The Stages of Life in a Pixar Universe

June 27, 2024

The combination of the dramatic success of Inside Out 2 and the crushing news of Gena Rowlands’ Alzheimer’s has me thinking about the evolution of feelings as we mature.

I’m far past puberty - far, far past - in fact there are musicals with menopause in the title written about the stage of life I’m in - so I’m managing a somewhat different cast of emotions now. After reading this article in the NY Times about the popularity of Anxiety - I started fantasizing about Inside Out 4. Because next up after puberty, Inside Out 3, will have to be adulthood. They’ll likely introduce Phobia - a shapeshifting Peter Pan type that tries to avoid anything involving commitment - mortgages, marriage, fidelity. Speaking of which, hopefully Lust will be joining the team - lots of leering and panting. It’s anyone’s guess if Regret will be invited. After all, by the time you’re 40, we’ve all had a few. Maybe too few to mention if you believe Sinatra.

The next Pixar stage of life - and the one I’m hanging out for - has to be what comes next - post-middle age. My people. I still deceptively refer to myself as middle-age or late-middle-age. Which is, in a word, a lie. I’d have to live to 120 to make this feasible. Frankly, I could move into a hyperbaric chamber and reduce my calorie intake to 1000 a day (highly unlikely) and I’m still not living to 120. It’s this Inside Out - Inside Out 4 if you will, that I am waiting for with bated breath.

Riley Andersen at 60. I’ve been daydreaming about what emotions Inside Out 4 will introduce. I suggest they start with Disbelief. As in how did I get here? It should be a race car - because I got here way too fast.

Another would have to be Bewilderment. A non gender-specific figure in a flowy nightgown who keeps wandering out of frame, forgetting what they came in to do. The last one, and the one that I’m certain matters most has to be Courage. Tempting as it might be, It can’t look like a throwback to the 20th Century Cowardly Lion after he meets the Wizard. It has to be much stronger. Like one of those redwood trees from Northern California that live 400 years despite the world beneath them shaking and fires blazing around them. With limbs strong enough to hold families and solid branches with leaves for shelter, giving shade and comfort for all the times we, and the people we love, get burned or flattened by life. Courage holds us so we get up again. Inside this immense tree of Courage will live a small elf, really more of a court jester. This will be the secret to Courage the tree and what allows it to keep growing in the face of everything in a long life that tried to cut them down. It is Humor that has kept Courage laughing all these years, releasing whatever the tree equivalent is to endorphins and dopamine. As the credits roll all the emotions will gather under Courage. Uncomfortable with silence, Humor will make a silly joke that makes everyone laugh, even Anxiety.