The above is a conversation between my 4 year old son and me. As a toddler parent, one feels like a ‘walking and talking’ encyclopaedia – some information that you would like to share with your kid and a lot more information that needs to be easily accessible in your brain somewhere to answer the million ‘But why?’ questions. Most of the time, these questions are triggered by something they have read or seen in a book, watched on one of their favourite TV shows or heard about in school and as a parent, you’d like to answer these questions in the most age appropriate way you can. (And sometimes, you are answering the same question a hundred times, just ‘cause they want to hear the explanation again and again…)
Today, protecting the environment is a concept that kids are familiarized with from an early age; in my son’s case from playschool. Of course, conversations about not littering, planting trees, not tearing flowers and being gentle with animals start off even earlier at home. With all the environmental degradation happening around us, if these kids are the ones who are going to change the future, it’s up to us to make sure that we’re teaching them right!
If you’ve been wondering how to start a conversation with your kids about climate change or other environmental topics, a family movie night is a great idea! We share with you a list of our top 10 animation eco films to help introduce concepts and kick start a conversation.
Movies│ Ice Age (2002), The Meltdown (2006), Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), Continental Drift (2012) and Collision Course (2016)
Produced By│ Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation
Story ‘One’ Line│ Set in the Palaeolithic era, the movies are about the misadventures of the animal protagonists – Manfred the mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed lion, Sid the sloth and their ‘herd’ that keeps growing with each movie.
Talking Points│ Global warming, natural calamities and extinction
Global Warming: Climate change is real and now is a good time to talk about it! This franchise has enough references to climate change, especially in the 2nd and 4th movies where it is intrinsic to the main storyline as the animals try to escape floods and melting glaciers due to the slowly rising temperatures.
Natural Calamities: The way the world is today, it wasn’t the same 200 million years ago. There have been many natural phenomena that have taken place to change the face of our planet – be it floods caused by rise in temperatures, earthquakes caused by the moving of tectonic plates, volcanic eruptions creating flowing rivers of lava or even the asteroid that wiped the dinosaurs off this planet!
Extinction: As we experience the 6th extinction crisis, losing species at such an alarming rate that it is being considered the worst since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, it’s sad that this is a process the children need to understand. At the same time, it is so important for them to know what it means because human activity is the major cause for this current crisis. In the movies, most of the animals we meet are extinct today and we probably are more familiar with a distant relative.
Movies│ Madagascar (2005), Escape to Africa (2008) and Europe’s Most Wanted (2012)
Produced By│ DreamWorks Animation
Story ‘One’ Line│ Meet the Central Park Zoo animals – Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe, who were happily living the ‘zoo life’ when unexpectedly, they get shipwrecked on an island and their ‘wild’ adventures begin.
Talking Points│ Poaching & game hunting, animals in captivity and natural resources depletion
Poaching & game hunting: A uncontrolled rise in poaching is one of the reasons that we are losing many of our species today. In Escape to Africa, we learn how Alex as a cub was captured by poachers and taken away. Luckily, his cage fell into the sea and drifted to New York where he was sent off to the Central Park Zoo.
While poaching is a source of livelihood for some, game hunting is killing animals for pleasure. We are introduced to Chantel DuBois, a game hunter who wants to kill Alex because she wants his head on her wall.
Animals in captivity: While there are different views on this topic, I think most are agreeable that circus animals are ill treated and kept in very bad conditions; a reason for them to be rescued and rehabilitated at zoos or reserves. One may argue that animals don’t belong in tiny cages (I agree!) but one hopes that they are better looked after at zoos as resources are available.
Natural resources depletion: As we cut down forests mindlessly and hoard all the natural resources for ourselves, we tend to forget that we share this planet with other creatures. In the movie, the humans build a dam on the river to store water for themselves and as a result, there is no water for the animals on the reserve. It is important that we learn to think about other creatures when it comes to utilisation of natural resources.
Movies│ Rio (2011) and Rio 2 (2014)
Produced By│ Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation
Story ‘One’ Line│ The last known surviving male – Blu, a pet Spix’s macaw (More human, less bird – like) has to travel back to Brazil to save his species from extinction and thus begins his love story (and adventures!) with Jewel, a wild macaw whose always ready to explore.
Talking Points│ Destruction of natural habitats, desire of exotic pets and extinction
Desire for exotic pet: While the global laws on illegal wildlife trade has become stricter, the demand for exotic pets still seem to be growing worldwide. It was estimated that every year, poachers in Brazil take 38 million animals from the wild and smuggle them to other parts of the world. Most of these are birds. In Rio, we see how a baby Blu gets caught by poachers and is smuggled into USA. Luckily for him, his crate falls out in Minnesota and he is rescued by Linda, his new owner and human friend for life.
Destruction of natural habitat: In Rio 2, we see how Blu and his family and friends work together to save their home – the Amazon rainforest from being destroyed by illegal logging activities. Brazil is facing one of the worst in 10 years Amazon rainforest deforestation – around 7,900 sq km (roughly 5 times the size of London) was destroyed between August 2017 and July 2018. If we keep destroying the homes of these animals, where will they go?
Extinction: Blu, the main protagonist of the film is extinct in the wild. It is estimated that there may be 60 to 80 birds still in captivity.
FINDING ‘NEMO and DORY’
Movies│ Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016)
Produced By│ Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studio
Story ‘One’ Line│ The movies are about ‘finding family’ – first Marlin the clownfish goes searching for his son Nemo who is captured by a reef diver and in the second movie, Dory goes looking for her family whom she has gotten separated from.
Talking Points│ Coral reef destruction, exotic fish pets and whales in captivity
Coral reef destruction: Throughout the movies, one gets to see beautiful animations of the underwater world, especially the brightly coloured coral reefs. This is a good introduction to start talking about how the coral reefs are getting destroyed due to climate change and ocean pollution (some of the reasons).
Exotic fish pets: One of the direct side effects of these films was that people wanted to keep Nemo – a clownfish and Dory – a royal blue tang as pets at home. Now, tropical fish live in salt water and need a lot of care, they cannot just be kept in any aquarium. In fact, while the film hoped to increase awareness about sea creatures and the story is about getting Nemo back in the ocean, the effect it had was exactly the opposite. The demand for clownfish increased and affected their population in the wild.
Whales in captivity: In Finding Dory, we meet Destiny (whale shark) and Bailey (Beluga whale) both who help Dory in finding her parents. While it seems a bit funny that Destiny keeps bumping into things and Bailey can’t echolocate properly, a skill that they use in the wild to actually locate food and navigate; one needs to have the discussion on weather is it okay to keep large creatures like whales in small aquariums just for human pleasure. For many years now, there have been global movements to free some marine creatures from captivity as they deserve to live in the open ocean.
Movies│ Happy Feet (2006) and Happy Feet 2 (2011)
Produced By│ Village Roadshow Pictures, Animal Logic, Kennedy Miller Productions and Kingdom Feature Productions
Story ‘One’ Line│ Meet Mumble, a young emperor penguin who can’t sing but definitely can dance his way out of the difficult situation he gets stuck in.
Talking Points│ Overfishing and ocean plastic pollution
Overfishing: In the movie, the older penguins blame Mumble’s weird dancing behaviour for their food source reducing. This is a clear reference to overfishing in Antarctica – a human action that directly impacts the food source of other creatures living in that region.
Ocean plastic pollution: Lovelace, a Rockhopper penguin is seen with a plastic rings of six packs stuck around his neck – yet another major environmental problem in today’s times. Ocean plastic pollution needs to be addressed immediately as it affects marine animals adversely.
WALL – E
Movie│ Wall – E (2008)
Produced By│ Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studio
Story ‘One’ Line│ Wall – E, a trash compactor robot who lives alone on a deserted Earth cleaning up the garbage until he meets Eve and falls in love.
Talking Points│ Waste management
Waste management: It is estimated that by 2050, the world would be producing 3.4 billion tons of solid waste. The future of Earth seems bleak – a future that is shown in Wall –E. Our planet Earth is uninhabitable, trash everywhere and a single trash compactor robot goes about cleaning the garbage. The joy a single sapling brings is unbelievable – and here we keep destroying acres of forests. This mindless destruction caused by human activities needs to be addressed immediately and effectively, otherwise the future we are shown in Wall-E won’t be too far away.
Movie│ Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax (2012)
Produced By│ Illumination Entertainment
Story ‘One’ Line│ Ted’s desire to impress his crush Audrey takes him on a journey of discovery where he learns the importance of trees and in determined to make his townsmen realise the importance of Nature.
Talking Points│ Protecting our trees and sustainable production
Protecting our trees: Throughout the movie, we are reminded about the importance of trees – right from them being the source of the air we breathe, supplying us with food as well as other material for our needs. With mass forest destructions happening to pave way for development, it’s important for us to realise that we don’t want to live in an artificial world like Thneedville.
Sustainable production: When On-ler tells Ted his story about the Lorax, the guardian of the forest; he talks about how his greed got the better of him and led him to cut down trees without thinking which led to the destruction of the forest. As consumers as well as companies across the world get more eco conscious, sustainable production seems like an attainable goal.
Movie│ Bee Movie (2007)
Produced By│ DreamsWork Animation and Columbus 81 Productions
Story ‘One’ Line│ Barry Benson, a young honey bee decides to fight the exploitation by humans of the bees only to realise that they both are dependent on one another and need to work together.
Talking Points│ Sustainable production and importance of bees
Importance of bees: With the bee population on a decline, this movie highlights the importance of honeybees as pollinators for our flowers and other plant produce. It is important that we help the bees, as we need them as much as they need us.
Sustainable production: The movie put in the spotlight sustainable production of honey – so it is important to figure out if the honey you buy is ethically sourced and the bees are being taken care off.
THE JUNGLE BOOK
Movie│ The Jungle Book (1967, 2016)
Produced By│ Walt Disney Productions
Story ‘One’ Line│ Mowgli, a man cub is brought up by a pack of wolves as their own in the jungle but he must move to a safer place when Sher Khan, a tiger vows to kill him.
Talking Points│ Coexistence and conflict
Coexistence: Coexisting with the natural world is essential for our survival. In earlier times, humans and animals lived in harmony together – especially as they shared resources taking only what was needed. Over time, humans have become greedy and we tend to take more than we need, thereby depriving other living creatures who may be dependent on the same. It is important that we inculcate in our children a sense of using only what is needed and sharing as well as caring for other living beings.
Conflict: Of course, human and animal conflict is not something unheard of. As we face a population boom, we venture into territories that essentially belonged to animals and these instances of faceoff with animals keep increasing. It is important that we stay out of designated reserves and national park areas so that the animals can have their homes.
Movie│ Moana (2016)
Produced By│ Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios
Story ‘One’ Line│ The daughter of the Chief, Moana is determined to sail across the oceans to find demi god Maui and help return Te Fiti’s heart when her island starts to lose their natural resources.
Talking Points│ Protecting our land, climate change affecting our natural resources
Protecting our land: Across the world, indigenous tribes are clashing with Governments trying to protect their lands. These people are dependent on the natural resources of their land for everything they need – food, livelihood, medicines and more. When the Government takes this land away for developments, destroying acres of forests; these people are left with nothing.
Climate change: In the movie we see that the fish are reducing and plants are dying, something that is happening in the real world too due to climate change. As temperatures rise across the globe, many of our flora and fauna specimens are not able to adjust to it and instead are getting wiped out. The fight to protect the Earth from rising temperatures is important as in the end, we humans will be affected the most.
We hope these eco films will prove to be enjoyable on a family movie night as well as help you start a conversation on ‘go green’.