Anna Romanovska, Lifestyle editor, considers how children’s movies have changed since the early 2000s.
Some of my greatest childhood memories come from bingeing movies produced by Disney and Pixar, such as Ratatouille, Toy Story, Aladdin and The Lion King. Many of them taught me life lessons the likes of the importance of friends, kindness, generosity and staying true to yourself. Though these may seem cheesy at first, I found that they were essential for my development as a child. However, many children’s movies now seem to depart away from the goofy and light narratives they used to encompass. In addition to that, the meaning of many family movies seems to change when watched at a later age. What do all of these things mean for the changes within the structure of children’s movies and their legacy that changes with age?
I can’t help but find that there has been a shift from the silly movies that came with the 90s, to more cinematic experiences promising wow-factor upon wow-factor. Universal Pictures is set to release a rehash of the story of Dr. Dolittle, a doctor who can speak to animals. If it seems familiar, chances are you grew up on the Eddie Murphy film franchise from the late 90s. Having watched the trailer for the new Dolittle, it looks like it is literally running away from the light-hearted plot of Dr. Dolittle. Set in the Victorian era, the new addition to Robert Downey Jr’s impressive collection seems to return to the roots of the Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting.
Though the upcoming movies storyline will most likely be closer to the original books, I do worry about the over-reliance on CGI and cinematography. The magic of goofy movies such as Dr. Dolittle was that they showed children that being silly was more than okay, and that staying true to themselves was always the better option. Now, with a surge in the need to be aesthetically pleasing at all times, it has become increasingly difficult to implement the beauty of being truly genuine. What the use of CGI does is inadvertently impose these standards of holding an aesthetic way of being upon young, impressionable children.
What the phenomenon of the family movie essentially did, is that it made the kids movie watching experience more palatable to all of the ages involved.
I have recently gone back to watching some of the movies I grew up on. To my surprise, them I found some of them absolutely terrifying. Take Happy Feet as an example. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the adorable dancing penguin. However, having re-watched it, I am now convinced that it is nothing more than a horror movie in disguise. The movie is essentially a striking commentary on the effects of climate change and our need to lock animals into tiny boxes just to watch them suffer. There were times when I had to look away, that’s how scared I was. You can imagine my surprise that a movie with such dark undertones managed to pass as a regular kids movie.
Perhaps producers are aware of the fact that most caregivers are forced to sit through the movies their children are watching and so decided to subtly weave in themes those with a more developed consciousness would pick up on. However, such an approach to filmmaking made the movies available to all. Watching the same cartoon over and over again can become rather dull. What the phenomenon of the family movie essentially did, is that it made the kids movie watching experience more palatable to all of the ages involved.
Movies such as Dr. Dolittle, E.T., Winnie the Pooh and Kung Fu Panda allowed me to express myself as a child, whereas now I have found an increasing trend in children as young as 4 needing to be like adults and adhere to unnatural standards of behaviour and looks. Though I am not denying the beauty of CGI today, I do think that producers need to try to link back to their roots and show kids that the best way to develop yourself is through the silliest and most fun films. Perhaps by doing that, they might simultaneously bring back the laughter parents used to release when watching classic family movies.