Just because a movie is made to be appreciated by kids doesn't mean that it can't have a deeper, more subtle meaning too. That's one of the reasons that recent family movies like "Frozen," "Inside Out," and "Big Hero 6" appeal strongly to adult fans too. Many animated and live-action children's movies share the same surface-level themes, like the value of kindness, bravery, and believing in yourself. (Also that your Fairy Godmother is on her way -- maybe she's stuck in traffic.)
But if you dig a little deeper, some of those same movies also take a sly stance on social and political issues. A few have even been criticized for promoting a specific "agenda." Did you catch the subliminal messaging in these seven children's movies?
'Finding Nemo' (2003)
In Disney Pixar's underwater charmer, "Finding Nemo," the Great Barrier Reef is home to a colorful cast of aquatic characters. The movie's focus on sea life and the Reef's delicate ecosystem can be read as support of the environmental conservationist movement. Think about it: who could possibly be heartless enough to toss a plastic bottle into the ocean after watching Marlin and Dory rescue sweet little Nemo?
'The Fox and the Hound' (1981)
A classic Disney animated movie that should only be watched when you're in need of a good cry actually has a pretty disturbing thesis. Tod and Copper come from different worlds, but friendship helps them bridge that gap. In the end though, "The Fox & the Hound" have to go back to their separate, species-appropriate lives. It's a depressing allegory of the struggle of having lasting relationships with people who aren't "like" you.
Though she has no love interest in the movie, some have interpreted Elsa as Disney's first lesbian princess. Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian even called Elsa's big number and now ubiquitous karaoke song "Let It Go" a "coming-out anthem."
'Beauty and the Beast' (1991)
"Beauty & The Beast" had might as well be called "Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical." Belle is kept as a prisoner in the Beast's castle only to inevitably fall in love with him and decide to stay forever. Sure.
'Mary Poppins' (1964)
In Disney's interpretation of the P.L. Travers' books, "Mary Poppins" is the original super-nanny and hero for childless women everywhere. Mary loves children just fine, but she's not willing to give up her freedom for them. She goes where the wind takes her and doesn't feel guilty about it for a moment. It's an incredibly progressive stance for a family movie made in 1964.
'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' (1989)
The visually innovative 1989 movie, "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," is a coming-of-age story in more ways than one. When their kooky scientist dad accidentally shrinks his kids and their friends with one of his inventions, the youngsters have to use teamwork and their wits to stay alive in a world that's too big for them. That's a metaphor for the challenges of youth and puberty if we've ever heard one.
'The Lego Movie' (2014)
It's possible that no kids movie in the last 10 years stirred up as much talk about subliminal messaging as "The Lego Movie." Fox News hosted a segment on the movie's "anti-business" themes, and others pointed out the resemblance of the movie's villain, President Business, to conservative Mitt Romney. But even though "The Lego Movie" is a celebration of creativity and forward-thinking, the entire feature is inspired by the Lego brand. And it doesn't get much more corporate than that.
- The Guardian: Why Frozen's Let It Go is more than a Disney hit – it's an adolescent aperitif
- Youtube: Fox Host Attacks The Lego Movie