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Animation: Not Just for Kids – Exploring Animation’s Universal Appeal and Unique Perspectives

Animation: Not Just for Kids

Since before Walt Disney released Steamboat Willie, there have been people arguing that animation is a medium primarily for children, and there have been those trying to eliminate the notion that animation is only for kids. Those of us who have grown up with the work of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar not only realize that animation works for adults, but we know that what we love about it as children and what it means to us as adults are very different.

Animation’s Universal Appeal

Animation isn’t only for kids; there’s no argument that kids love energy. Pete Docter, Pixar’s CCO, understands that his movies are not just for kids; he also understands that what kids get from energy is different from what adults get from it. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Docter related an adorable and hilarious story about talking to a kid who had just seen Up and found part of the movie quite sad, but not for the reason you think. Docter explained…

A Unique Perspective

“I know kids and adults respond to different elements in our films. I remember watching Up with a Family Audience, and after the screening, a kid told me he liked it, but there was one part that made him sad. Assuming he was talking about the part where Carl’s wife, Ellie, dies, I was surprised when he said, ‘Yeah, when the bird hurt [her] foot, that was sad.\’”

Many people would put the “Married Life” sequence in Up, which makes up the first few minutes, among the most emotionally devastating in cinema, not simply animation. Ellie’s death is one of those moments you can bring up without context, and people will understand and possibly begin to weep involuntarily.

And yet, this kid just felt terrible when Kevin hurt her leg. Honestly, I get it. I’m a father to a six-year-old who gets emotional at movies, as we both did with Pixar’s recent hit Elemental. While I’m occasionally able to properly prepare her for a sad scene if it’s a movie I’ve seen before, sometimes the thing that sets her off is something I never realized would mean so much to her.

The Ever-Changing Viewer Experience

But at some point, that kid will watch Up again and react differently to those first few minutes, and that’s wonderful. Some of the best things about movies are how we can watch them repeatedly and get something new from them each time. That often comes from how we change over time, whether simply getting older and allegedly wiser or learning something new that causes us to respond differently.

I would argue that many Pixar movies aren’t made for kids all that much. As I discussed in my Elemental review, that movie, being a simple romantic character drama, may not resonate with little kids the way other Pixar films do. Its story, while not too mature for them, just may not interest younger viewers as much.

Animation: A Medium for All

The key is that animation is not a genre but not just for kids. It can tell any story for any audience, even if those different audiences take other messages away.

In conclusion, the power of animation lies in its versatility. It can evoke emotions, convey complex narratives, and resonate with audiences of all ages. While children may find joy and wonder in animated worlds, adults can appreciate these films’ deeper themes and emotional layers. So, next time you watch an animated masterpiece, remember that it’s not just for kids; it’s a medium that transcends age and continues to captivate hearts and minds across generations.

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