In all probability, “Mad World” will forever be associated with Donnie Darko because of that film’s prominent use of a somber cover version of the song by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules. But does that mean Donnie Darko “owns” this piece of music? Hardly. “Mad World” started out as 1982 hit by English synth pop outfit Tears For Fears. The song was considerably more uptempo, even sprightly, back then, but the lyrics were as heart-rending as ever. Tears For Fears were always among the most emotional of the mainstream New Wave bands of the era. The album from which “Mad World” derives is actually called The Hurting, and the band’s very name was a reference to primal scream therapy. So it’s no surprise that “Mad World” makes a very nice accompaniment to Pixar’s Inside Out, as ably demonstrated in “Inside Out World,” a YouTube mashup created by filmmaker Jon Lefkovitz.
As the video shows, the lyrics of “Mad World” are manifestly applicable to the life and mindset of Inside Out‘s Riley, a young girl struggling to adjust to a new home and a new school when her family moves to San Francisco. Well, except for the “all around me are familiar faces” part right at the beginning. That’s actually kind of the opposite of her problem, unless you count Riley’s parents as familiar faces. But the rest is true. “Children waiting for the day they feel good.” Yeah, that about sums it up. “Went to school and I was very nervous. No one knew me. No one knew me.” Absolutely spot on. That is exactly the situation Riley finds herself in during the movie. Good on Tears For Fears for predicting that over three decades in advance.