Sit down with the kids this summer and enjoy these classic family movies with a eco-friendly theme.
2019 has seen us recognise a climate emergency, with the environment and our impact on it being the hot-topic of conversation. Understanding and talking about climate change is tricky at the best of times, but it gets even trickier when it comes to explaining it to children. As such a prevalent aspect of our present and future, the climate crisis needs to be addressed and these environment-focused movies are a great way to start the conversation.
The Lion King
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” – Mufasa
Understanding the Earth’s ecosystem is imperative for the younger generation as they take heed of our current climate. Acknowledging the impact that all beings and species have on one another and how this in turns affects our planet, The Lion King expresses that no matter who you are, we are all complicite. It’s the circle of life.
Toy Story 1,2,3 & 4
The Toy Story franchise has been a source of family fun since 1995, filled with memorable characters, laugh-out-loud jokes and poigniant themes of friendship, loss and purpose. In the latest installment of the Disney-Pixar classic, Woody and the gang are back and off on a new adventure. Integral to the characters and the stroy is the notion of belonging and it is craftfully explored in a way that inspires children the value of toys and posessions, encouraging them to recycle and give the toys a new life, much like how Andy passed his toys on to Bonnie. It’s important to remember that everything, inanimate or not, has a life cycle.
A fun-loving adaptation of the 1971 Dr. Seuss classic, The Lorax is filled with mesmerising colours, lots of laughter and catchy musical numbers, but it also contains a very important message. Set in the future in a city where everything is digital, convenient and even the air you breathe is bottled, a young boy sets out to find a real life Truffula Tree. We learn that their world had been rid of trees as they were cut down to make materials for the city to use. A rather hefty nod towards deforestation, The Lorax paints a grim picture of the knock-on effects of deforestation.
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Despite being set hundreds of years in the past, the popular Ice Age: The Meltdown can help families explain the effects of global warming as it affects the characters in the movie the same way it affects people today. Shrouded in mammoth-sized, laugh-out-loud laughs, the premise of the movie sees Manny, Sid and Diego race to escape the valley before the ice melts and floods it. This is a nice way to explain how the ice melting and the water levels rising in today’s world are problematic for not only the polar bears but for humans too.
Reduce, reuse and recycle! Wall-E is set on Earth in 2805 when consumerism has left the world covered in rubbish. The humans have been evacuated leaving robots to clean up the mess and try to make the world habitable again. Underneath the sweet love story between Wall-E and Eva is the message that if we continue to use and dispose of more than we need, Earth won’t be a planet humans can live on
Over the Hedge
Though one of the lesser-known Dreamworks animations from the early 2000s, Over the Hedge is a super funny family classic that brings the topic of the natural environment to your back garden… literally. The forest animals, led by raccoon RJ, wake up from their winter hibernation to find their forest has been destroyed and replaced by a suburban neighbourhood. Though primarily revolving around RJ’s debt to a rather unfriendly bear, the struggle the animals face to navigate their new environment mirrors how urban development impacts the animals a little closer to home.
While the main premise of the movie focuses on tap dancing penguin Mumble learning that it’s ok to be different, we do get a glimpse of human impact on the natural habitat, particularly the ocean. Overfishing leaves the penguins in turmoil while one of Mumble’s friends finds himself choked by plastic rings from ocean waste. It’s not an ‘in your face’ exhibition but highlights some of the issues facing the natural world today.
James Cameron’s family epic puts the balance of nature into perspective. The ecosystem of Pandora is one where plants, animals and Na’vi are thoroughly dependant on each other for survival. It’s interesting that the villain in Avatar is man. Ego and greed lead the RDA to mine and destroy for money and power, the stark contrast between the two sides shining a torch on our reality – what we need vs. what we are currently doing.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Released in 1992, FernGully is possibly a little more abrupt when putting forth its conservationist message. The story tells of fairies thriving in a magical rainforest until destructive loggers start cutting down the trees, releasing a polluting demon. The fairies battle to save their homes and loved ones. FernGully paints destructive humans as the villains and asks that we look to preserve the world – both magical and real.
Understanding the impact of our actions on the Earth and the environment isn’t meant to shock and scare but these family-friendly movies can inspire kids to do their bit now and in the future to preserve and protect the planet.
For further inspiration, discover our favourite eco books for kids.
For more film education, see our list of Life Changing Documentaries and 10 Animal Documentaries You Need to Watch.
Read our interview with The True Cost direct Andrew Morgan.