MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

About Bing Bong


I am going to write this whole thing after the jump, so if you haven’t seen Inside Out you can avoid this conversation completely… and I recommend you do… both… see it and avoid discussing until then…



I have seen some discussion about what Bing Bong represents, so I wanted to have the discussion in here, if we can.

I don’t think he is a representation of parents at all, as the very smart Anthony Breznican of EW and “Brutal Youth” has suggested. Yes, he is willing to sacrifice in a loving way for “his” child, but I think the parental metaphor narrows too much what Bing Bong brings to the table.

Bing Bong is exactly what he says he is. He is a child’s idea of perfect non-parental love. He is sugar and spice and everything nice… though in his case, it is cotton candy and elephant and Cheshire Cat and things that make a specific small child feel safe and loved.

Bing Bong’s existence is formed of pure love. What could he do but sacrifice himself, as needed, to the benefit of his child… to the return of her Joy?

Of course, Bing Bong is one of the many complex ideas directly connected to the physiological and emotional maturing of children. Children will sometimes have glimpses into their pre-6-year-old experiences, but most of those memories do disappear, no matter how happy or in most cases, horrible they were. The lessons are learned and they stick. But the detailed memories vanish.

One of the other issues in Inside Out that I am still considering is the ambiguity of having male and female emotions inside of young Riley’s head. We get only a brief glimpse inside one or two other heads of kids her age. The only one I specifically recall is the boy who freaks out when she speaks to him. I think his head was all boys. The parents are also manned by single-sexed emotions. So is Riley gay? Bisexual? Will she grow into single-gender emotions? Is her emotional make-up relevant to her sexuality at all?

It’s a lot to ask about an animated family film… but I would bet that they know the answer in Emeryville.

But back to Bing Bong…

His pure love is as powerful as any evil in any Disney movie ever, I feel. He is motivated by one thing and one thing only… Riley’s happiness. He is sure about everything, as young love is. When he realizes he is going to disappear, he takes a moment, and he comes up with a positive.

Parents, much as I wish it were otherwise (maybe… maybe I don’t really), can love their children with the deepest well of love… but we are also still human. We have our needs and desires that often, in small ways and sometimes large, override our pure interest in our children. If we didn’t, we would all be playing on the playground for hour after hour, watching that silly TV show, building, dressing up, etc.

Bing Bong also fits with the big theme of Inside Out, which is that as we mature, our ability (need, even) to deal with more complex emotional constructs grows. And with that, our ability to bring Bing Bong to life for ourselves as our ultimate playmate, fades. As the Bible says, we put away childish things.

But we miss them. we miss them so much. We miss them every day. Sometimes, we wish we could go back to that kind of innocence… that lack of responsibility… the lack of guile.

Bing Bong must die so that Riley can grow up.

Her next imaginary friend will look like a boy-band member or Ellen Page or whomever… and that ideal will still be made of cotton candy and things Riley loves, even if they look more normal on the outside. She will imagine them to be sweeter and smarter and kinder and more of everything that she imagines will bring her joy.

5 Responses to “About Bing Bong”

  1. Lane Myers says:

    Hey David, I’m on the same page as you with regard to Bing Bong. But leaving the theater my 11 year old daughter enter to know 1) Why were Riley’s emotions a mix of males and females and 2) Why did everyone else’s emotions apart from Riley’s resemble their humans much more closely (dad’s with the mustache, the goth girl with the goth hair, etc).

    My hypothesis on 1) is that because Riley hasn’t hit the puberty button yet, little kids can tend to be more androgynous, thus she still had male and female emotions — albeit 3-2 in favor of females. I had no answer on 2) other than it was a filmmaker choice to show the simplest embodiment of each respective emotion.

    Also curious to me was the choice to have Anger seemingly in charge of dad and Sadness in charge for mom? Interesting…

  2. Mark Wheaton says:

    Yeah, there’s a whole thesis to be written about Anger being in charge of the dad, Sadness in for mom. That was pretty interesting. Also, really like the idea that pre-puberty emotions are more androgynous but imagine it was more of a style choice. That said, looking forward to picking up whatever “Art of” book hits to get further into the process and see more stuff!

    Regarding Bing Bong, I totally agree with your assessment of the character, David, and very well said above. Had no idea anyone thought it was the parents, but they’re crazy.

    Also, as a father myself seeing this on Father’s Day with my daughter and son, the big stab in the chest for me was the dad inadvertently destroying Goofball Island. When that day comes for me and my kids, fuuuuuuck.

  3. I don’t understand the backlash on ‘Inside Out’.

  4. Pj says:

    Too much analysis for an ancillary character whose only job was to move the plot along and garner cheap emotions.

  5. Brooke says:

    I am sure Riley had both genders from a marketing standpoint vs a story standpoint. Can’t green light a film with all female characters!!!!

    It was pointed out several times that Riley was their happy girl sso it makes sense she was the one in the family powered by Joy.

The Hot Blog

movieman on: BYO What Do You Watch

movieman on: BYO What Do You Watch

palmtree on: BYO What Do You Watch

Sergio on: BYO What Do You Watch

movieman on: BYO What Do You Watch

Bulldog68 on: BYO What Do You Watch

Hcat on: BYO What Do You Watch

movieman on: BYO What Do You Watch

Sideshow Bill on: BYO What Do You Watch

movieman on: BYO What Do You Watch

Quote Unquotesee all »

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin