Disney, Pixar content branching out, pushing boundaries

Expanding their storylines to show more real life and representation, Disney and Pixar have been taking a new approach to animated movies.


With new movies like “Turning Red” and “Encanto,” Disney and Pixar are beginning to shy away from the typical fairy tale structure. This exposure to realistic stories and experiences will do children good.
Over the past few years, Disney and Pixar have been experimenting with telling stories pulled from real life.
Gone are the days of princesses and magic. Instead, they’re experimenting with emotions, growing up, familial discourse and a variety of cultures.
This shift in storytelling is a great way to normalize these big, real-world concepts from a young age, making them easier to digest down the line. Children will truly benefit from growing up with these movies.
The first movie that I feel kicked off this trend was 2015’s “Inside Out,” where we met Riley, an 11-year-old girl that goes through a lot of life changes and emotions. This movie provides a lot of amazing validation for kids experiencing the same things.
We see Riley struggle in a new environment and even fall into what would be conducive to a depressive episode. This movie teaches children that it’s okay not to be okay all the time and to ask for help when needed.
Moving forward a few years and we get 2020’s “Soul.” “Soul” opened up viewers to the questions of “What happens after death?” and “What does it mean to live life to the fullest?”
This movie helps to normalize asking these questions and not being afraid of something as natural as death. We see the main character, Joe, find happiness in his passions, as he’s given a second chance at life.
This movie sparks the question of “If I die tomorrow, am I happy with how I lived?” in such a way that it is digestible to children of all ages.
Along with its themes of life and love, we got a movie that brilliantly showcases a brief history of jazz music and the impact that African American artists have had on music. We see the cultural roots that Joe has in jazz music and how that impacted him throughout his life.
While films like “Inside Out” and “Soul” layed much of the foundation for this new wave of animated films, the strides that Disney and Pixar have made over this past year have been immense.
At the end of 2021, we got “Encanto,” which portrayed a beautiful story of a Colombian family, dealing with their generational trauma and the pressures that have built up in their family overtime.
This film was a much more realistic and raw approach to portraying the impact that members of a family have on one another.
“Encanto” shows how powerful love can be and how, when we’re not careful, it can do more harm than good. Additionally, it normalizes and validates having to work on communication and overcoming issues with family.
Most recently, Pixar came out with “Turning Red.” This movie showcases the awkward and emotional coming of age story of Meilin Lee, a 13-year-old living in Toronto, Ontario, in 2002.
As Mei matures and wants to grow from her family, we see her mother work harder to keep her close.
This film beautifully exhibits the importance of family in Chinese culture and how this can create a conflict for children being raised in a Western country, like Canada.
Additionally, “Turning Red” is the first Disney/Pixar film to address the concept of puberty so head-on, discussing things like menstruation, lust, personal hygiene and the difficulty of navigating the social battleground that is middle school.
While it seems so simple, introducing these topics to kids at a young age will take away so much stigmatization in the future, as these kids grow up.
Films like these show children, and adults, a variety of cultures, experiences and how we deal with the conflicts that life can bring on.