Children’s movies may be more inclusive and less racist, but they can’t escape their age.

The times they changed and so did the children’s movies. Like many parents, I signed up for Disney+ months ago in the hopes of getting the ability to distract with movies/stopgap babysitters.

ut I was sucked into the archive. How can you not? I was amazed at how crude CGI was the first time Ice Age movie is. I watched the Marvel universe (non-stop) expand. And I spent hours poring over the careers of different 1950s Disney voice actors. Fun Fact: The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella also voices Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople.

It’s a database of movies for kids. And, boy, have there been a number of thematic and stylistic overhauls over the years.

For starters, thankfully the movies were much more inclusive and less racist – I think Peter Pan Possibly the most xenophobic movie I’ve ever seen. Today, there are more actors and diverse cultures on screen.


A scene of Peter Pan, with a xenophobic feel to modern tastes

There’s also a shift away from villainous mustaches to the bone, who often have an inexplicable hatred of orphans or puppies (or both).

Today’s villains are as vulnerable or misunderstood as Te Kā in Moana. And, if they still hate puppies, it may all stem from the bad treatment they received during their own childhood.

Indeed, in some movies, such as Turn red, a movie about a strained mother-daughter relationship – not to mention puberty and menstruation – doesn’t have a traditional baddie at all. The concept of villain is more abstract and conceptual. “In case Turn red, it is an intergenerational trauma,” according to Al Horner, journalist, author and presenter External Script audio file.

The core message at the heart of the films has also changed. During the 1950s and 60s, the threat of parental abandonment and separation pervaded many children’s films; most famous in heart attack scene in Bambi where his mother is shot dead by a ranger during a snowstorm, or where Dumbo’s mother is chained after she protects her child from bullying.

While parental abandonment is still evident in modern movies, it’s often done in a much less troubling way. In 2021 LucaFor example, Alberto’s father was absent, but we never saw him leave or witness the immediate aftermath.

“Children’s movies, like any particular pop culture… tend to be little time capsules,” says Horner. “Disney’s first movies, the things they showed about the attitude we should take towards work, all the relationships and friendships – it was all their time.”

Oscar-nominated film producer and animator Tomm Moore of Kilkenny’s Saloon Animated Feature also shares this sentiment. “Children’s movies reflect both the concerns of that generation’s parents and the childhood of that generation’s parents,” he said.

Video of the day

Children’s movies from the 1940s and ’50s are complex and rather dark. And they played with a lot of things that were important to the kids, like abandonment. “

He says it’s important to remember the original audience of those films and the context in which they were created. For those recovering from or fleeing World War II in Europe, the sudden threat of losing one’s family was an immediate reality.

“A lot of Disney classics were shown to [people coming out of] recession era or [people] traumatized from World War II. The kids who watched Disney movies then [living] in a different context. When that happens, it’s completely real to lose a parent or become an orphan,” Moore said.

In the 1980s, movies like The Goonies, Hook, Uncle Buck and Home alone boldly asserting childhood independence and suggesting that adults don’t have all the answers. Actually, in Home alonemuch of the premise seems to be: “Aren’t adults total idiots?”

In recent years, there have been a lot of ‘regrets’. In movies such as Luca, turn red and EncantoParents or older generations spend a lot of screen time simply apologizing to their children for their own shortcomings.


No traditional baddie in the Turning Red of 2022

Vox Film critic Emily St James has called the recent trend “imagining a parent’s apology in the millennium”.

“Rather than telling the story of a child’s time learning about how much their parents sacrificed for them, these stories speak to its mirror image,” she argues. “Parents must recognize the need to care for their children as they are; children often have to realize that their parents’ bad treatment of them stems from something bad their parents went through”.

She believes this is because younger generation filmmakers grew up in “an era where the internet and popular culture have pervaded knowledge about the nature and weight of trauma across generations.” “.

Moore believes it may also reflect the guilt many parents and creators harbor for the planet. “We are all aware that we are not handing over a better world and the children will have a future ahead of them,” he said.

“It’s sunny right now, but half the planet is on fire. Do Captain Planet now will not cut it… So I think a certain modesty in the representation of adults is good. “

It is the depiction of women in these films that best illustrates the change.

frozen is a twist in the fairy tale of ‘a woman who falls on her heels with a handsome stranger’. Screenwriter and director Jennifer Lee, with two strong and independent female leads, was determined to switch to something more reflective of our times.

Even within movie franchises there are variations in the depiction of women. “We continue to see these developments,” said Horner. “frozen is a watershed moment and an obvious example, but … there are kinds of small changes to the ice [in other franchises]. “

Horner cites Little Bo Peep’s change description in Toy Story. “The latest Toy Story movie was very conscious of how they treated the Little Bo Peep character and how they gave her agency… That was the treatment of that character day and night in the first movie. first. First, she’s just a reward for Woody. “


How Little Bo Peep has been updated with the interface in the Toy Story series

“Artists in the animation community are super sensitive to all the important social justice movements going on at the moment,” says Moore.

“I mean, someone said, ‘It’s going to take 100 years of female directors, with female characters, before we have a balance. So there’s still a lot of work to do. And that’s just [in relation to] gender equality.”

Some lament that children’s movies are becoming too sketchy and conceptual. And maybe there’s some truth to that – I think we can all agree that we don’t need any more Disney villain origin stories to explain why the characters are the way they are. such bias in original 1950s animation.

It’s also important to remember that kids today are better at handling the emotional messages found in children’s movies of the 1940s and 50s.

It’s not the resilience of the kids that has changed, it’s the problems that parents are dealing with. “These creative people are often parents, and their children are reflective people,” says Horner. “These films become a battleground for creators and artists to find their own dilemmas around relationships, parenting, and their relationship with their children.” Children’s movies may be more inclusive and less racist, but they can’t escape their age.

Fry Electronics Team

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