Bright colors and charismatic characters definitely make a movie more appealing to kids. They have loud and exciting scenes and moments written to get laughs. But many movies with a focused child demographic understand that children will not be the only ones seeing these projects. Their families will also be sitting through the film. So, many movies also create plot lines that can help start important discussions with children or create a secondary meaning that the teenagers and adults may be in on that the kids will only grow to understand years later. Plenty of exciting children’s movies excel at developing stories appropriate for kids, but that can trigger questions leading to valuable conversations.
While plenty of these movies have a fairly obvious meaning to them, they can still showcase a deeper meaning beyond the surface of whatever the basic plot line is. Movies for children are not all laughs and fun. Some involve devastating subplots, such as families being ripped apart, dealing with grief, discussing mental illness, or finding and embracing one’s identity. Adding these plot lines to children’s movies adds more substance to the story, while also giving the kids something to subconsciously think about while simultaneously enjoying the bright colors and characters offered on-screen.
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Kung Fu Panda is about Po, a panda who does not fit in with his adoptive goose father, Mr. Ping’s idea of what Po’s future should be. Mr. Ping thrives on running his noodle restaurant and enjoys the thought of Po working there. Po’s dreams include wishing for a future in martial arts. When he is named the Dragon Warrior, Po leaves his life behind to train and study with the other warriors.
What Is the Deeper Meaning of Kung Fu Panda?
Po’s journey is all about discovering and embracing identity. As a panda, and without years of training behind him, Po does not have an easy time with the flexibility needed to take on martial arts. He struggles with fitting in with the rest of the group, especially with a growing threat. But, as Po grows to gain confidence in himself the more he learns, Kung Fu Panda embraces the idea that the biggest secret one can unlock is what they themselves are capable of achieving.
Bridge To Terabithia (2007)
Jess has a difficult time at home with his family in financial trouble and his multiple siblings. It does not help that Jess does not have any friends at school. But, when Jess meets Leslie, an unexpected friendship grows and turns both of their lives around for the better. Their bond expands to a sacred place in the woods they name “Terabithia,” a magical land that is just for them where anything is possible.
Bridge to Terabithia Highlights Grief and Loss
Love and grief play strong and devastating roles in Bridge To Terabithia. Jess and Leslie’s platonic friendship is still the film’s main love story, as they grow to rely on each other. But, when Jess takes a trip without Leslie, and Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess, a branch snaps, leading to her tragic drowning and death. Jess’ inability to see the good anymore until he finally grieves and tries to heal by introducing his young sister to the imaginary magical world offers a chance at trying to understand the grieving process of a child.
- Release Date
- February 11, 2016
Zootopia‘s message is fairly clear. On its surface, the film is about an unlikely duo, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, a cop and a trickster, who must team up to discover who is causing the predators to go rogue and cause harm. But it also places its deeper message at the forefront of the story.
Zootopia Is a Deeper Look at Racism
Zootopia relies on the conversation about racism between prey and predator to get the ball rolling. Nick’s backstory of wanting to be a scout but being looked down on immediately as a child set his future in motion to become exactly who everyone else thought he was. Judy’s claims that she has no problems with foxes are argued by her having a fox repellent in her pocket. Zootopia allows Judy and Nick to help each other understand the opposite perspective and grow and change. The film highlights other characters undergoing racist behaviors toward predator animals.
The Color Of Friendship (2000)
In this case, The Color of Friendship‘s deeper meaning lies right at the heart, soul, and forefront of the story. There is no hiding this under surface-level plot lines. In 1977, Piper Dellums and Mahree Bok crossed paths on a student exchange program from Africa to America, and nothing is ever the same for either again.
The Color of Friendship Also Takes a Closer Look at Racism
The Color Of Friendship discusses racism and politics, and how someone so blissfully ignorant of the truth discovers something so important about the way people are treated. For Mahree, her trip to America is a wake-up call toward racism that not only occurs in America, but in Africa as well, where she had never paid close attention.
- Release Date
- November 24, 2021
- 1hr 42min
The large and extended Madrigal family all lives together with their various miracle gifts. Everyone other than Mirabel receives a gift, leaving Mirabel feeling detached and separate from the rest of her family, even though she loves them.
How Encanto Highlights Generational Trauma
As their family home falls apart, the more the Madrigal family focuses on each other’s gifts instead of each other, it is up to Mirabel to put together the pieces of the past and help bring her family back together. Encanto tackles issues such as generational trauma that comes from Mirabel’s grandmother, the stresses and expectations placed on Mirabel’s sisters, and the emotional ramifications of Bruno leaving the family.
Hotel For Dogs (2009)
When siblings Andi and Bruce must find creative ways to hide their pet dog Friday from their foster parents, and are desperate to avoid being split up by the system, they end up finding a safe haven in an abandoned hotel. They take the opportunity to turn it into something more. Andi and Bruce lead the way in renovating the old hotel into a haven for Friday, the two other dogs who live there, and eventually many others that they, and their rag-tag group of friends, rescue and save along the way.
A Deeper Look at Found Family
Desiring a family above all else, Andi and Bruce accidentally create one. Andi, Bruce, Friday, Dave, Heather, and Mark, along with all the dogs they have taken in, have become a found family of their own making. Andi and Bruce’s separation portrays the heartbreak they find in being the only ones in their family left and being forced apart. Even their social worker, Bernie, can not deny his love for these children, and not only do the kids get to keep the hotel they created, but they also get adopted.
Meet The Robinsons (2007)
Meet the Robinsons
- Release Date
- March 23, 2007
- Angela Bassett , Daniel Hansen , Jordan Fry , Matthew Josten , John H. H. Ford , Dara McGarry
When Lewis is taken from his home and brought to the future by the mysterious Wilbur, Lewis eventually realizes that he has stepped into his own future and meets the family he will eventually have. But he also needs to defeat the movie’s villain, Bowler Hat Guy. However, even this element holds a deeper meaning for Meet the Robinsons.
Meet the Robinsons Looks at Nature vs. Nurture
Meet the Robinsons definitely focuses on Lewis’ relief at discovering that he is eventually adopted and later starts a family of his own. But, the film’s revelation that the main villain is the grown-up version of Lewis’ roommate, Michael “Goob” Yagoobian, who was never adopted, takes it one step further. Michael was never able to move on from his past, and it affected his entire future. The movie shows Lewis that he can help his friend in his present-day life, and changing the course of his life gives both boys the chance at a happy future.
Inside Out (2015)
- Release Date
- June 9, 2015
Inside Out is not just about racing back to Headquarters after Joy and Sadness are accidentally sucked away from their home. The story certainly allows the audience to understand the different areas of the brain, from long and short-term memory to imagination land, and much more. But this story has far more emotional arcs attached.
Inside Out Shows That All Emotions Have Their Place
Inside Out is all about Sadness, even if Joy is supposedly the main character. The Pixar movie discusses the role Sadness plays in one’s life and that it is a perfectly normal thing to experience, and nothing to be ashamed of. Riley’s desperation to be happy for her parents’ sake only causes her more harm, as she does not feel she can truly experience her emotions. But, Inside Out highlights the relief of giving into crying and how it is an important part of life.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Ralph’s entire plan is to prove that he can play a villain and not necessarily be a villain. While his role in “Fix-It Felix” has him break everything down, all Ralph wants to do is prove he can be a hero. But what does he need to do to prove that?
Wreck-It Ralph Points Out the Importance of Identity
Ralph and Vanellope’s journey of trying to prove that the underdog is worth more than others expect allows this story to embrace a sense of identity. Ralph and Vanellope need to embrace who they are rather than just take everyone else’s word.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Wizard of Oz
- Release Date
- August 15, 1939
- Victor Fleming , Mervyn LeRoy , Richard Thorpe , King Vidor
- Judy Garland , Frank Morgan , Ray Bolger , Bert Lahr , Jack Haley , Billie Burke
When a twister picks up Dorothy’s house and brings her to Oz, she undergoes a shocking understanding of what lies beyond Kansas. Dorothy must follow the yellow-brick road to reach the Wizard. Along the way, she comes across three companions who share her desire to make a wish. All the while, the Wicked Witch of the West intends to hunt Dorothy down to regain her shoes and seek vengeance for her sister’s death.
There’s No Place Like Home
Ultimately, Dorothy could spend the rest of her life in Oz, experiencing new worlds that she never knew existed. Instead, Dorothy chooses to go home, as the film’s suggestion that “there is no place like home” can be very true. Stories such as Wicked also portray that there is more to the story than the movie shows, as it gives more understanding to the Wicked Witch’s motivations.