Not all moviegoers want their movies dripping with heavy-handed moral messages, but when they’re presented as part of the colorful, warm fuzzy goodness of an animated film, somehow said message or moral is easier to swallow. The latest entrant into the animated movie with a message canon is “The Lorax,” Dr. Seuss’ classic story about a young boy who must save endangered trees in hopes of winning a girl’s heart.
In celebration of the cute, fluffy friend of trees The Lorax (voiced by Danny DeVito), here are the top five animated movies with an environmental message.
5. “Happy Feet”
Although the plot of this Oscar-winner for Best Animated Feature Film revolves around Mumble the penguin (Elijah Wood) learning to dance to the beat of his own drum, literally, the third act reveals a glaringly obvious message about over fishing in the Arctic and general ocean pollution. The animated penguins are so cute and the voice cast so fun (Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman) that you can look past the not very subtle subtext.
Speaking of subtlety, James Cameron’s history-making blockbuster “Avatar” is/was the opposite. Plenty points can be and have been made about Cameron and Co.’s use of groundbreaking computer technology and motion capture that made for a dazzling cinematic spectacle, but let’s not forget the fact that the story revolves around the moral issues surrounding deforestation, globalization and displacing indigenous populations for the sake of extracting natural resources.
3. “The Rescuers Down Under”
Because I loved this movie when it came out and still love it to this day, Disney’s “The Rescuers Down Under” comes in at number three on this list. I know there are other animated films that likely touched on this issue before, but “Down Under” is the first film I remember to touch on the subject of poaching. The plot revolves around a young boy who befriends a giant golden eagle Marahute and is later kidnapped and used as bait for villainous poacher McLeach. Enter the littlest and cutest heroes ever, Rescue Aid Society agents Bernard and Bianca, to the rescue! Bonus fact courtesy Wikipedia: the film was Eva Gabor’s final role before her retirement in 1994 and death in 1995.
Find me someone who doesn’t love almost everything about “Wall-E” and I can assure you I will not like him or her. This movie has everything: action, adventure, romance, amazing animation and a not-at-all thinly veiled warning about treating Mother Earth and our bodies with much better care than we currently do. The 2008 critically-acclaimed, bona fide box office hit for Pixar and director Andrew Stanton received countless accolades and won a slew of awards including an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and two Grammy Awards.
1. “FernGully: The Last Rainforest”
“FernGully” edges out “Wall-E” for the number one spot here because of its nostalgia factor and my attachment to it. Also because it is serious about its environmental message of “Don’t cut down the Rainforests!” which, in addition to concerns over the holes in the ozone, are the first specific issues I remember being aware of when I started paying attention to alarm bells set off by environmentalists. Other reasons why this film rules: Tim Curry voiced the villainous Hexxus (a caricature of big bad oil company Exxon, perhaps?), along with Robin Williams, Christian Slater, Cheech Marin and Tone Loc who voiced supporting characters. The soundtrack features the most delightful mixed bag of songs sung by Williams, Loc, Curry, Raffi, Sheena Easton and Elton John.
» Honorable mention goes to “The Secret of NIMH” for its ballsy adult-themed anti-animal testing subplot and for scaring the crap out of me as a kid.
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