Picturing the autobiographical imagination: Emotion, memory and metacognition in inside out

Wyatt Moss-Wellington

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Inside Out (Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen, 2015) develops novel cinematic means for representing memory, emotion and imagination, their interior relationships and their social expression. Its unique animated language both playfully represents pre-teenage metacognition, and is itself a manner of metacognitive interrogation. Inside Out motivates this language to ask two questions: an explicit question regarding the social function of sadness, and a more implicit question regarding how one can identify agency, and thereby a sense of developing selfhood, between one’s memories, emotions, facets of personality, and future-thinking imagination. Both the complexity of the language Inside Out develops to ask these questions, and the complicated answers the film provides, ultimately serve as a manner of recognition of the effortfulness of finding one’s place in the world. This article talks sequentially through the complex representative systems Inside Out advances in order to pay homage to the ways in which metacognitive cinema – as well as discussions and hermeneutic readings around that cinema – can make viewers feel recognised for invisible, internal labour that is existentially difficult to share due to its very interiority; an interiority that is reconstructed in imaginative processes such as autobiographical reminiscence, and filmic animation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-206
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Cinema
  • Emotion
  • Hermeneutics
  • Metacognition
  • Pixar
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Philosophy


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