Published: Feb. 12, 2024
kids playing app on computer screen

Seeking to leverage the power of entertainment to fulfill its educational mission, The Renée Crown Wellness Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder today announced the launch of its InsideU Social Emotional Learning App. In partnership with Pixar Animation Studios, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver and digital designers, Liquid Interactive, the Crown Institute designed the app as an innovative approach for helping kids learn about emotional awareness and relationships, using characters from the Pixar animated film Inside Out. 

InsideU was collaboratively designed with youth using unique characters and narratives from Pixar’s Inside Out. The app combines clips from the iconic movie with interactive learning opportunities that are both entertaining and lead to personal insights for the user. While playing the app, children meet the “Mind Worker” who guides them through the program and helps them to understand their emotions. Users experience four different episodes titled: “Meet the Team,” “Anger in Action,” “Emotions and the Body,” and “A Powerful Pause.” InsideU facilitates the creative application of social and emotional learning skills to real-world dilemmas faced by elementary school-aged children. 

The Crown Institute’s goal of creating emotional education for children was originally inspired by the 2015 Pixar animated movie Inside Out, which depicts emotions as characters that live inside the mind of a young girl. That film nearly a decade ago had an impact on Dr. Sam Hubley, a psychologist and researcher at the Crown Institute. He had previously seen the power of entertainment in the work of his grandfather, John Hubley, an Oscar-winning animation pioneer who worked for Walt Disney Studios on such films as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Bambi” and “Pinocchio” and subsequently started one of the first independent animation studios in the US. 

“By combining science, health education and brilliant animation, we have a golden opportunity to engage millions of young people to learn about their emotions and foster better relationships with others, during childhood and throughout their lives,” said Dr. Sam Hubley, an Assistant Research Professor at the Crown Institute, University of Colorado Boulder. 

To help design a pilot version of the app and ensure it resonated among children, the Boulder-based Crown Institute partnered with digital designers Liquid Interactive and Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, whose members collaborated closely on the design of the program. Pilot evaluations took place in the Summer and Fall of 2022, involving students ages 6-13, to measure feasibility, usability and engagement with the first phase of the learning app.  

“InsideU has been a huge hit for the Club members I work with. They are beyond excited for the next emotion lessons to come out,” said Julie Arbuckle, a Mental Health Team Member from Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. 

A key area of study for the Crown Institute is social and emotional learning (SEL), which aims to improve self-awareness, social skills and responsible decision-making. According to the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning, the preeminent champion of SEL in the U.S., effective programs can measurably improve academic, behavioral and other health outcomes among youth. 

Toward developing a free SEL curriculum and digital support tool rooted in evidence-based psychotherapy, the Crown Institute wanted its InsideU app to incorporate clips from the film, interactive learning, and the application of SEL skills to real-world scenarios faced by children. Through the impetus of Dr. Hubley, the Crown Institute partnered with award winning Australian strategic design company, Liquid Interactive. Liquid’s expertise in character animation, digital learning and mental health helped bring the project to life. 

To experience InsideU, go to For more information, visit