The emotions (from left) Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) represent the personality of the 11-year-old heroine in Inside Out (Disney/Pixar photo)

The emotions (from left) Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) represent the personality of the 11-year-old heroine in Inside Out (Disney/Pixar photo)

The movies have taken us to some fascinating places over the years, including the past, the future and a galaxy far, far away. With Inside Out, Disney and Pixar take us to the most unexpected place of all: an adolescent girl’s brain.

It’s an ingenious concept, and one that Pixar attacks with its usual blend of laughter, tears and glorious animation.

Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is a cheerful girl living in Minnesota. We know she’s happy because we experience her childhood from the viewpoint of the five emotions who live inside her head and influence her every thought and action. Of the five, Joy (Amy Poehler) is the most dominant, easily keeping Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust at bay while Riley grows into a fun-loving, hockey-playing 11-year-old.

Then Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) uproots the family to take a job in San Francisco, and the girl’s contented existence starts to unravel. Not only is her new home dirty and run-down, but she misses her friends, and the neighborhood pizza joint serves only pies topped with her least-favorite vegetable: broccoli.

Making matters worse, neither of her parents notices her unhappiness. Dad is preoccupied by job frustrations, and Mom (Diane Lane) is focused on supporting her hubby by remaining upbeat. She suggests that Riley do the same, unknowingly forcing the girl to keep her problems to herself.

Up in Riley’s cranial “Headquarters” (get it?), Joy works tirelessly to stay in control, but Sadness (Phyllis Smith) keeps throwing a despair-laden shoe into the works. Also complicating matters are Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and the tantrum-prone Anger (Lewis Black).

I called the flick’s concept “ingenious,” but the above doesn’t begin to explain the inventiveness of what directors and co-writers Pete Docter (Up) and Ronaldo Del Carmen have wrought.

Riley’s memories are represented by thousands of spheres, the most lasting of which are designated as “core memories.” The key elements of her personality are symbolized by “islands” representing family, hockey, honesty and other traits and concepts that help to define who she is.

When Riley’s islands begin breaking down and her core memories are touched by Sadness, Joy accidentally gets both emotions tossed out of Headquarters. While Riley desperately contemplates running away, Joy and Sadness begin a perilous journey home that takes them through areas of the girl’s consciousness representing creativity, dream production and even abstract thought.

Speaking of which, parents may well wonder whether their youngest children will be able to understand a film that delves so deeply into the abstract concept of a human being’s personality. That’s a good question. All I can say is that the youngsters at the screening I attended appeared to be mesmerized.

Even if they didn’t grasp all the psychological complexities, they were rooting for the plucky Joy and the girl she was trying to protect. And I suspect they intuitively understood the feelings that Joy, Sadness and the others represent.

Like my favorite child-centered animated flick of 2014, Ireland’s Song of the Sea, Inside Out doesn’t shy away from the fact that disappointment and loss are intrinsic parts of growing up. The film’s acknowledgement of that reality makes it as enriching as it is entertaining.

Rating: 4½ stars (out of 5)

Inside Out, rated PG, opens Friday (June 19) at theaters nationwide.