What is childhood without cartoons? Animated representatives from all walks of life, fictional and non-fictional, have always managed to capture the interest of our growing minds. As a child, there were only a few things which could level the excitement felt for the weekend animated film on Pogo. What better treat could there be than spending hours watching the characters we love?
The world of animation captivated us back then, and perhaps still does, when all we wanted was to catch the first show of Incredibles 2 or sing to our heart’s content to the Frozen soundtrack. What one, however, does not realize is the impact these movies have on us. Unknowingly, we have picked up some of our strongest values from these movies itself. King Julien from Madagascar has taught me more about being myself and seizing the day than any other person or book.
Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios are the archetypes of animation. Most generation-defining movies are a product of one of these studios. The synergic combination of the two studios under the banner of the Walt Disney Company has resulted in several movies using different approaches to teach us the few constant values in life we should all imbibe. A stark difference between their storytelling approaches only makes each film more enthralling than the previous one.
THROUGH WALT DISNEY’S LENS
Walt Disney Animation Studios believes in a strong ‘Once Upon a Time’ start to their stories. Right from the time Cinderella and Snow White were introduced, to the time Dwayne Johnson’s Maui in Moana swayed us, the stories have always been about a time long ago or a world far away. The idea that life is the same, irrespective of the time frame or location in which these events occur can be seen as a softer method of getting the message across.
The Lion King is a timeless classic, and according to me, one of the most commendable things Disney did through this film was cover the Circle of Life so beautifully. Death is treated as a foreign subject for most of our childhood, with almost all of our questions remaining unanswered. Simba being taught that death is a part of life which is inevitable is a moment of realization for most of the movie’s audience. To team that up with ‘Hakuna Matata,’ or no worries, is what makes The Lion King the iconic movie it is today.
When it comes to age-old fairy tales, we take them for what they are, without giving a second thought to the troubled princess or the evil witch. Tangled, an adaptation of Rapunzel, allows us to do so. Besides the universal opinion that Flynn Ryder is a perfect human being, the movie also teaches us essential values, like it’s alright to step outside our comfort zone. There would have been no movie had Rapunzel not decided to leave the tower! The idea that life is a collection of small moments to enjoy, and that change is good would never have been perceived earlier.
Princess Elsa of Arendelle, Anna and Olaf are characters which took the world by storm. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, ‘The Snow Queen,’ ‘Frozen’ captures the importance of family all too well. The power of a strong familial bond is seen, along with the idea that some people really are worth melting for. Elsa shutting out her friends and family, and Anna holding a grudge against her sister for the same resulted in the near destruction of Arendelle. Although such an event can never occur in our lives, it serves as a reminder to keep our loved ones close and to always be ourselves.
In ‘Zootopia’, one of my favourites, Disney once again uses Judy Hopps, a rabbit residing in the fictional Zootopia to teach its audience the importance of dreaming big and always believing in yourself. Judy never gave up on herself during trying times and we must not either. Through her misunderstandings with her friend, Nick, we are also reminded never to be prejudiced, and that friendship is an essential part of life.
THROUGH PIXAR’S LENS
While Disney fabricates an alternate universe for most of its projects, Pixar considers the possibilities of ‘what ifs’ – what if there was a superhero family in our neighbourhood? What if our toys lived lives of their own? What if the creatures of the sea also lost their children? What if our feelings have feelings? Pixar simply tries to find something extraordinary in mundane life.
After watching ‘Toy Story,’ the probability that one does not consider their toys to be alive is very low. Revolving around Andy’s toys, the movie mainly focuses on the adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. It highlights the fact that empathy is a significant aspect of any friendship, and just like how Buzz, an outsider, found a home, we must also learn to settle into new environments.
Through Skinner and Remy’s time at Gustavo’s, ‘Ratatouille’ emphasizes how trust is an important building block in any relationship. Along with this, the qualities of persistence and ambition, irrespective of who or where you come from shine throughout the movie.
We understand love and selflessness through ‘Up’, with Ellie and Carl. The same movie also tells us that age is just a number when it comes to fulfilling our dreams.
Just as The Lion King familiarizes us with death, ‘Inside Out’ normalizes mental health. Personifying the five core emotions – joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear, and portraying their role in maintaining a healthy mind was the need of the hour. In the beginning, Joy is considered a de facto head of sorts, with all other emotions having a slight negative trait to themselves. By the time the movie ended, it was these four emotions which kept Riley’s system running while Joy herself feels lost and dejected. Happiness is more than just limitless joy. It is a balance of these core five emotions which Riley achieved only when Joy ceded some control over her companions.
Another striking difference between Disney and Pixar that I remember reading somewhere is the ending. Most of Disney’s movies have the expected happy ending, but in Toy Story, a college-going Andy does part with his toys. Gustavo’s shuts down; Carl never saw Paradise Falls with Ellie and Riley did not return to Minnesota. It is not the end we are expecting, but that does not mean it is unhappy. The life we lead may not always be the one we dreamed of, or are working towards. Happiness and satisfaction need not necessarily be found among things we thought we needed.
Timelessness is what enhances the beauty of stories. Age-old tales still hold relevance today. These are the movies which left a lasting impression on me. Each one of us will have a set of films we go back to time and again. These movies help us reconnect with the child in us; the child who has learned from all these characters and has helped us move through life, one step at a time.
Written by Aarohi Sarma