Riley's emotions contribute to her primary behaviors in the film. Overall, Riley is upbeat, honest, and goofy when she is content. However, at adolescence, Riley becomes more sentimental, a bit shy, and uncertain of herself as her other emotions begin appearing. By the time her family moves to San Francisco, she starts to be more troubled, irked, and lonely. Her emotions at this point try to help her get adjusted to the new life. Riley can second-guess herself, but she doesn't always repent her actions.
Riley really misses Minnesota and is unable to cope with the transition. However, Riley is afraid to tell her parents her true feelings on how they want her to accept the new home and because she has always been their "happy girl".
As time goes on, however, Riley becomes emotionally vulnerable, entering a sort of apathetic state of mind and coming to the point where she tries to run away, almost losing herself in the process. But it is here where she realizes that she had almost given up on the things that matter the most to her in life and realizes the risk just in time. Returning home and admitting to her parents that she's greatly depressed, she learns to accept San Francisco when her parents comfort her over the personal loss and Riley (with the guide of her emotions) eventually adapts to her new home.
Riley is an 11-year-old preteen (later 12) with a slender figure, shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair, and blue eyes. Both her parents have brown hair and brown eyes, which implies that both the blonde hair and blue eyes are recessive traits. She has very faint freckles around her nose and has a noticeable gap between her two front teeth.
Riley is seen wearing a different outfit on a daily basis. When first shown in the teaser trailer, she wore a long-sleeved shirt with thin horizontal red, yellow, and light green zigzag lines, brown pants, and red Converse sneakers. When Riley arrived at her first day of school, she wore the same outfit, but with a yellow jacket. When Riley suffered a brain freeze, she wore a solid pink short-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, and green Converse sneakers. When arriving at San Francisco, she wore a long-sleeved rainbow shirt, blue jeans, and pink socks. Riley's pajamas consisted of a green short-sleeved shirt with blue trim featuring a koala bear on the front and dark blue sweatpants.
Her mind is extremely large and includes certain locations like:
- Emotion Headquarters: The central part of Riley's mind, where Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, and Sadness all live and control Riley and where her memories are produced.
- Personality Islands: Seven personifications of different sides of Riley's personality, as determined by the core memories.
- Long Term Memory: Enormous shelves of various memories forming the main layout of her mind.
- Imagination Land: A place where everything Riley imagines is built.
- Dream Productions: Where dreams are filmed.
- Subconscious: Contains Riley's worst fears.
- Abstract Thought: A place where ideas (or anyone inside) are simplified to abstract concepts.
- Train of Thought: A train that connects Headquarters and the rest of the mind.
- Memory Dump: An abyss surrounding Headquarters, where faded memories end up and eventually disappear to be forgotten forever.
Riley is a major character in the film. Her mind is the main location and the main priority of it. When Riley is first born, Joy, her first living emotion, is conjured up with baby Riley smiling right at her parents. A few seconds later, another emotion named Sadness appears and makes Riley cry. Joy pushes Sadness out of the way and makes Riley happy again. Over the years, Riley starts to grow up in Minnesota and her other emotions, Disgust, Anger, and Fear, are born. Riley becomes happy and jolly pretty much all the time and hardly sad at all. Because of her happiness and joy, Joy unintentionally mistreats Sadness (who was only used when Riley threw tantrums). Riley also becomes one of the best players on her hockey team.
When it is time for Riley and her parents to move to San Francisco, Riley becomes sad and misses her life in Minnesota. Riley starts to go from joyous and happy to sentimental and a bit depressed on account of she misses the good old days in Minnesota, not to mention that their new house is horrible and the only type of pizza they serve at a pizza restaurant is broccoli pizza. Riley becomes even sadder and Joy does all she can to prevent this from happening. Things go from bad to worse when Sadness accidentally humiliates Riley by making her sob in front of the class while telling her class about the good old days in Minnesota (although the other kids had empathetic looks on their faces when she was crying). This causes a new core memory to be created, which is a sad one. Joy doesn't want Riley to ever be sad, so she decides to get rid of it. But during an argument, Joy and Sadness literally get lost in Riley's mind, leaving the others to try to keep Riley's head on straight, but only end up causing Riley to become rude, reclusive, and cantankerous.
From there, matters start taking turns for the worst. The next day, Riley video chats with her old friend Meg from Minnesota. Things go well until Meg tells Riley all about the wonders of her new best friend, whereupon Riley feels replaced and gets so angry that she hangs up on Meg. When she attends the hockey tryouts, she doesn't perform too well, and she decides to call it quits.
Riley figures that since everything in San Francisco is horrible combined with her being so nostalgic about Minnesota, she decides to run away and return to Minnesota. She steals her mother's credit card and skips school to catch a bus back to Minnesota. When Joy and Sadness finally make it back to Headquarters, Riley finally realizes what she is doing is wrong and decides to run back home. When Riley returns to her worried parents, she confesses that she was pretending to still be happy and that she misses the good old days in Minnesota. Her parents confess that they miss Minnesota as well and Riley finally lets her feelings out. Soon enough, things are finally looking up for the Andersens. Riley is part of a brand new hockey team and there are new islands in her mind.
Riley returns in the short film, where she goes out skating with a boy named Jordan (whom she met at the end of the film). Meanwhile, her parents suspect that she is going out on a date with him and the Andersens' emotions all try to find a way to make it through this, like when her mother tells Riley in a "cool way" that is Riley hanging with Jordan, leaving Riley confused, with weird and comical results. After assuring her mother that she and Jordan are going skating with a group of friends, she soon realizes that Jordan was left alone with her father. She rushes downstairs to find her father and Jordan listening to loud rock music while playing with air guitars. Embarrassed, Riley drags Jordan out the door.
Disney Parks and live appearances
Riley's mind was built at Hong Kong Disneyland during the Coolest Summer Ever event in 2015. Guests can enter her mind and meet Joy and Sadness at the Art of Animation exhibition in the Opera House on Main Street USA.
Riley made her first actual live appearance in the Disney on Ice show, Follow Your Heart.
- In the teaser trailer, Riley with her mom and dad are eating from Chinese food boxes of the same type as the one seen in A Bug's Life and several other Pixar films.
- In said teaser trailer, the playground scene in Riley's Memory Orbs is taken from Sunnyside Daycare in Toy Story 3.
- Her last name is based on Pixar employee Darla K. Anderson and the Toy Story 3 character Bonnie Anderson.
- Riley is cross-dominant, using her left hand when drawing Bing Bong on the walls as a toddler and shooting the puck in hockey and her right when she is eating.
- Riley is one of the few characters in the film to have emotions of different genders.
- According to Pete Docter, this was done to make them as diverse as possible, while the emotions of other persons were uniformized for quick readability. He states that it's "a little phony, but hopefully, people don't mind."
- When going into the minds of various characters, the film seems to suggest that children and teenagers all have emotions of different genders while adults' emotions are all the same gender, but a cat's and dog's emotions are identical to the cat or dog they're controlling.
- Riley's yelling, screaming, and crying when she was a toddler are actually recycled recordings of Boo's shouting and crying from Monsters, Inc.
- Coincidentally, both Monsters, Inc. and Inside Out were directed by Pete Docter, which is said in several posters and TV spots.
- Mary Gibbs, Boo's original voice actor, is even listed under additional voices for this film.
- Riley's original home in Minnesota might be a reference to director Pete Docter, who was also originally from Minnesota.
- Riley is inspired by Pete Docter's daughter, Elie (the voice of Young Ellie in Up). Elie Docter was very outgoing and goofy when she was little, but became quieter and more introverted as she got older.
- What appears to be the A113 Easter egg is positioned on a wall next to Riley before she pulls out her phone the first time when she is running away. It is spray painted in black behind her.
- ↑ https://ohmy.disney.com/news/2016/11/15/9-finding-dory-fun-facts-and-easter-eggs-you-probably-didnt-notice/
- ↑ Inside Out: The Essential Guide, page 6
- ↑ Inside Out Press Kit