Tacoma’s connection to Inside Out 2 | A&E

Tacoma’s connection to Inside Out 2 | A&E

Richardson at the premiere of “Inside Out 2”

From left to right: “Inside Out 2” director Kelsey Mann, Riya Richardson of Tacoma and producer Mark Nielsen.

For 16-year-old Riya Richardson of Tacoma, mentoring is everything.

This has brought her opportunities such as being named the 2024 Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound and, most recently, playing a key role in the making of Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out 2.

The sequel to 2015’s Inside Out, it centers on the personified core emotions – joy, disgust, sadness, anger and fear – of a girl named Riley as she deals with the newer feelings many people experience as they transition from childhood to their teenage years. The film is currently the fifth highest-grossing animated film in box office history, having grossed $1.21 billion worldwide to date.

Richardson was selected along with a handful of other girls to be part of “Riley’s Crew.” As part of the group, she and her classmates met the film’s director every few months for several years, Kelsey Mann, and its producers to review the film and share their insights into what it is like to be a young girl to ensure that the film accurately portrays the coming of age experience.


Richardson receives her “Youth of the Year” award.

“They’re really down to earth and just asked me questions about myself, about school and what it’s like being a teenager, especially during COVID,” Richardson told South Sound about the filmmakers of “Inside Out 2.”

During one of these interviews, Richardson was asked what emotions she personally wanted to evoke for the film. Thinking about her connections with family, friends and mentors, her answer was “nostalgia.”

“I remember fondly things I did with my family, places I went and the people who supported me,” Richardson said. “(Nostalgia) made it into the movie… That was a really big accomplishment for me and to see that on the big screen at the world premiere. It was incredible.”

After years of working on the film, Richardson was invited to the world premiere, where she walked the purple carpet and met June Squibb, the 94-year-old Oscar nominee who voices Nostalgia in the film. Richardson said Squibb, who is also currently starring in the exciting new comedy Thelma, thanked her for creating the character.

June Squibb and Richardson

Richardson with actress June Squibb, who gives voice to the feeling of “nostalgia” suggested by Richardson for the film.

“These girls really put so much time, effort and sensitivity into the feedback and consultation, and it’s great to see that they implemented that and really made the film so good,” said Richardson’s mother, Iris Richardson.

Richardson credited her mentor, Achiya Clemons of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, for the opportunity to work with Pixar. Clemons, who had known Richardson for years through the organization, had been contacted by a former club member who told Clemons about Pixar’s interest in girls for Riley’s crew. Although Clemons had a few girls in mind, she ultimately knew Richardson was best suited for the job.

Clemons spoke proudly of the work Richardson put into the film and praised the teenager for her daily commitment to the community and the Boys & Girls Club.

“She’s doing such big things, and that’s just so cool. We’ve started a certain journey and we don’t know what it could become,” Clemons said. “That’s something interesting about my job – that I get to help build some things and see their true character.”

Richardson and Achiya Clemons

Richardson with her mentor from the Boys & Girls Club, Achiya Clemons.

Since completing her work on the film, Richardson has been pursuing other projects as part of her work as the club’s Youth of the Year. She will soon be heading to Washington, DC, with the Seeds of Peace organization. Upon her return, she looks forward to working with her community at the Boys & Girls Club, starting her junior year of high school, and participating in the Running Start program at Tacoma Community College, where she plans to study political science.

“I’m excited to meet new people and make more of those targeted connections,” Richardson said. “Not just in Tacoma — I’ve talked to my mentors about spreading my wings throughout Puget Sound.”

“Inside Out 2” is now in theaters.