Image: Disney / The Lion King
When we were children, we grew up watching animated movies from Disney and Dreamworks. We shamelessly stared at the screen in child-like wonder, admiring how beautiful Ariel and Jasmine looked or developing a crush on Prince Eric or Aladdin. Most of us set our love for animated movies in the past, although we unapologetically continue to instill a love for 90's Disney movies and Walt Disney World in our children (or our nieces and nephews). But that does not have to be the case. As we got older and wiser, we began to appreciate the deeper meaning behind kid's animated movies that goes beyond beautiful dresses and true love's kisses.
Animation studios such as Disney and Dreamworks instilled positive values in us as we grew up, often through song. These catchy tunes about persistence, hard work, teamwork, family values, love, and friendship are just what we need when we have a rough day. These songs can bring us back to the times when we were chipper and idealistic and motivate us to never lose track of our goals in life. Consider this list of popular movies with great life lessons a to-watch list for your little family. Your little ones will also benefit from these positive values.
Image: Disney Pixar / Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is undeniably a Pixar classic. We all love watching Marley cross the ocean searching for his son, Nemo, with his new pal, Dory. The ending has the biggest emotional significance. Dory's “just keep swimming” tune inspired Marley to lead a whole group of fish to swim downwards when they were trapped in a net by humans. Together, they were able to break the net and set all the fish free. This moment not only caused us to shed a tear. It also taught us that persistence and working together can cause us to achieve goals that may seem impossible.
The Lion King is a classic Disney movie that has captivated audiences for 25 years. We love watching Simba grow up, meet his hilarious friends, Timon and Pumbaa, fall in love with Nala, and come back to the pride lands to defeat Scar. One of the most memorable scenes was when Rafiki reunited with Simba and encouraged him to come back to the pride lands to defeat Scar and reclaim his place as king of the jungle. This interaction taught Simba that he must not run away from problems, no matter how difficult they may be. He has to face them instead.
Image: Disney / Lion King 2
The sequel of The Lion King was often overlooked compared to the original, but it also has many great life lessons. This movie focuses on Kiara, Simba and Nala's daughter and Kovu, a relative of Scar. It has a plotline similar to "Romeo and Juliet". Kiara's parents did not approve of her hanging out with Kovu because of his relationship to Scar. One of the most emotional parts of the movie was the musical sequence “He Is Not One of Us”. The lions who live in the pride lands shunned Kovu because of who he comes from. By the resolution of the movie, we learn that we must not be prejudice to people because of where, or who, they come from. We must give them an equal chance.
Image: Disney Pixar / Coco
Coco is a beautiful and highly underrated Pixar movie. Inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos, it tells the story of a boy named Miguel who loved to play the guitar in a family who hated music. After he found a guitar from his past, he went on an unexpected quest where he found out more about his family roots. He also learned why his family dislikes music. In the emotional scene where Hector sings “Remember Me” to Miguel's great grandmother Coco when she was a child, we see how important to follow your dreams but also embrace your roots.
Image: Disney / Frozen
If you are a mom, Frozen is one of the most overplayed movies in your household. But if you listen to “Let It Go” one more time, you will see that it has great life lessons. Throughout the movie, Elsa is fighting to control her magical powers, since her parents told her since she was young that she has to hide them since they are so powerful. While trying to control her powers, it ends up backfiring, and Elsa goes into isolation. While in isolation, Elsa goes into a meditative state and belt out “Let It Go” to symbolize letting go of societal expectations and embracing herself completely. When your kids demand Frozen on movie night again, let it go and give in. It is a good influence on them.
Image: Disney / Moana
Moana is another movie that is overplayed by kids around the world. But along with having a great soundtrack, Moana has a great message. Moana goes on an adventure to find the heart of Te Fiti and return it after her island experiences drought. She meets Maui, a trouble-making demi-god along the way. Moana's rebellion against her stubborn father after talking to her free-spirited grandmother teaches us that it is important to follow your heart and not stay bound to tradition.When Te Ka transforms into Te Fiti after getting her heart back, it teaches us the importance of approaching conflict with an open heart.
Image: Disney / Zootopia
Zootopia follows the life of a bunny named Judy who aspires to become a police officer. She leaves home to go to the city to become an officer and meets a new friend, Nick the fox, along the way. This movie teaches us that looks are deceiving and that no matter how small you are, you can make a powerful difference. Towards the ending, it also taught us that someone is not evil solely because they are in a position of privilege. It is not a good idea for the roles to be reversed. It is what is on the inside that counts. Working together for the greater good, more privileged or less privileged, is best.
Image: Disney / Mulan
We loved Mulan growing up because she was the most badass Disney princess (and still is!). I mean who else would dress up as a man and leave her home to help save China from the Huns? The best part of Mulan was the musical sequence “Be a Man” since it was so fun to sing along to. But after we shed some tears towards the ending, it also taught us that when we work really hard at something, we will triumph in the ending. The musical sequence “Reflection” also helps the audience to see that it does not matter what you look like on the outside. It is what is on the inside that counts.
Image: Dreamworks / The Prince of Egypt
Even if you are not Christian, the Prince of Egypt is a great movie to watch with your family. It follows the story of Moses, a boy who was found in a basket by the Queen of Egypt. He grew up with the Pharoah and his brother, Ramses. This movie taught us many lessons. In the musical sequence “Plagues”, Moses learned that it is important to stand up for what's right no matter how difficult it may be, even if you love the person who you must stand up to. The musical sequence, “When You Believe” showed us that with strong faith you can make a difference.
Image: Disney / Tarzan
Tarzan is a beautifully made movie with a flawless soundtrack (Thanks Phil Collins!) It follows the life of a man who is raised by gorillas and grows up to find love and to defeat the humans from kidnapping the gorillas in the forest. One of the most memorable musical sequences was “Son of Man”, where we see Tarzan grow from being an uncoordinated kid to a talented and active adult. After wiping the tears from our eyes, we see that even if others undermine us, we must never give up so that we can grow stronger. Another memorable scene is when young Tarzan rubs mud on his skin to look more like a gorilla. Kala, his mom, tells him about their similarities, not their differences. This shows us that being a family is not about how much you look like someone. It is about how they treat you.
Image: Disney / Pocahontas
Even though it isn't exactly historically accurate, Pocahontas is a compelling love story between the chief's daughter and John Smith. One of the most memorable scenes is the musical sequence “Colors of the Wind”. In this scene, Pocahontas introduces John Smith to her village. She shows John Smith that every life matter, not just the lives of the people who are like him. This scene teaches him to care for and empathize with others and to view the world differently than he did before. Another memorable musical sequence is “Steady as the Beating Drum”. Pocahontas shows us that it is alright to march to the beat of your own drum instead of adhering to tradition.
Image: Illumination Studios / The Grinch
The Grinch is a remake of the Dr. Seuss' classic, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It goes the same as the classic tale except the Grinch dislikes Christmas because he was an orphan growing up. He felt excluded from Christmas celebration by the Whos. Additionally, Cindy Lou Who's mother is a working single mom of three who spends days taking care of her children and nights working. Her Christmas wish is that her mother can get a break. This heartwarming remake teaches us that Christmas is not about the material items or gaudy decorations, and instead, it is about spending quality time with the people you love.
Images: Disney / Pinocchio
Pinocchio is one of the more overlooked Disney movies. It follows a puppet named Pinocchio who was created by a man named Geppetto who wants to become a real boy. His conscience is a cricket named Jiminy who helps Pinocchio through all types of misadventures. Through Pinocchio's trials and tribulations, we learn that we always need to listen to our intuition and even when we have done wrong, we must be honest about our downfalls. When Pinocchio's nose grows after he tells a lie, it shows us how foolish we look when others find out about our lies, even if it's not as visibly obvious. When Pinocchio began to live life righteously and honestly, he was granted his wish to become a real boy.
Image: Disney / The Princess and the Frog
In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana kisses a frog and instead of him turning into a prince, she turns into a frog too. They find themselves on a journey together to break the frog curse. The musical sequence “Almost There” highlights her determination to open up her restaurant. This inspiring song shows us that working hard will pay off in the ending. A contending scene was the emotional death of firefly, Ray, who believed that Evangeline, a star in the sky was his wife. During his funeral, a star appeared right next to Evangeline. This scene shows the importance of being positive and shining your light on the world when you are alive. If you radiate positivity during your life, others will see your impact even after you're gone.
Images: Disney / Toy Story
Toy Story follows the story of a cowboy action figure named Woody who was Andy's favorite toy. That changes when Andy gets a new toy, Buzz Lightyear, a shiny new space ranger figurine who Woody cannot stand. We loved watching Woody and Buzz's tumultuous relationship throughout the movie. The end of the movie was very emotional. Woody and Buzz ride the rocket on Buzz's back and Buzz is able to fly for the first time ever. They both make it into the car safely with Andy. This moment taught us that sucking up your pride and working together is important to meet a common goal.
Images: Disney / The Incredibles
The Incredibles is a great family movie because it follows the life of an ordinary by day, superhero by night family. It is easy to watch the pompous, Mr. Incredible, the talented, Mrs. Incredible, the angsty, Violet, the cocky, Dash, and the lovable, Jack-Jack, on our screen. And you can't forget the hilarious monologue with Frozone and his wife when he is looking for his super-suit. Or the fashionable and witty Ms. Edna Mode. Even though these family members could not be any more different from each other, they are able to work together as a team to fight against evil.
Images: Disney / Ratatouille
Ratatouille follows the journey of a geeky red-headed man named Linguini who meets a rat named Remy who unexpectedly knows how to cook. Remy couldn't reveal his abilities, being that he's a rat, so he used Linguini to showcase his cooking abilities. This unexpected friendship between a rat and human shows that “anyone can cook”. Ratatouille teaches us that we can do anything once we put our minds to it, with a little bit of help. One of the most memorable characters is Colette, a female chef in a male-dominated field who did not take any crap. Remy and Colette show us that we can break barriers in our fields with a lot of determination.
Images: Disney / The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an underrated Disney flick that is a bit darker than its Disney counterparts. It focuses on the life of two major characters, Quasimoto, a hunchback who is isolated by his peers, and Esmerelda, a Roma woman who is despised but desired by Frollo, a religious figure. The most memorable and emotional musical sequence was “God Help the Outcasts”. Esmeralda sings about her experience facing prejudice as a Roma woman and others who are unfairly outcasted by society. This teaches us not to judge others by their appearance and to treat them with respect no matter what.
Images: Disney / Lilo and Stitch
Lilo and Stitch is a heartwarming movie that tells the story of Lilo, a troubled girl raised by her older sister Nani, and her pet, Stitch, a mutated alien that she affectionately mistaken for a dog. However, raising Stitch is harder than anticipated, since Lilo and Nani soon find out about Stitch's destructive ways. When Lilo tells Stitch that “Ohana means family and that family means no one gets left behind”, it is hard for us not to shed a tear. This shows us that being a family means being patient with each other and never giving up on them.
Images: Disney / Hercules
Hercules follows the story of Zeus' son, Hercules. A couple adopts him when Hades, the god of the underworld, separates him from his parents, Zeus and Hera. The musical sequences contain several life lessons. “Go the Distance” teaches us that sometimes you need a change of environment if you want to achieve success. This might mean leaving behind people who you care for dearly. “Zero to Hero” teaches us that even if others undermined us, we can be successful if we are persistent enough. “I Wouldn't Say I'm In Love” teaches us that we must listen to our intuition when it comes to love. But even if someone broke our heart previously, we must open up our hearts to love again.
Images: Dreamworks / Shrek Forever After
Shrek is a hilarious book-to-movie adaptation that focuses on an ogre named Shrek and his best friend, Donkey. It is a widely successful movie that has three sequels. Why are we focusing on the fourth Shrek movie? It is because Shrek Forever After has the most relatable life lessons of the four. When Shrek becomes overwhelmed from family life and signs his life away to Rumpelstiltskin, he loses his wife and his three kids in the process. He goes on a quest to give Fiona true love's kiss so he can get his family back. We see first hand that it is important to appreciate what you have when you have it.
Images: 20th Century Fox / The Sound of Music
Even though The Sound of Music is not an animated movie, it is still a major part of our childhood. The movie follows the story of a nun named Maria (portrayed by the beautiful Julie Andrews) who leaves her convent to help watch a naval captain's seven children. Prior to Maria's arrival, the widower raised his seven kids military style. Maria transformed their upbringing by raising the children through happiness and song. This teaches us that it is more effective to rule with kindness and happiness than with an iron fist. One of the most memorable musical sequences was “Favorite Things”, which taught us that even when things are not going well when we think positively, it can help us to overcome any obstacle.