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“It was amazing. Just Riley and me forever.”
―Joy before Sadness starts manifesting in baby Riley's mind
Joy is the protagonist of the 2015Disney/Pixar feature film Inside Out. She is one of the five emotions inside the mind of Riley Andersen. She always strives to remain joyful, hence her name, and is the leader of Riley's emotions.
Joy's goal has always been to make sure Riley stays joyful. She is lighthearted, optimistic and determined to find the fun in every situation. Joy sees challenges in Riley's life as opportunities and the less happy moments as hiccups on the way back to something great. As long as Riley is happy, so is Joy.
Joy is, as her name states, the very essence of happiness and perkiness, and as such, she loves to look on the bright side of things. She is the oldest of all of the emotions, as she was the first one to appear. She values Riley's happiness to the point where she does not want any of the other emotions to influence Riley. She does not want Riley to be sad at all, even when she needs to be. Because of this, Joy is the least flexible and most controlling of the five emotions.
She mistreats Sadness (albeit unintentionally) because she does not understand why Sadness is a necessary emotion, due to wanting Riley to be happy all the time. When Bing Bong lost his wagon and was grieving, she wanted him to not be sad when he had to be and tried doing childish and silly things to get him to stop without understanding that cheerfulness and positivity are not always what a sad person needs. She is not above lying, as she told Fear that earthquakes don't exist, when they really do.
When the islands were falling apart, there was an escape tube back to HQ, and when Sadness was about to go in, Joy pushed her out of the tube and left Sadness behind, because Sadness was influencing the core memories that Joy held, and Joy wanted Riley to be happy. She ends up falling into the Memory Dump when the escape tube falls apart.
During her time in the Memory Dump, Joy realized that Sadness is very important to Riley's life and that she went way overboard with keeping her happy. After reuniting with the other emotions, she decides to let them do their jobs and stop being so bossy all the time, since Riley needs all of them to properly function.
Joy appears in the film as one of the five emotions in Riley Andersen's mind, the group which she is the leader of.
When Riley is first born, Joy is the first ever emotion to be born. She then walks towards the control panel, which at the time consists of only one button. The instant she presses it, infant Riley begins smiling. However, thirty-three seconds later, she notices Riley is now crying. Joy soon realizes that Sadness (the second emotion to come to Riley's mind) has arrived and has pressed the button. When Joy looks at her, Sadness introduces herself, and Joy awkwardly moves her aside to fix the situation. She, Sadness and the other emotions, Anger, Disgust and Fear, control Riley through her thoughts and mind. Joy seems to want to keep Riley happy and joyful, and always has an important task for every emotion ― except Sadness, whom Joy has no idea as to what she does exactly.
Riley enjoys a happy, joyous life in Minnesota until Riley's father gets a brand new job in San Francisco, which causes Riley to become depressed and sentimental. To make things worse, everything has gone horribly wrong; the house is terrible, the food is weird, and the moving van will not arrive for another couple of days. Joy sees that Riley is becoming sad, depressed and sentimental, and wants her to still be happy and jolly. So, she does all she can to keep her as cheerful and joyous as she was back in Minnesota.
On Riley's first day of school, her first impression is horrible, because, during Riley's introduction, Sadness causes Riley to cry and made a sad core memory. Since Joy doesn't want Riley to be sad, she tries getting rid of it. Sadness tries to pull the memory back, but Joy fights her for it, and this causes the two to end up getting vacuumed out of Headquarters and into Riley's Long Term Memory. Joy decides to have Sadness navigate her back to Headquarters since she read all the mind manuals earlier. They then run into Riley's old imaginary friend, Bing Bong, and Joy is more than happy to meet him, and the feeling is mutual. Rather than having Sadness guide her back, she decides to have Bing Bong be the navigator instead. Bing Bong tells them that the Train of Thought is the quickest way to Headquarters and that there is a station in Imagination Land. He takes them to a "shortcut", which turns out to be Abstract Thought, which is actually a dangerous place to go into. Sadness tries to warn them, but the others do not listen and go in anyway. Inside, they start losing their depth and complexity, but Sadness gets them out. Outside, they find Imagination Land, which is full of imaginative things Riley has dreamed of. They find out that Mind Workers are tearing it down because Riley has lost her imagination. The Forgetters then toss down Bing Bong's old wagon, which is the only thing he has left of his fun with Riley, into the Memory Dump. Bing Bong falls into deep despair, so Joy tries to cheer him up by doing many childish things, but they do not help at all. Sadness decides to empathize with him and lets him show his true feelings, which makes him feel better. Joy is shocked that Sadness made him feel better without cheering him up.
The trio then get on the train, but Riley falls asleep, causing the train to stop moving, so they go to Dream Productions to wake Riley up so they can get home faster. Joy and Bing Bong decide to meddle with Riley's dream, by making her dream happy, in hopes that it will wake her up (which clearly would not). Joy makes herself and Sadness dress up like a dog and play in Riley's dream, just as Bing Bong starts playing in it as well and their costume goes in half and the dog is chasing the other half. Of course, this does not work at all. Bing Bong gets arrested and taken to the Subconscious. Both Joy and Sadness go into the Subconscious to rescue Bing Bong and meet Riley's worst fear, Jangles the Clown, who follows them back to Dream Productions, and he successfully wakes up Riley. The three then jump back onto the train.
On the way, the train gets destroyed, and Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong find out that Riley is running away. Joy and Sadness find an escape tube back to Headquarters and go inside, but Joy finds out that Sadness, being near the core memories, starts turning them sad, and pushes her out because "Riley needs to be happy", which really hurts Sadness' feelings. As Joy ascend the tube, she looks down at her friends remorsefully as she leaves them behind. Unfortunately, the tube breaks and Joy falls into the Memory Dump. Bing Bong attempts to save Joy, but also falls down into the chasm. Joy reminisces and cries about the happy moments that she remembers, stating "I just wanted Riley to be happy." Not feeling joyful at all, Joy starts shedding tears, and one drips onto one of the happy memories. When she wipes the tear from the memory, she decides to rewind it and it turns sad. Upon further inspection, Joy finds out that this is the day Sadness spoke of earlier and realizes it was made happy because Sadness helped Riley call for help, support and comfort. After realizing the presence of Bing Bong's rocket, Joy becomes happy once again, and the duo starts attempting to escape the pit. They try two times, and then Bing Bong realizes that the wagon is too heavy with the two of them in it. Deciding to sacrifice himself for Joy and Riley, he cheers Joy on, while stating his last words while he fades into oblivion - "Take her to the moon for me, okay?" Joy sorrowfully watched Bing Bong fade away as she tears up. She made a promise that she'll try to fulfill Bing Bong's wish.
Joy finally arrives back up in Long Term Memory and attempts to find Sadness. She then sees her flying on a cloud and chases after her. She finds that Sadness is close to HQ, and flings herself to Sadness, and they finally arrive back home. The others tell Joy to fix Riley's problem, but Joy gives the job to Sadness instead, because they need her to help Riley. Sadness successfully removes the idea of running away from Riley's mind, and Riley starts heading back home. Joy hands the core memories to Sadness, and they turn into sad ones. Sadness helps Riley remember all of these memories one by one, and takes control of the panel, and Riley finally reveals her true feelings to her parents - she's not used to San Francisco, misses the good old days in Minnesota, and that she was pretending to be happy, and was afraid of making them mad because she has always been their "happy girl". Riley's parents admit they feel the same way, and a brand new core memory is made; it is a mix of happiness and sadness. The melancholy memory renews Family Island, with a San Francisco setting expansion featuring the Golden Gate Bridge.
Some time later, Joy and the other emotions create new, amalgamated core memories, recreating some of the old islands as well as some new ones. As Riley arrives at the hockey rink and later becomes embarrassed by her parents putting on face paint, Joy admits that Mom and Dad love them very much, though Disgust says they can't show it. As the game started, Joy worked alongside her fellow emotions as they play the game.
Riley's new friend Jordan arrives to pick her up for their ice skating excursion with their friends, but her parents fear that they may be going on a date. Riley's mom attempts to subtly probe Riley with pop words and ebonics, to Riley's emotions' confusion. Fear then realized that Jordan was left alone with their dad. Rushing downstairs, Riley finds her dad and Jordan playing air guitar to AC/DC's "Back in Black". Embarrassed, she drags Jordan out the door.
Joy appears in Disney INFINITY's third installment as a playable character. However, Amy Poehler did not reprise the role, as John Vignocchi explained that her agent said she was too busy. Therefore, Kate Higgins took over her part to perform the voice of Joy in that game.
During the finale of World of Color Celebrate in Disney California Adventure and part of the Disneyland Diamond Celebration, Joy is juggling Riley's memory orbs on California Screamin. However, she can hardly by seen by the visitors because the fountains are too tall and block the view of California Screamin.
Joy and Sadness have a meet and greet area in the Art of Animation exhibition building (Opera House) at Hong Kong Disneyland for a limited time during the Coolest Summer Ever event in 2015 until September 14th. They are currently the only Inside Out characters to appear at Disney Parks.
Following an advanced screening of the film at Downtown Disney in Orlando, a private meet and greet with Joy and Sadness was set up. The event was exclusive to Disney journal/blog members.
According to Pete Docter, her appearance is based on that of a star/burst of energy. This can be seen in Abstract Thought, as, during the fourth stage, Joy and Sadness were reduced to a single shape and color - Joy was a yellow star and Sadness was a blue teardrop.
Joy is the second female protagonist in a Pixar movie, the first being Merida from Brave.
Also, Joy is the first Pixar protagonist that lives within a human being.
There are several things that make Joy stand out from the other Emotions:
She is the only Emotion whose hair and eye color is not the same as her theme color.
She is the only female Emotion who doesn't have an overbite.
She is the most humanoid in appearance out of all the Emotions.
She is also the only Emotion to have a name used by humans.
This is because, during the development of the film, the Emotions were going to have human names. She is the only one of the Emotions that retain their human name.
Joy is born out of pure light — no parents, no upbringing, she just appears, as all the other Emotions do, although they were unseen when doing so.
Joy emits four light beams of different colors: blue, purple, white and gold, unlike other emotions, which emit only one. Interestingly, these colors are used as "good colors" worn by some characters in the Disney Classics.
Joy has a habit of talking to herself.
Joy and Fear were originally supposed to get lost in Long-Term Memory.