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'Sadness can be your friend,' says Pixar star Amy Poehler

Poehler, who voices the emotion Joy in "Inside Out," says the mental processes portrayed in the film have changed the way she thinks about her own consciousness.

In "Inside Out" Amy Poehler voices Joy (centre), one of five emotions controlling the thoughts and actions of a young girl. Walt Disney Pictures

Introspective Pixar flick "Inside Out" isn't just making audiences ponder the workings of their own minds -- lead voice actress and comedian Amy Poehler says the film has made her think harder about her own emotions and feelings.

"Inside Out" is the latest animated film from Pixar, the Disney-owned studio responsible for thoughtful kids' movies including "Up" and "Wall-E". It puts the viewer inside the head of 11-year-old Riley. Her thoughts and actions are ruled by five larger-than-life emotions, each anthropomorphic characters aptly named Anger, Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Joy, with Poehler lending her vocal talents to the latter.

Joy's stubborn struggle to make Riley's memories (illustrated on screen by glowing glass orbs) as happy as possible leads to a madcap romp around the inside of Riley's mind, encompassing the subconscious, abstract thought and "personality islands" that determine Riley's psychological make-up.

Speaking at a press conference in London to mark the UK debut of the film, Poehler, who is perhaps best known for her lead role as Leslie Knope in NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation", responded to a question from CNET on whether the film's on-screen portrayal of emotions battling for control had made her think differently about her own mind.

"I think about that quite often when I'm feeling conflicted about which emotions are running the show," Poehler said, "and I think about [emotions] now in terms of how they look in the film."

During the course of the movie, Poehler's relentlessly upbeat character is forced to team up with Sadness, a predictably mopey emotion who excels at finding the bad side of everything, but eventually proves to Joy that her services are vital to Riley's emotional stability. "It's always a nice reminder that sadness can be your friend," Poehler says, "that it can help you."

"Inside Out" arrived in the US and Australia last month, and has since hoovered up a whopping $444 million (roughly £285 million or AU$600 million) at the box office, demonstrating that movies aimed at families don't have to avoid heavily cerebral ideas to be successful. The makers of the film say that while they focused on entertainment ahead of science, they did consult with experts in the human mind when putting "Inside Out" together.

"It makes you think about what you're thinking," Poehler says, "and it also reminds you that you never know what anybody's thinking or going through or feeling. The way someone is acting often isn't the way they're feeling. And that's a good reminder [to have] as a human person in the world."

"Inside Out" is released in UK cinemas on 24 July.

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