Kids movies

Why I Watch Children’s Movies and Why You Should Too | Opinion

I want to tell you a story.

It is the story of a clumsy and nerdy, but fundamentally generous man. Living alone with his father, this young man is going nowhere in life – until the fate of the whole country unexpectedly rests on his shoulders. While many doubt and belittle him, our hero grits his teeth and gets to work. After an emotional journey through difficult personal obstacles and difficult interpersonal relationships, he eventually learns to trust himself more than ever. Over time, he is also seen discovering that he is adopted, and working to build a healthy relationship with his biological father. We watch him grow closer to his peers, share a particularly close but refreshingly platonic relationship with a female colleague, and win the affection of his stoic mentor.

Now I will tell you something else. The hero of our story is an anthropomorphic panda. His adoptive father is a goose and his best friend is a tiger.

Many readers will probably recognize what I’m talking about. Maybe fans could sense it from the start.

I speak of course of the cinematographic force which is the trilogy “Kung Fu Panda”. With the help of this film, I want to make the case for the shameless and heartfelt enjoyment of children’s films.

By no means am I claiming that all children’s films are artistic or complex; that’s certainly not the case with the “Despicable Me” or “Trolls” franchises (although they’ve even delivered their fair share of fun and enjoyment to the TikTok generation). Nor am I advocating that viewing children’s films replace our consumption of other content. What I am saying, however, is that films marketed for children and families can in fact be some of the most well-crafted, thoughtful and life-changing works of art. And they deserve our genuine attention.

Ultimately, the beauty of children’s film form is that it must capture and communicate big, complex ideas in an easily digestible way. Admittedly, this is sometimes done by simplifying things or avoiding heavy topics altogether. But sometimes children’s films will strike gold. They will deliver nuanced and touching portraits of life, love and loss – in a simplistic yet deeply symbolic way.

In other words, what’s mundane or understated in a children’s movie out of necessity might actually manifest as the right level of restraint – what people in the art world like to call “subtext.”

For example, I come back to the value of the franchise for children that I opened with: “Kung Fu Panda”. I’m not going to claim that it provides the most polished portrayal of body positivity (unfortunately, many of the occasional fat jokes are made without hesitation), but there’s no denying that the films are always optimistic – and sometimes surprisingly philosophical. – messages about self-love and confidence. Surprisingly, there’s never a superficial makeover or weight loss montage scene; instead, the protagonist’s arc is all about learning to trust themselves and earning the respect of their peers. The animated fight scenes feature homages to real kung fu techniques, and to top it off, the films are starred by the prolific Hans Zimmer and John Powell. The visuals are vivid and captivating, the messages are solid, and the musical experience is almost unique. In fact, the famous piece “Oogway Ascends” is known to be one of the most moving movie soundtracks – if you don’t believe me, one clip has over 20 million views on Youtube.

Pandas and movie scores aside, there’s something crucial going on when you sit down and sincerely and shamelessly enjoy a good kids’ movie. Yes, you’ll probably have a great time and eventually realize it’s a work of art in its own right. But you will also grow slowly. When we break down our barriers of what we consider “artistic,” we increasingly eliminate the snobbery and vanity that have often been ingrained in us our entire lives. We become more open to seeing a greater variety of content as worthy of our time; worthy of the noble title of “Art”. And is there anything more central to art than openness and inclusiveness?

I had an English teacher once who said that art is anything that moves you. I never asked him to clarify what he meant – mostly because I was terrified of him – but paraphrased his words into something that makes sense to me. Art is anything that moves you, and not necessarily in an emotional sense, but in the literal sense of movement, where you start and end in different places. (Something that just makes you emotional doesn’t automatically mean it’s art; the fact that I cried watching “Love is Blind” the other day is proof enough of that.) , art is simply anything that signifies that you are not the same person you were before you consumed it, in a meaningful way – spiritual, philosophical, personal, or even artistic.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not the same person I was before watching “Kung Fu Panda” as an adult. And if you take the time to do it like I do, you won’t either — and that’s not just because it’s an objectively fantastic movie. It is because you will be taking your next step, perhaps your first, towards a better and wiser view of the art world around us.

Lina HR Cho ’23 is a comparative literature hub at Dunster House. His “Bad Art” section appears every other Monday.