When Joy and Sadness try to act as a dog in one of Riley's dreams, only for them to split up in the costume and be seen as an actual dog split in half on the monitor.
Riley's first dream, while also funny, can count for some.
Rat: Come live with me, Riley. *chokes and dies*
Joy: I know I'm not supposed to do this, but...we are not going to end the day like this.
The stairs to the basement of their old house may be the scariest shot of the movie.
"HI, RILEY! IT'S ME!!!" Explanation Bing Bong unexpectedly popping up in the dream and his eyes closing up to the screen can startle quite a few people.
Jangles the Clown is terrifying, with his enormous Slasher Smile, glowing green eyes, and enthusiasm that borders on complete insanity. No wonder he is Riley's biggest fear. Also, he's fifty feet tall in her mind.
That said, there's a bit of Nightmare Retardant during the credits, where we see a clown (implied to be the real Jangles) whose emotions are sick of their job and lament about how they spent years in drama school for this. Fridge Brilliance applies here; Jangles is terrifying in Riley's subconscious because he's likely a memory formed when she was an impressionable toddler — the Driven by Emotions Novelization explains that it was "at her cousin's birthday party" — and the fear of clowns derived from that moment has distorted the reality that he's actually just some schmuck in a costume.
The quiet, frightened way Bing Bong says "He just wanted the candy" was strangely discomfiting. Good thing Joy and Sadness came to help.
There were a lot of candy wrappers there. Jangles must have made Bing Bong cry for a really long time.
This is touched on Adult Fear in the main page, but imagine being Riley's parents (see below). They have their own problems with the move and realize their daughter is acting strangely. Perhaps there's a brief interlude before the final act where they decide or hope that Riley will or has gotten over whatever was wrong with her... And then they're presented with the possibility that she ran away. Needless to say no parent deserves a nasty shock like a run-away situation (or worse), and then you consider that this occurs more often than we'd like to admit in the real world.
Joy stuck in the memory dump with Bing Bong, unable to escape. As Joy desperately tries to scramble back up, Bing Bong's hand starts to dissolve. Worse still, Bing Bong doesn't make it out. Pixar doesn't pull any form of Disney Death here; knowing they can't both escape, he jumps from the wagon rocket so Joy can make it out, then fades away completely just after giving his final goodbye. The worst part of it all is that there's no way to bring him back, he really is gone forever.
On that note, the memory dump itself is pretty scary. Especially seeing Bing Bong's reacting to them fading away and then trying to jump away himself.
The control panel turns dark at one point and the emotions start panicking.
The background during Riley's journey to the bus station becomes progressively darker and grimier the further she goes. You'd be concerned that a Jump Scare was coming at any moment.
Riley's parents are in panic mode in the scene right before she thankfully returns to the house. They just found out she's missing, and that they should probably call a search for her by the police! Her mom even says, "Do you remember what clothes she wore!?" A missing runaway was almost in a Disney/Pixar movie!
You think that's bad? They don't know she ran away. All they know is that their daughter left for school that morning and never made it there.
If that's not bad enough, the chapter of the Driven by EmotionsNovelization narrated by Fear brings up many of the unspoken possibilities Riley faces at this point. While some are humorously out there, some are horribly plausible, such as "ending up dead on the side of the road".
Riley's depression is both this and tearjerking, especially how very grounded and serious it is when we see it from the outside. Riley isn't just unable to feel Joy, she's also unable to feel Sadness, and as a result all she is is Angry, Disgusted and Afraid. By the end of it, her mind has been shut down and she can't even feel those. We get a good look at her expression by the end, and she just looks... dead.
Fridge Horror: If depression amounted to the whole place shutting down and parts of it crumbling into nothing, it makes you wonder what other mental disorders and ailments would look like in her head, like Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, etc.
More Fridge Horror: So Riley was this close to becoming rather troubled. And of course in real life for some people, some of those emotions never make it back to the "control room."
Each of Riley's Personality Islands crumbling is shown quite violently and, once you realize what it's doing to Riley as a whole, is pretty harrowing.
Here's a scary thought: what if Riley's family never moved to San Francisco, and her emotions were left unbalanced for longer? Potentially she would have been a Stepford Smiler for much more of her life, and the fallout when something even sadder than just moving house happened could have been emotionally catastrophic for her, since Joy wouldn't have wanted Sadness to deal with it.
It's not just Sadness. Joy is obsessed with making as many memories happy as possible, and all the core memories (which, remember, fuel the personality islands that make Riley Riley) are hers, to the point where it is dubious whether the others even really know how to make core memories at the start at all. Remember, Sadness' new core memory of missing Minnesota got a stunned "but it's blue..." from Disgust, and Joy was prepared to do anything to stop that core memory from connecting and creating a new personality island, which started the whole mess.
Not necessarily the case, as there's no reason to assume something else wouldn't have occurred to make Riley feel sad for justifiable reasons, sooner or later. [The new girl whom her Minnesota friend told her about via Skype would have still arrived whether the Andersens left town or not, so Friendship Island could well have taken a hit when Riley's BFF got more interested in the newcomer than in Riley. Likewise, her father's business troubles would have stressed Family Island, regardless of where they lived. If nothing else, that Big Red Button for "PUBERTY" was going to be installed at age twelve no matter what happened when she was eleven, so Riley would've had to learn to cope with emotional turmoil within a year or so.
People on the extreme of the personality-disorder continuum (psychopaths) have little or no emotional affect, aren't restrained by fear or concern for fairness, and lack empathy or remorse. Are such people in the Inside Out Verse born with defective control panels, such that their emotions can only watch helplessly as the person they were supposed to guide through life operates on pure pragmatic opportunism and indifference?
It's also possible that they have some emotions missing, and that the emotions they DO have are just as twisted as they are!
For a psychopath of the interpersonal/affective kind, Anger and Sadness would probably be absent, their roles filled by Disgust (i.e. calculating cynicism and demonstrative ignorance) and Fear (extreme self-protection, rationalization, defensiveness). They might be only locked away, showing up on particularly stressful occasions, but unable to take the controls in normal situations. Assuming that it's possible for them to have a Joy, they might be pushing their person to feel enjoyment from making others suffer, or have no qualms about benefiting themselves at the expense of others around them.
The track "We Can Still Stop Her", which plays when Riley tries to run away from home. The music just adds to the sense of panic as Riley keeps going, and her islands of personality crumble.
Joy, Sadness and Bing-Bong's ordeal in the abstract thought chamber, where they become progressively more "abstract". It begins with them being turned into jagged, very low-poly versions of themselves, like a Picasso picture. The subsequent transformations are a bit disquieting too, with them becoming first flat, simplistic 2D images, and then turning into completely abstract one-colored shapes.
Just the very idea that we all have a bunch of different personalities in our heads controlling our every move would be enough to make anyone paranoid. True, they're more guides and guardians than direct controllers, but seeing as Word of God confirmed the emotions of the film are in fact separate from Riley in Another Dimension, it can be a bit of Paranoia Fuel.
One fanfic even has this as a steadily consistent worry for Riley, first starting as a humorous moment but seems to be slowly becoming more unnerving for her.
People with certain mental illnesses actually believe in things like this. Some people with schizophrenia claim that they hear voices telling them what to do or that they're mind controlled. What is a cute children's film for most could be fueling their nightmares and paranoias for months.
The way the eyes and nose of Bing Bong look in his dolphin form, especially since it's shown up close at first.
This one could also be considered a Funny Moment, but Brain Freeze (which Riley gets from a slushie in the film) makes Headquarters and everyone inside literally freeze over, meaning that the emotions can't even move until the ice thaws.