Why are kids’ animated movies so creepy?

Note the lovely toy with spider legs and baby head in top right-hand corner.

Note the lovely toy with spider legs and baby head in top right-hand corner.

 

 

Is it just me, or are kids’ movies pretty creepy?

 

 

 

In our house, we rarely watch one of the latest, hyped-up kids’ releases. Call me crazy, but I like my sleep. Getting up in the middle of the night to tend to nightmares is not my idea of a good time.

Granted, my daughter may not be the average child. She is a bit of a thinker, shall we say. And thinking can lead to ruminating, and ruminating can lead to obsessing.

Take for instance, Toy Story. Yes, that well-loved favourite of families everywhere. While at a playdate, she watched this movie with her friends. The psychic damage took months to undo. I’m not joking. The toy that the boy Sid creates from his sister’s toys — a spider on the bottom with a deranged-looking baby head on top (shown in the image) — even I find it creepy. My friend had to literally scour through her house for any remote references to the movie … Woody toys, Toy Store books, etc. Only then could my daughter deem it safe to enter the home again.

Here are my major gripes with kids’ animated movies:

1. Difficult and distressing concepts: Concepts are introduced to children that they would not necessarily have thought of themselves. Concepts that adults grapple with, let alone children.

Bambi is an easy example. The mother dies. Generally speaking, most kids just assume that their parents will live forever. The concept of a parent dying (let alone leaving them orphaned like Bambi) is easily transferred: Bambi’s mom died, so my mom could die too.

Now, you might say that Bambi was from another era. How about The Incredibles for a recent example? In the opening scene a man is attempting to commit suicide. Do I really need to explain the idea of suicide to a child? Come on,  give me a break … most adults don’t really “get” suicide. Sure, perhaps your child didn’t even blink during this scene, but I had to walk out of the movie with my daughter (yes, after paying all that money!) because she had so many questions about “what that man was doing” that she was disturbing the other viewers.   

2. Pretty people = good people, Not-so-pretty people = bad people: If you’ve got a hooked nose, acne scars or even a limp, chances are you are the bad guy in a kids’ animated movie. On the other hand, if your hair is shiny, your skin is clear and you have a button nose, you’re the tale’s hero.

What this embeds into a child’s subconscious is something I really abhor. I mean, all of our family is Barbie-doll beautiful of course, but what if members of my friends’ family are not? Will my child unknowingly hold them at arm’s length? Or will other children unknowingly hold one of my children at arm’s length because of their physical characteristics?

3. The inevitable scary scene: Sure, perhaps it’s the necessary element in a plot line, but could the scene be made scary, instead of terrifying? It seems to be a big-bang combo — intense music + frightening visuals. One just needs to think back to those leopard seals in Happy Feet to know what I’m taking about here.

All in all, I find that children’s animated movies, especially since the advent of the Simpsons, seem to be written for adults, not kids. There’s  innuendo and jokes clearly not included for the sake of children’s entertainment. I guess it’s a way to get the adults into the theatre to pay for the movie-going. But, I’m not buying. We’ll stick with our Discovery Channel at home, thanks.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Why are kids’ animated movies so creepy?

  1. Adam

    Interesting post.

    The spider, freakshow toy is pretty creepy. But if I do remember correctly, she had a heart of gold, indicating that even though she looked scary, she actually had a wonderful personality. Granted, that idea could have been relayed by a less sinister looking character.
    Shrek is one movie that I think balances adult vs. kid humour perfectly. As well, the message at the end is that looks don’t count. The problem is, many movies fail at that balancing act, as it’s pretty tricky to create a movie engaging to both adults and kids – but right now it seems every mainstream kids movie aims for that. While many of the earlier Disney movies certainly had bits of humour here and there meant for adults, I remember them focusing more on kiddy jokes. Perhaps the upcoming Princess and the Frog will be a bit of a throwback along those lines.
    http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/princessandthefrog/

    Anyway, I think there are many modern kids movies that are not scary and don’t equate bad looks with bad personalities – how about Ratatouille? The trick is finding that out before bringing the kids to the theatre…

  2. i agree that “kids” movies are somewhat too intense for my four year old. The Incredibles in particular has some pretty dark moments — the ugly evil kid tortures Mr.Incredible…what’s he doing mummy? UM…

    I’m all for Discovery. Bear Grylls has at least three if not four fans in our household (baby doesn’t talk enough to make that call yet).

    Great blog — thanks.

  3. coffeewithjulie

    Adam – No doubt, you’ve made good points here. Perhaps I am just bitter that I’ve heard so many parents buzzing about a new movie called UP and I know that I’ll never actually end up seeing it! I asked my daughter if the kids at school were talking up UP, but she said no. Funny how excited the parents are to go to the kids’ movies.

    As for physical stereotypes, you have to admit that some do still rear their heads, even in subtle ways … the mean female character will tend to be very thin (think 101 Dalmations); the goofy, not-so-bright male character will tend to be on the chubby side (probably one of those in Ratatouille)… that kind of thing.

  4. Kelly

    So True, I love this post, and agree that children’s movies today are really not that kid oriented and have heavy undertones and content that I am always having to “discuss” at length with my very detail oriented child.

    Thank goodness for Discovery and National Geographic Channel!

  5. Jen

    I also have a couple of kids that ask a lot of questions about everything they see in movies. I found these 2 websites that I really like…
    http://www.commonsensemedia.org/reviews
    http://parentpreviews.com/Home

    I like the way they simply describe the different elements you will see in a movie and then you can decide what your children can handle. Huge selection of movies new and old.

    • coffeewithjulie

      Jen – I just used these sites – thanks! A friend wanted to check out the new movie “Up” with our kids. But after reading these parent reviews, I’ll skip it.

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