Friday, June 12 2015 12:45

Disney•Pixar's INSIDE OUT: Can Toys Help Kids to Master Their Emotions?

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Is it possible that toys can help children learn to deal with their emotions? While we've discussed a variety of "learning" toys at length over the years, I've never really written about the emotional consequences or benefits of play. Of course, toys are a big part of the emotional development of a child, but the possibilities have perhaps never been quite as defined as they are with the new toys based on Disney•Pixar's INSIDE OUT. As family films become more layered and sophisticated (Walt Disney Animation Studios' BIG HERO 6 is a prime recent example), the subject matter lends itself to opening up important conversations about life issues, and emotion is what INSIDE OUT is all about. On one of our recent visits to Toys "R" Us, The Rock Daughters™ (Addie & Finn) and I couldn't resist checking out the new assortment of INSIDE OUT toys by TOMY, displayed in the "Feature" section at the front of the store.

Inside Out

Unsurprisingly, the girls ended up zeroing in on the "core assortment" of action figures - Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust, along with "The Console," which comes with Joy. Five emotions - all of which we, as parents, can see our children experience during near-instantaneous shifts throughout the day. While the trailer for INSIDE OUT is soundtracked to AEROSMITH's "Sweet Emotion," they're seldom "sweet," and that's where control comes into play. If the "headquarters" (also available as a playset) is your brain, and the emotions have a "console" to control you, how do we take it back inside to exert control over that which is in our own heads? (I'm 38 and still deal with those questions) It's almost needless to say, but with each of the girls being just as much of a completist as I am, we bought the full set of five main characters. Having forgotten my Rewards "R" Us card thanks to a recent wallet switch, fortunately the cashier was able to look it up with my phone number so I could still get points toward my reward certificates.


With our girls, we've long stressed things like "use your words" and "speak your feelings," but without even having seen the entire film yet (they've watched the trailer several times), there's already a connection with the toys that they can understand - as if putting the emotions into a physical form makes them instantly more "real." And the girls know exactly what they represent, and that comes out in the "voices" that they give the figures during imaginative play. Fear sounds scared. Anger sounds mad. Joy is incredibly sweet and happy. All of this is coming from within our girls' own minds. Just last night, I saw Finn playing, and she had Joy working to calm down Anger, and console Fear. 


In recent days we've spent a lot of time discussing emotions, and our new friends from INSIDE OUT have been the catalyst for doing so. Sure, we'll see the movie soon enough (it opens June 19), but I have a strong feeling myself that the girls will be having many adventures with their emotional new friends for a really long time to come. 

Anything that can help smooth the real-life rollercoaster of emotions witnessed between two little girls can only be a good thing.

Check out the full assortment of INSIDE OUT toys, including many exclusive products, at your local Toys "R" Us store.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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