Messed-Up Kids’ Movies

by Abby on February 9, 2014

I know that everyone in the Western world is currently enamored with “Frozen,” but I will be the lone dissenting voice here and say I thought it was terrifying for children! I dragged my boys to see it during one of our many snow days, and then spent the next week worrying I’d scarred them for life. Spoiler alert: the parents DIE. Although that’s the case in about 90% of Disney movies, isn’t it? Then the 2 princesses have a sad, isolated childhood, there are emotional ballads and confrontations, and there’s a giant snow monster, and… well, it isn’t the first time I’ve misjudged a movie. This post from my archives proves as much.

Kung Fu Toddler

Kung fu Panda“Kung Fu Panda” was a mistake. I realize this now. At the time I ordered it, however, I was thinking only about expanding my son’s film library beyond “Cars.” I have lost count of how many times he’s watched that movie. He’s memorized the dialogue, knows every character’s name, and owns a ridiculous amount of licensed merchandise from the movie. Personally, I would love nothing more than to smash the DVD into a million pieces and sink them to the bottom of the sea. That’s how sick I am of “Cars.”

So, anyway, there I was on browsing the new Family & Kid releases. A panda! Jack Black! Angelina Jolie! What could be wrong with that? We popped in the DVD as soon as it came in the mail. Well, guess what, people? It’s an entire movie about FIGHTING. It’s right there in the title, only I’d skipped over the “kung fu” part and zeroed in on the panda. So I could hardly be surprised when Miles started hurling himself around the living room, kicking and karate-chopping, shouting, “Let’s fight, Mama!” Good move, Mama.

Plus, the movie is scary. There’s this huge evil beast with fiery eyes — a panther? A mutant cheetah? — that busts out of prison and tries to kung-fu everyone to death. If Miles is afraid of the big tractor in “Cars,” then this character would surely scare the crap out of him. And I can hardly blame the little guy. He comes from a sensitive family. I was led out of the theater crying at my very first movie, “Cinderella,” because I couldn’t stand how the chubby mouse, Gus, was getting picked on. Have you ever seen it? It’s heart-breaking, people!

There’s a whole laundry list of questionable and/or totally inappropriate kids’ movies. Bambi’s mother dies, Mowgli is orphaned in a freak canoe accident in the jungle, Princess Fiona is forced into an arranged marriage and kidnapped by an ogre — and don’t even get me started on Harry Potter. I was talking to a mom the other day who fears she scarred her daughter for life by letting her watch “Bridge to Terabithia.” I haven’t seen it, but apparently a kid falls off a swing and cracks their head open. Nice family programming, huh?

Now, I studied the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales for an entire semester in college, and I can tell you there’s a reason lots of kids’ stories contain dark and disturbing themes. I mean, Snow White gets poisoned, Red Riding Hood’s grandma is devoured by a wolf, and poor Hansel and Gretel nearly meet their fiery death in a witch’s oven. These tales are supposed to validate the bad thoughts that all kids naturally have, as well as illustrate in black and white terms that good is rewarded and evil is punished. Then again, there are some tales in which someone is chopped up and made into stew for no apparent reason. Those Grimm Brothers were kind of messed up.

Anyway, I don’t think “Kung Fu Panda” will make into the regular rotation. Good thing I also ordered a Curious George movie and “101 Dalmations” (the animated version). Then again, Cruella de Vil plots to make a coat out of puppies… I’m screwed.

LINK O’ THE DAY: rates kids’ movies based on age-appropriateness, and elements including positive messages, language, violence, and consumerism.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah February 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

You know, obviously all parents want to protect their kids from pain forever but the truth is that we all will die. As a bereaved parent, it is obviously a subject that hits very close to home. I of course think we should draw a line about what is appropriate for our own children but my son, who unfortunately had to learn about death very early on, would not be surprised by a plot line where a parent or child dies. This is real life for a lot of us. Maybe movies should come with some type of disclaimer beforehand though so at least you are forewarned!

I too have Cars memorized 😉
Our newest favorite is despicable me 2. I think with this polar vortex we’ve watched it five times in the last month!


Abby February 10, 2014 at 9:14 am

You’re right, Sarah, I do think it’s up to each parent to decide what’s appropriate for their kid. My older son is currently obsessed with dying, to the point where it keeps him up at night. And emotional things in general affect him a lot, so a movie with themes of death and abandonment is literally his worst nightmare. Meanwhile, I know kids much younger who’ve seen movies I would never consider allowing my 7yo to see, and it doesn’t affect them at all! So I guess the message is: know your kid. Thanks for the Despicable Me 2 recc – I have heard good things about that one.


Malia Jacobson February 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Kids’ movies are so ridiculously scary. I think the producers try to create something that will appeal to the adult in the movie theater, instead of the child. The Croods came up on Netflix this weekend, so we watched it. My 7yo was terrified. And what is the deal with parents dying? My daughter keeps asking if I’m an orphan (we recently saw “Annie.”) There’s no getting away from it.


Abby February 10, 2014 at 1:51 pm

We haven’t seen the Croods, but there are very few movies my 7yo wants to see, I think because of some of those scary or emotional themes. I guess I should respect that, but it’s kind of tough when that’s all that’s out there for kids.


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