that they did where anxiety is a motivator. So at first, Joy is like, ‘I like you! Anxiety’s fun!’”

Where do Poehler and her eternally optimistic character overlap? Asked if Joy is either relatable or aspirational, the Saturday Night Live Emmy winner responds, “It’s both.” She laughs, adding, “I would say I probably am more tired than Joy is. [But] I still love how intrepid Joy is and how she is the engine that tries to keep everything moving. That’s really fun to play.”

Amy Poehler on April 11.

Ben Trivett


As a mother to teenagers herself — Poehler has two sons, Archie, 15, and Abel, 13, with ex Will Arnett — she feels a kinship with Joy, who “is kind of like Riley’s parent in this. And she wants the best for her always, which is what I think any parent can relate to. But in the film she has to let go and realize that her kid is growing up.”

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That’s where Hawke’s character comes in, she adds. “Anxiety is like, ‘Stick with me and do what I say and you won’t mess up.’ Which of course we all do [mess up], but it’s a strong message.”

What’s both “so beautiful” and “so hard” about growing up, she continues, is that life “doesn’t stand still. It keeps changing. New things happen. And so when these new emotions show up… It’s all about the pain of separating. We all know the difference between [age] 12 and 13! It’s a big difference.”

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As for what Poehler would tell her 13-year-old self, she quips, “I’d give a thumbs up: ‘Keep on moving.’”

“No one can know what they don’t know, and everyone has to go through what they need to go through to get to the other side. There’s no bypassing or skipping it, you gotta go through it. Isn’t it hard?”

Inside Out 2 is in theaters on June 14.

Do you think you may suffer from Anxiety and live in Florida, California or New York?

If so, please consider scheduling a proper virtual online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis with one of our physicians. Although we have an online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis tool, a proper diagnosis from a Board-Certified Medical Doctor will help you know for sure. If appropriate, a customized treatment program will be recommended at the conclusion of that initial visit.

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