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'Inside U' App Helps Kids Understand Their Emotions

Favourite animation films and TV have real potential to be used in education. Characters and worlds within them can be used for the purpose of teaching children and young people. Take for example Pixar's Inside Out, which has the potential of educating on emotions. Now, as we approach the release of Inside Out 2, The Renée Crown Wellness Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder has announced the launch of the Inside U app. Produced in partnership with Pixar Animation Studios, the app is designed to help kids better understand their emotions and how to deal with them.

Inside U was collaboratively designed using unique characters and narratives from Inside Out. The app combines clips from the movie with interactive user experiences that both entertain and offer insight to the user. Players will meet "The Mind Worker" who guides them through the program and helps them to understand their emotions. Users will work their way through four different episodes “Meet the Team,” “Anger in Action,” “Emotions and the Body,” and “A Powerful Pause.” Inside U facilitates the creative application of social and emotional learning skills to real-world dilemmas faced by elementary-aged children.

The app was the brainchild of Dr Sam Hubley, a psychologist and researcher at the Crown Institute. He was inspired by the original Inside Out to create the app teaching emotional education. Hubley was aware of the power of entertainment as his grandfather was the renowned Disney animator John Hubley who worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi and Pinocchio before founding his own independent studio.

“By combining science, health education and brilliant animation, we have a golden opportunity to engage millions of young people to learn about their emotions and foster better relationships with others, during childhood and throughout their lives,” said Dr. Hubley.

The Crown Institute partnered with digital designers Liquid Interactive and The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, whose members collaborated closely on the design of the program. Pilot evaluations were run in the summer of 2022 involving children aged from 6-13.

One of the key focuses at the Crown Institute is the teaching of social and emotional learning (SEL), which aims to improve self-awareness, social skills and responsible decision-making. According to the Collaborative For Academic and Social And Emotional Learning, the preeminent champion of SEL in the US, effective programs can improve outcomes for youth.

Crown Institute wanted to offer a free SEL curriculum and support app. The resulting app features extracts from the film, digital learning and the application of SEL skills to real-world scenarios faced by children. Through the impetus of Dr Hubley, the Institute partnered with Australian design company Liquid Interactive. Liquid brought their expertise in character animation, digital learning and mental health to help bring Inside U to life.

Inside Out 2 will be released on June 14. The sequel is directed by Kelsey Mann and written by Meg LeFauve. It will follow protagonist Riley into her teenage years and sees her dealing with new emotions such as anxiety, embarrassment and envy. A new trailer was recently released. Will we eventually see an update to the app tied to the sequel? We don't know, but watch this space!

You can check out Inside U here.