Life is tricky. As human beings, we have hopes and dreams, fears and failings, allies and antagonists. We struggle to get work, pay our bills, find love, achieve fulfillment, squeeze into our jeans, survive family Christmas gatherings and assemble flat-pack furniture. We need help dealing with all that. And help is there, has always been there, in stories. Movies are just the ultimate medium – to this point – for humans to experience stories… In short, we go to the movies to get a lube, brake check and wheel alignment for our souls.
I’ve been a movie buff since I was eleven years old, and an animation addict for nearly as long. Several times since then, I’ve wondered why this was so. In fact, on a larger level, I’ve wondered why everybody seems to love the movies. Think about it: do you know anyone who hates to watch movies? If you do, I’m betting that person is an anomaly. Why is that?
More to the point, why do we in the Rotoscopers community love animation like we do? After all, many of us live in a culture where we’re told that we should have outgrown “cartoons” years ago. However, we’ve flown in the face of convention and have continued to love animation into our adult years. Why?
Naturally, I can only speak for myself, but I do have an idea about this. I think that the reason we’ve continued to love animation (and film in general) is because it shows us that we’re not alone. Looking back, I can see that animation has taught me many lessons. It’s also soothed me during difficult times, letting me know that I wasn’t the first person to walk the road I was walking. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I bet that many of you have had similar experiences.
In this article, I’d like to talk about a few animated movies and TV shows, along with the lessons they’ve taught me. It’s my hope that it’ll help get you thinking about similar experiences in your own life!
The Lion King – Be True To Who You Are
The Lion King is an important movie to me for a lot of reasons. After all, it is the first movie I remember seeing (as you can read in my author bio)! However, I think that The Lion King would still be a watershed movie for me, even if it was the fiftieth movie I’d ever seen. The film boasts a complex, nuanced story peopled with interesting, well-rounded characters. It’s also full of thought-provoking ideas and powerful, moving themes.
Throughout my life, the most powerful of those themes has been that of living up to our potential, of becoming who we were meant to be. I’m a firm believer that everyone has the potential to do amazing things and to leave an impact on the world. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget that. Oftentimes, we put ourselves down, telling ourselves that we’re worthless (I know; I’ve done this many a time). However, I’ve found a source of strength in The Lion King. The scene between Simba and Mufasa’s spirit serves as a strong reminder that all of us have vast potential, and that it’s our responsibility to live up to it.
Bugs Bunny Shorts – Brains CAN Win Out Over Brawn
Outside of The Simpsons (we’ll get to them eventually), no other piece of animation makes me laugh as consistently as Chuck Jones’s Looney Tunes shorts. The sense of humor found in those shorts is very much akin to my own sense of humor. The manic style, the cartoony violence, and the sarcastic comedy are so fresh and unique, and I like that. It’s obvious that they weren’t made to teach anyone anything; they were made to be fun and exciting. They teach anyway, though!
So, what does Bugs Bunny have to teach us? That knowledge is powerful, and that it can help us win out over more physically powerful foes. Many times throughout the shorts, Bugs has come up against adversaries more powerful than he, like vampires (Transylvania 6-5000), bulls (Bully For Bugs), crazy cowboys (Wild And Woolly Hare), and huge gorillas (Apes Of Wrath). On a physical level, Bugs is no match for his enemies. However, our famous Bunny always comes out on top, thanks to his wits and intelligence. It sounds funny to say, but Bugs’s example is one I remember whenever I feel overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable odds!
Beauty And The Beast – True Beauty Lies On The Inside
Unlike most animation addicts my age, Beauty And The Beast wasn’t a big part of my childhood. I saw it once when I was six, and I was so terrified by the Beast that the video went back on the shelf and stayed there for years. It wasn’t until high school that I pulled down the movie and watched it again. In a way, I’m glad I waited so long to rewatch the movie. Beauty and the Beast helped teach me a really important lesson, one that particularly resonanted during my teen years.
Beauty and the Beast is my favorite love story in all of animation. The thing that makes it so special in my mind is this: Belle was already in love with the Beast before he became human again. It did take some time, but Belle was able to look past the Beast’s rough exterior and fall in love with what was in his heart. This was a poignant message for me during my teens, when I was extremely self-conscious about my looks. Beauty and the Beast provided me with a heartening reminder that, while good looks can be nice, it’s a good heart and a nice personality that are the most attractive.
The Simpsons ‘And Maggie Makes Three’ – Love Means Sacrifice
Just like with the Bugs Bunny shorts, it might sound funny to hear that I actually learned something from The Simpsons. Well, what can I say? I did learn something from the classic TV show, and from Homer Simpson no less!
If you’ve never seen ‘And Maggie Makes Three,’ here’s the episode in a nutshell: Homer gets a paycheck from the nuclear power plant, and he realizes that, with this check, the Simpson family is finally out of debt. Armed with this information, Homer decides to leave the plant and take on his dream job: being a pin monkey at the bowling alley. However, when Marge becomes pregnant with Maggie, Homer realizes that his new job won’t be enough to support a family of five. Homer struggles with this reality, but after a touching first moment with Maggie, Homer gladly goes back to his power plant job.
All my life, I’d been told several ways to gauge if you’re truly in love. All of them have validity, but the one that has always stuck out to me is this: “You know that you really love someone when you’re willing to give up everything for your love’s happiness.” I’d heard that since I was young, and I always believed it. However, I didn’t really understand it until I watched ‘And Maggie Makes Three.’ Homer’s love for Maggie, and the sacrifice he makes for her, is a powerful example of selflessness in the name of love. I’ll always carry it with me!
We all know that there are many elements that help make animation special. However, one of the biggest of those elements (for me, anyway) is that animation is so successful at reaching out to me, touching me, and teaching me powerful lessons. In that way, animation has truly made my life better. And, for that reason alone, I’ll never turn my back on animation!
What about you? Have you ever been taught something by an animated movie? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Edited by: Kelly Conley