While me and fellow mentors discuss classic storytelling structures in our July #filmmaking courses, I am inspired by the students to further reflect on some very important messaging in #Disney and #Pixar animated films, that displays well-rounded characters departing from the love-interest strereotype, and goes beyond the children's genre. Most good stories apply to real-life situations, and stem from complex personal experience. At CineMavericks, this is what we strive to teach our young #filmmakers.
The Lion King
I'll start with my personal favourite. Since childhood, this story resonated with me because it was my first example of what bravery looks like. I admire Simba for surviving in the unknown at such a young age, living with his guilt but using that to become a stronger & wiser adult, and then summoning enough courage & dignity inside himself to go back home and do the right thing. For most of his journey, he's alone but not lonely (Timon & Pumbaa, Nala, and Rafiki make sure of that!) and it's during this time that he's truly able to reflect and look within. As an only child growing up with a family scattered around the world, his relationship with his homeland has been fascinating.
The #fatherson dynamic warms my heart until today. The lessons that Mufasa taught him have helped shape Simba's worldview. For me, I take with me that even leaders are scared, and don't know everything: willing to learn along the way is what makes you worthy. Of course, I've learned to embrace the circle of life, or that your actions affect others and every element has its place. We are not alone, even when it seems so. Today, respecting our planet & our fellow human beings, and being a good citizen, has never been more important.
Moving onto another portrait of familial love: #sisterhood. This story is beautiful because it empowers young girls to be themselves, and embrace their imperfections rather than hide them. The mantra of "conceal, don't feel" resonates with children - and adults - who are told they are "less than" in terms of body image or not fitting into an expected stereotype. At ClickPlay, we focus on building #archetypes in storytelling: well-rounded characters that have complex & unique behaviour patterns rather than superficial traits. Here, Elsa learns to be who she really is and come out of hiding.
This is thanks to Anna's complete lack of judgement and inherent trust in her. Even though Elsa has hurt her sister - and will again, Anna knows deep down that Elsa has good intentions, and good reasons for shutting her out - without ever wavering from this stance. Her confidence in her sister, and her willingness to risk her own life for Elsa, is a strong display of unconditional love. If anything, 2020 has taught us to spend more time with our families and build trust with our close ones. While it may prove difficult more than we would like, it's precisely this fight for one another that reveals our immense capacity for love and generosity.
My final example is the unexpected #friendship between Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo. At the start of the film - in his #ordinaryworld, Nemo's dad is stubborn and cautious. When he meets an unlikely #ally in his #calltoaverture to find his son, Marlin is challenged to see the world from someone else's perspective. This ultimately will open his heart to be welcoming to new ways of life and to be more secure with his son's independence. While Marlin at first sees his new friend as a detriment to his goal, it's through understanding and being there for someone else, that he finds the strength to be there for his son.
For me, Marlin's immense character change, seen at the end when he can't wait for Nemo to go to school, is proof of the power to adapt we all have inside us. What we may think is so adamantly right: that a school trip may also be dangerous - could actually be one's own biases that sets them back. It's beautiful to see how Marlin has progressed in his thinking, but it's understandable to remember where he came from. Nemo was the only child that survived, so Marlin's fight to protect him is that much more important. This makes his newfound ability to free Nemo a really strong outcome. If young people think they can't do something, or that a previous experience stops them from fully achieving their goals, Marlin is here to show you we're all capable of change.
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