I must say from a young age I’ve always been a big fan of animated films like ‘A Bugs Life’, ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Monsters Inc’ but as I’ve grown up I’ve started to catch onto the prominent messages within these light-hearted films. When you’re a young child you just see bright friendly characters and you always root for the hero of the film; there’s a bad guy that everyone hates and there’s a friend that helps. We don’t see it as a message being portrayed as a way of teaching us right from wrong.
Disney is the prime example of hiding morals and themes within their stories and there has been large debates over its main goal; teaching kids lessons or giving children the wrong impressions. Without looking into the implications of these messages fully I’d have instantly said they were positive and a great way to teach children morals from a young age. For example, ‘Peter Pan’ taught us that expressing your inner-child is good and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ taught us not to be shallow and beauty is within. However, these messages may be positive towards the opinions of growing children but the overall images presented from Disney I would say are shallow and empty of morals. For example, Disney princesses are role models to young girls; they want to be like them and most importantly ‘look’ like them. All the disney princesses are thin, big eyed and have luscious long hair, which I see as a misrepresentation of reality and is planting false hopes into young girls minds.
However, moving back to the prominent messages within children’s films I am going to focus on The Lorax as a modern example of morals being portrayed. (SPOILER ALERT) Rated as a PG the films plot follows a young boy trying to win over the affection of a girl by finding her a real-life tree. Along the way he encounters barriers such as the evil businessman Mr O’Hare and the ex-businessman, who has learnt from his bad ways, called the Once-ler. He has to dig deep into his emotions and morals to understand the bad nature of business and after discovering a way to help everyone and be the hero he wins over the girl. The plot screams out moral messages but my favourite part of all is a song the characters sing about mid-way through the film called ‘How Bad Can I Be’. Below is a video link to the song.
I must say my favourite verse of the song is at 2.18 with the lyrics:
All the customers are buying
And the money is multiplying
And the PR people are lying <—- (Being a PR student and all this line is my favourite)
And the lawyers are denying
Who cares if a few trees are dying
This is all so gratifying
So to sum up, these films that seem so harmless to us when we’re younger in fact attempt to teach lessons and subliminally introduce morals to children from a young age. The Lorax (Universal Pictures) is teaching children ethics of business and the morals behind looking after the planet. Of course children aren’t going to recognise it as a lesson in bad business but they will recognise the heroic storyline of the young boy having a voice over the big man. If you haven’t seen it already then I definitely recommend that you give it a watch, even if you’re an adult.