It’s Not All Sing-alongs and Happily Ever After
We’ve all been there; you’re watching what you thought was a simple kids movie and then before you know it you’re knee deep in tears and wondering why an animated film for children has such an impact on you. Well, turns out some of our favourite kids movies actually dealt with some serious issues and over on WatchMojo.com we counted down 10 of these movies including “Zootopia”, “WALL-E” and “Inside Out”. Since there are clearly more than 10 to talk about, for this list, we’re sharing 5 more movies intended for younger audiences that touch on important social or political issues. We’re putting aside common messages like “be true to yourself”, or coming-of-age themes, and instead focusing on those that tackle something on a bigger scale. Prepare to get hit right in the feels.
A Bug’s Life
Just when you thought this was the story of a misfit ant and his eccentric bug friends trying to save their colony from threatening grasshoppers, it turns out “A Bug’s Life” is all about colonialism. The ants are more numerous and work tirelessly, yet are controlled and exploited by a smaller, but more intimidating group: the grasshoppers. This hierarchy is maintained by fear and an ingrained belief that the ants are meant to “serve” the grasshoppers, but Flik defeats the system by proving that there’s strength in numbers and that the grasshoppers are the ones reliant on the ants after all. Perhaps this theme went unnoticed to most kids, but watch the movie again now and it’s impossible to miss.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This Disney film has been praised by critics since it’s 1996 debut and labeled as under-appreciated on account of its mature themes that tend to be avoided in animated children’s films. The cast featured numerous characters who strayed from Disney’s traditional perfect princess/prince profile, especially the main protagonist Quasimodo who was deformed and alienated as a result. Furthermore, the story touches on themes like injustice, prejudice, religion, love and judgement linked to appearance. You caught on to that as a kid, right?
With a story that focuses on Mumble’s journey towards embracing his unique tap dancing abilities, despite his inability to sing in a penguin community that runs on heart songs, the main takeaway of “Happy Feet” was more along the lines of adopting the idea that being different is something to be proud of. However, the environmental themes were just as present and the film commented on the threat of commercial fishing, pollution and climate change on penguins.
From penguins to killer wales, “Free Willy” is another major example of a kids movie that tackled the topic of animal rights. Through developing a relationship between a young boy, Jesse, and a killer whale being kept captive in a commercial aquarium, this movie makes us empathetic towards marine life and aware of the harsh effects of captivity. The message in this film was loud and clear, to the point that Bill S-203, which would end the captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada, was nick-named the “Free Willy” bill.
Lilo & Stitch
A list of kids movies that deal with serious issues wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the two characters who reminded us that “Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten”. Besides being a funny, warm and uplifting tale of friendship between a young girl and an extra terrestrial creature, “Lilo & Stitch” tackles a much deeper topic: finding a sense of belonging and the importance of family and cultural traditions.
If you think another movie deserves a spot on this list, make sure to check out our full list of the Top 10 Kids Movies That Dealt With Serious Issues below and let us know in the comments!