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Do you ever look at someone and wonder, what is going on inside their head? Well, I know. I know Riley's head.
Joy is the main protagonist of Inside Out. She is the emotion of Happiness and one of the five emotions inside the mind of Riley Andersen. As her name implies, she is eternally optimistic and appears to be happy all the time and thus could be the leader or enthusiast of the group.
She is voiced by Amy Poehler who also did the voice of Bessie Higgenbottom from The Mighty B and Snow White from Shrek the Third. In Japanese dub from the movie she was voiced by the late Yuko Takeuchi.
Joy was the first emotion introduced inside Riley's mind shortly after her birth. As Riley grows up, she meets the other emotions (Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear) and they work together, influencing Riley's actions and creating her memories. Eventually, Riley moves to San Francisco and Joy is struggling to keep Riley happy. This also leads to her having run ins with Sadness, whom she has always conflicted with. Sadness causes Riley to cry on her first day of her new school and creates a sad core memory. Joy, in a panic, ends up getting both her and Sadness ejected from HQ, leaving Riley unable to be happy.
While trying to find a way back to HQ, she and Sadness get introduced to an imaginary character named Bing Bong who is good at helping her and Sadness. She, along with Sadness and Bing Bong, takes the Train of Thought to get back to HQ but is halted when Riley falls asleep. She, along with Sadness and Bing Bong, go to Dream Productions to wake up Riley. However Bing Bong and the Core Memories are taken to Riley's Subconscious, where her deepest fears are kept, where they lead Jangles the Clown to Dream Productions and manage to wake up Riley and restart the Train of Thought. The train is destroyed when Honesty Island destroys the track and Joy learns why. Riley is attempting to run away and stole money from her mom, destroying Honesty Island.
When Family Island starts to crumble, she abandons Sadness and Bing Bong and uses a recall tube to get back into HQ. Family Island crumbles, further destroying the tube and sending her, along with Bing Bong, falling into the memory dump. Joy ends up breaking down into tears over the situation but notices that a sad memory became a happy one when Riley's sadness earned her sympathy and comfort from her friends and parents. This leads her to finally realize Sadness' purpose. She and Bing Bong search for his wagon which had fallen into the dump earlier and use it to return to the surface of the mind. After two failed attempts, Joy manages to succeed in reaching the surface after Bing Bong sacrifices himself to lighten the weight of the wagon so that it manages to return to the surface. As Bing Bong fades out of existence and is forgotten, Joy tracks down Sadness and manages to reach HQ. She allows Sadness to remove the idea for Riley to run away. Riley returns home and releases her inner stress to her parents who comfort her, creating a new core memory that is a combination of Joy and Sadness (melancholy) restoring Family Island to a new and improved state. Later after Riley has fully adjusted to life in San Francisco, Joy and the other emotions finally accept Sadness and work together to ensure a bright future for Riley.
Being the personification of happiness, Joy is a happy, bubbly, and optimistic leader of the Emotions. She is very protective and loving of Riley, wanting to keep her happy all of the time. However in doing so she can come off as selfish and a control freak. This is made most apparent with Sadness, whom she (albeit unwittingly) frequently ends up abusing. She often fails to listen to others' ideas, believing hers to be better, showing an arrogant side as well. Despite this Joy is a very kind and well-meaning individual who, despite some questionable actions and traits, will never intentionally harm someone and will do her best to cheer someone up, even if happiness is not appropriate for the situation. After realizing Sadness' purpose and realizing her selfishness she becomes good friends with Sadness and becomes more open-minded. Also despite being the personification of Joy, she is not immune to feeling other Emotions as seem when she bursts into tears in the Memory Dump.
Joy sobbing after she gets stuck in the Memory Dump along with Bing Bong
Joy talking to Disgust during preparations of Riley's 1st day of school