Tara McNamara, editor of KidsPickFlicks.com, guests on our Fandango Freshly Popped Blog with her take on social and political messages cropping up in animated movies.
Hollywood’s hottest movie trends are hard to miss: dark fairy tales like Red Riding Hood, turning toys and games into movies like Transformers and revisionist history as seen in X-Men: First Class. This weekend’s new release Cars 2 reflects a more subtle and unexpected trend creeping into animated family films: political commentary.
The storyline of Cars 2 teststhe friendship of country bumpkin tow-truck Mater and savvy race car Lightning McQueen during a globe-trotting race. The World Grand Prix is designed to show off the efficiency of “alternative fuels” and quite a bit of dialogue is dedicated to biofuels and electric cars with the message that traditional oil companies are evil.
It’s an eco-political message that many American moviegoers likely agree with (save those with the last names Exxon Mobil or Chevron). However, as a parent, it personally makes me uncomfortable to take my child to an entertaining movie about talking cartoon cars, only to be bait-and-switched.
It’s a concept pulled off in Happy Feet, a movie that looked like it was about a community of dancing penguins but really was about environmental destruction. Pixar also pulled it off in Wall-E, a commentary about the gluttony and selfish excess of society disguised as a robot love story. Those movies were box office hits and won Academy Awards. Kids liked the movies, too: both films were voted the KidsPickFlicks’ “PICK of the Year.”
Movies often challenge our beliefs, but the question for parents is: do you mind social or political messages cropping up in movies geared towards children? If you’ve seen Cars 2, did you feel the environmental message was out of the blue - or just right and fitting, considering the film’s storyline?