- "Joy would know what to do."
Joy is the protagonist of Inside Out. She is the yellow Emotion and the main Emotion out of the five that live inside the mind of Riley, the others being Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. She appears to be happy all the time and full of energy.
Amy Poehler describes her as follows: "Joy is the engine. She keeps everyone moving and happy. She represents the parts of Riley that are starting to change and become more complicated, and she is reluctant to let that change happen. She may be the most positive, but in many ways, she is the least flexible."
"Joy’s goal has always been to make sure Riley stays happy. 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."
When Riley is born, Joy is the first Emotion to materialize inside her mind. Joy finds contentment in this moment, whereas she was alone with Riley. However, starting just 33 seconds after her is Sadness, and from then on, other Emotions materialize. Nevertheless, Joy remains Riley's main Emotion, making almost all of Riley's memories joyful, including the five core memories that power the Islands of Personality. It is a time composed of "perfect days" for Joy. Joy eventually recognizes a function to each of the other Emotions, with the exception of Sadness, of whom she finds does not do any good for Riley. Because of this, she often distracts Sadness to get her away from the controls.
This all changes when Riley turns 11, and her family makes a move to San Francisco. Joy tries to keep things positive, but Riley's new situation appears less than thrilling. In this unfamiliar situation, Joy sees Riley's other Emotions suddenly become more prominent. What's more, Sadness gains the ability to turn previously joyful memories sad. Thinking Sadness is the last thing Riley needs in these difficult times, Joy keeps her away from the control panel more than ever, and forbids her from touching any memory.
The other Emotions begin to question whether Joy should still be taking the lead, considering that Riley's situation is definitively negative. But after Riley's mother thanks Riley for being happy, Joy appears as being the right emotion after all. As Riley goes to sleep, Joy takes over dream duty, but to her dismay, Dream Productions made a nightmare out of all the negative things that happened that day. Despite knowing that she's not supposed to turn off the dream, Joy does so, and plays a happy memory where Riley is skating with her family.
The next day is Riley's first day at her new school. Joy gives every Emotion a job except Sadness, which she entrusts of staying aside. When Riley is asked to present herself to the class, Joy takes things in charge. However, the joyful memory from Minnesota that Joy recalls unexpectedly turns sad, being touched by Sadness. In the ensuing confusion, Sadness takes command of the console, without Joys' consent, and has Riley end up crying, which creates a new, sad core memory. Joy, panic stricken by the turn of the events, prevents the core memory from being used. She activates the memory evacuation system to dispose of it, but Sadness opposes herself to it. Things go haywire and all of Riley's core memories end up accidentally sucked out of Headquarters, along with Joy and Sadness.
Joy and Sadness, completely lost, are alarmed to see that without the core memories, all of Riley's Islands of Personality are down, and that in Joy's absence, Riley cannot be happy. Joy collects the core memories, and heads to Goofball Island, in hopes of reaching Headquarters through it. However, the island crumbles down, and Joy and Sadness narrowly escape. Their only choice then, is to venture into the maze-like Long Term Memory, to find another way. Joy then recruits Sadness as her "map", as the latters' knowledge from the Mind Manuals comes in handy to navigate the maze.
However, the night goes by, and the two are still lost, until they come across Bing Bong, Riley's long-forgotten imaginary friend. Bing Bong, more than happy to help them, proposes that they take the Train of Thought, which goes directly to Headquarters. Joy finds Bing Bong way more enjoyable than Sadness and follows his lead. However, Bing Bongs' childish ignorance brings them to Abstract Thought, which turns out to be extremely dangerous, only barely escaping. Following this close-call, Joy then understands she can't follow Bing Bong with a blind confidence, and that Sadness' advice is valuable.
Onward, Joy is thrilled to visit Imagination Land, but she is disgusted by the newly-formed Imaginary Boyfriend Generator, and is shocked to see more childish aspects being taken down. Bing Bong is moreso affected when his own rocket wagon is thrown into the Memory Dump. Joy tries to cheer him up by acting goofy, but her actions are in vain. Sadness then approaches Bing Bong, and gets him to express his grief tearfully. Joy is annoyed at first, but is confused when Bing Bong is comforted as a result.
The trio finally reaches the Train of Thought, only to find out that it doesn't run during night. The trio then head to Dream Productions to try to wake Riley up. Joy tries to take the lead, suggesting that they make Riley happy to wake her up, but it is only when she takes in Sadness' advice to scare her instead, that they succeed. They do so by freeing, from the Subconscious, Rileys' worst fear, Jangles the Clown. Now riding the running train, Joy acknowledges that Sadness can have good ideas, and gives her encouraging words.
However, the train is destroyed as Honesty Island crumbles. However, another way back to Headquarters presents itself, when a large recall tube is exposed in the destruction of a small section of Long-term Memory. Approaching the recall tube, Joy then realizes that Sadness cannot get in without touching the core memories, thus turning them sad. After some hesitation, Joy makes the decision to leave Sadness behind, stating that "Riley needs to be happy,", and closes the tube on herself. Unfortunately, though, the further crumbling of Family Island breaks the tube, and Joy plummets into the Memory Dump, along with Bing Bong.
With all hope of escape seemingly lost, Joy despairs as she reflects on Riley's fading childhood memories, contrasting them with the sad core memory, of which she sees as a failure of her efforts to make Riley happy. However, in her tearful mourning, Joy comes across a joyful memory she had collected earlier. She realizes that the memory had a sad beginning, and that this sadness was what led to joy emerging shortly afterwards. Joy then has the revelation, that Sadness, is a key to Rileys' happiness.
Her determination reinvigorated, Joy has the idea to use Bing Bongs' wagon to rocket themselves out of the dump. However Bing Bong and Joy can't get high enough, no matter how hard they sing. Bing Bong asks that they try again, and this time, he jumps off, sacrificing himself to make the wagon lighter. Joy successfully reaches the surface, and only then does she realize what had to happen to allow such success. She peers back into the Dump, catching eye of a rapidly-fading, though cheering, Bing Bong. Bing Bong then pleads tearfully that Joy would 'take Riley to the moon' for him, as he failed to do so selflessly. Joy is saddened with this unexpected loss, and tells Bing Bong, that she will try.
Then, after a moment of searching for Sadness through remembrance of Sadness' past moves (as in, turning all of the memory orbs on the bottom rack sad,), she finds Sadness, who flees her-----having come to the conclusion that she is harmful to Riley. In all urgency, Joy resorts to making a good number of imaginary boyfriends from Imagination Land, putting them all in Bing Bongs' carrying sack he had handed her. Joy then gets close to the crumbling Family Island, and turns the carrying sack upside-down, leading to her making an extremely tall ladder of imaginary boyfriends. Joy barely keeps balance with the imaginary boyfriends ladder, and only in seeing Sadness aligning with Headquarters on her cloud, does she permit the imaginary boyfriends to fall towards the trampoline on Family Island. Joy lands, and ricochets, off of the trampoline, grabbing Sadness from atop her cloud, telling her to "Hang on!". Although, hilariously, the impact of Joy, and Sadness, hitting the Headquarters' window isn't enough, and Joy almost plummets back into the Memory Dump, prevented only by Sadness, whom had grabbed the ledge with her right hand, and the strings of Joys' carrying sack, with her left. The other Emotions inside Headquarters quarrel with how to get them in, especially Anger, and Disgust. The latter, seeing Angers' head flames as a hopeful tool, enrages him by making fun of him, making Angers' head flame flare accordingly. Disgust then dons a welding mask, heaves Anger sideways, and burns a giant hole in the Headquarters window, where Joy, and Sadness, are barely hanging on to the ledge below. Disgust, and Fear, pull up Joy, and Sadness, and explain the situation in garbled speech, as everybody was talking at once.
Much to the surprise of the other Emotions, Joy entrusts Sadness with making Riley, who is running away from home, and out of control, come to her senses, and go back home. Sadness succeeds to doing so, and gets her to express her feelings to her parents who are worried sick. Joy then hands over Riley's childhood core memories to Sadness, letting them turn sad and making Riley admit that she misses Minnesota, which brings her parents to hug her for comfort. Joy, as means to compensate for her earlier treatment of Sadness, offers her the sad core memory she had created much earlier. Instead of using it, however, Sadness brings Joy to the console, and they create a new, mixed, core memory, of which is both joyful, and sad, which remakes Family Island into a stronger form.
Much later, as Riley turns 12, Joy remains in place as Rileys' leading Emotion, but the others now also have their own place on the new, larger, upgraded console. The islands that were previously destroyed, had been largely remade, and a lot of other, new islands, had materialized since then also. Joy then ends this whole adventure at a hockey game. Riley had retried for, and made, the San Francisco junior-hockey team some time earlier, and was competing with the opposing team.
Joy then asks "What could happen?".
Joy is smart, boisterous, hyperactive, exuberant, outgoing, and fiercely optimistic. The smallest spark of positivity makes her burst with excitement. She always sees the good in everything, which, on the flip side, causes her to be somewhat oblivious to the other, sad aspect of things. She is not insensitive to negative emotions; for instance, the destruction of Riley's Islands of Personality does bring sorrow to her; but her positive nature leads her to quickly push those feelings aside, refrain from being sad or angry, and think positive instead. Since on the contrary, Sadness is compelled to see the negative aspect of things, the two have completely different outlooks on the events of Riley's life.
Joy loves Riley, and feels a special bond as the first emotion that materialized in her mind. She wishes that Riley would be always happy and considers that for this to be, Riley must be nothing but joyful. She became a leader figure for the other Emotions, who looked up to her, trusting her to know what Riley needs. At the same time, Joy tried to bury down Sadness because she represented the exact opposite of her. She does try to be supportive to Sadness, but often ends up demeaning and patronizing her because ultimately, Sadness seems to be a hopeless case to Joy. She sees no helpful function to her, and thus, actively tries to minimize Sadness' actions. And when pushed to the edge, she was ready to leave Sadness behind.
When Riley turns 11 and her life begins to change, Joy is terrified that the other emotions become more prominent, as she sees all the work she has done being destroyed; and when Riley ends up forming a sad core memory, it appears to her as a sign of utter failure. Over the course of her journey through Riley's mind, Joy comes to understand that growing up is inevitable, that to be truly happy Riley needs all of her emotions, and that she was holding Riley back by trying to suppress them. She realizes that she is meant to work not against Sadness, but in pair with her.
Joy has light amber skin, sky-blue hair in a pixie cut and large azure blue eyes. She wears a light chartreuse summer dress adorned with blue flower-like motifs and is the only emotion not wearing pants or shoes. She is surrounded by a blue halo and emits a bright, golden light, brighter than that of any of the other emotions.
- 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, Sadness was a blue teardrop, and Bing Bong was a pink triangle.
- 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 human name.
- 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 retained 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 has a habit of talking to herself.
- Joy and Fear were originally supposed to get lost in Long-Term Memory.
- Her favorite personality island is Goofball Island.
- Joy's appearance takes inspiration from the famous actress Audrey Hepburn.
- In the trailer, Joy says, "Come on, group hug!", a reference to Anchor's quote from Finding Nemo.
- Joy and Sadness currently do Meet and Greets at Epcot's Character Spot at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida.