I texted a good friend of mine the other day bragging about the perfect reviews Pixar’s Inside Out is garnishing (an extremely rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes). A month before its release, critics are calling it emotional, inventive, and the best Pixar film to date. It’s also clear that the animated movie deals with some pretty heady stuff, as is common with Pixar movies. The newest installment deals with the emotional struggles that an adolescent girl deals with as life upends itself on her.
My friend told me that he’s uncomfortable letting his young kids watch Pixar movies because he doesn’t think they need to be thinking about the thematic elements that Pixar surrounds their stories around. Some examples being:
* The reality of death in Up
* Breaking away from parental control as demonstrated in Finding Nemo
* Shedding childhood bliss as Andy – and his toys – did in that tear-jerking scene in Bonnie’s front yard
* Coming to terms with the fact that you, in fact, cannot be anything you want to be as Mike Wazowski discovers in Monsters University
*Learning that the world may not accept you no matter how talented you are like in Ratatouille
And the list goes on.
Pixar, though fun and inventive, certainly unlocks the hard truths of life, exposing kids to life’s uncertainties and reminding grown ups of the unavoidable hardships we all encounter.
My friend certainly does have a point about Pixar movies tending to dwell on the darker side of things. He said he had an issue with Pixar trying to fit these adult themes into movies that are intended to be for kids and asserted that they actually are better for just adults.
I wonder if that would be a point of pride for the Pixar guys. I, of course, responded that that’s what I love about them! (I’ve alluded a while back that I’m working on a young reader’s novel that takes place in 1940’s Germany … so I’m all for darker subject matter.)
He went on to say that Pixar movies introduces all these issues that his kids shouldn’t have to be thinking about, which is something I can appreciate, for sure. But I think that’s what separates more protective parents like him from guys like me who, if my daughter bumps her head, I tell her to shake it off and that’s life (I’m working on being more sensitive).
But I prefer to introduce these issues to our kids at a young age so that they kind of morph into grown ups with the basics of life – the good and the bad – already tucked away so there’s no surprises. But then, there’s something to be said about nurturing childhood innocence as well…
He concluded our debate by saying, “We were just at Disneyland yesterday and I couldn’t help but think that anytime Disney teams up with Pixar they lose a little of that original magic in [an] attempt to make a film more ‘authentic’ emotionally.”
I feel like I’m caught in the middle of my two best friends who hate each other and my loyalties are being tested. But I’ll keep trying to convince him that Pixar movies are way more effective than the Looney Tunes-like Dreamworks abominations, fit for Saturday morning television, and I’ll continue to catechize my kids in the way of Pixar and be ready to answer any tough question they might bring me (except I’m going to hold off on showing them Toy Story 3 for a long, long time).
What are your thoughts on the debate? Are Pixar films too adult for children? Is it better to let them carry on in childlike innocence and hide them away from the fears and uncertainties of the world? Share your input below and join my new Facebook author page for more fun stuff!