The idea in popular thinking that children’s movies have to be light and fluffy and safe and not have too many crude jokes in them the only adults will get is really kind of bs.
I mean, I think people are forgetting how tragic some of the best children’s movies are.
I mean just with Disney:
Beauty and the Beast is about a man cursed to be a beast and a woman he basically kidnaps, and it has near continuous mentions of death.
Cinderella opens with the story of a young girl losing her father. She is then abused by her family, no matter how well she takes it.
In The Lion King, Scar literally throws his brother off a cliff. He is trampled to death and young Simba witnesses the tragedy and is then convinced he is a murderer and exiled from his own kingdom. The entire pride lands turns into a nightmare, complete with never sunny skies and near cannibalistic monsters.
The Little Mermaid has Ursula basically telling Ariel to use sex appeal to win a guy, and she kinda does. Ursula also has a host of shriveled people trapped in her home.
Lady and the Tramp has a terrifying, evil rat trying to kill/steal/eat a baby and several dark scenes – including Lady in the pound.
Have you watched The Rescuers lately? Or it’s sequel? Kidnapping. Attempted murder. Thievery. Traumatic hospital experiences. Bad guys being eaten by wild animals. I mean, seriously.
Treasure Planet is about a broken family. The main character has a history of arrests. Over half the cast is evil. That movie is a bucket of angst.
Lilo and Stitch is another broken family. I mean I could dedicate this whole post to the not-happy and sunshine things in Lilo and Stitch.
Same goes for Oliver and Company – a kitten no one wanted is left to drown in a cardboard box until it breaks and he’s left on the streets. He’s then subjected to a number of scary experiences. There’s a child being kidnapped and held for ransom. Those evil dogs are scary as hell. The bad guy is terrifying. Even one of the heroes could be scary to a little kid – he’s a dirty looking hobo selling fake watches.
Outside of Disney you have movies like The Land Before Time, where Littlefoot watches his mother die and must then travel across the world to find the rest of his family. He meets other kids but even then he’s battered over and over with self-doubt, loneliness, and depression.
An American Tale is a cute movie but when you get older you see it’s a anecdote about immigration and children’s work houses and orphanages and living on the streets of 1870’s America.
Balto is about an outcast half-wolf dog that no one wants to associate with. Other dogs and all humans avoid him. Even when he starts to have good experiences, the other dogs ruin it for him. He nearly dies a few times. The plot of the movie is that a sickness is killing children.
A Little Princess sounds like a cute movie, but I always hated it because it scared me and made me cry. A girl is orphaned while at boarding school, then she’s turned into a servant. Every time she starts to enjoy herself, the headmistress ruins it and threatens her. Her best friend is the victim of racism. Her father was in a war and got amnesia and almost doesn’t recognize his own daughter in the end.
The creator of Rise of the Guardians made a statement when asked about how dark his movie was. He said he wanted to prove kids movies could be dark. Good on him, because a kid’s movie without darkness is a movie without true conflict and thus boring to anyone above the third grade. Anyone younger just likes it because it moves.
I could go on and on.
So all the articles I see lately about how children’s movies are too dark and they need to be fun and friendly and whatever… I mean, stop it. Your kids need more than candy.
Kid’s movies shouldn’t just be for kids. They should be movies you can watch again and again and get something new each time because you’re learning about the world and realizing that was in your favorite movie the whole time.