Classic movies to carry into adulthood


Jackson Bechtold

Films that should be taken into adulthood.

The state of children’s entertainment today is depressing. When people between ages 14 and 18 are asked about their favorite kids shows their first thoughts are typically shows like “Blues Clues”, “The Backyardigans”, “Little Einsteins” and a whole host of PBS Kids programs.

Not every movie can be carried into adulthood. Rarely are there exceptional movies written so well that the themes employed are not overly simplistic, and their meaning can evolve over the course of time.

A softball for starters, Dreamworks’ “Megamind.” It is important to recognize that Dreamworks is already proficient at producing content that children and adults can enjoy. This has given them an advantage over more contemporary animation studios that do not have this kind of generational longevity.

However, “Megamind” embodies the spirit of post-childhood appreciation that Dreamworks champions. By making the typical, cartoonish villain our protagonist, there is already a compelling story about good and evil.

Through Megamind’s eyes, viewers are taught how things are shades of gray. Between his interactions with Roxanne Ritchi, and his childhood rival informing his role as a villain, he comes into conflict with his victory over Metroman. 

Megamind revolves around a few core themes, such as the aforementioned shades of gray and lacking a purpose, or what we would describe as depression. In the world people are shown many perspectives, each insisting they are the only way. Megamind teaches that sometimes people need to find their own way. These two themes build up a child’s ability to consider different perspectives and remind adults that nuance is omnipresent.

On a smaller note, I deeply appreciate how those themes are explored through the eyes of Megamind posing as different people throughout the story.

Another studio that prides itself on harnessing that post-childhood appreciation is Pixar. Pixar focuses on quality storytelling, making sure their family movies are truly for all ages and hold values that are still applicable years later. To them, good storytelling is not something that should be limited by the genre or target audience, but something that can be appreciated well beyond.

Pixar’s “Soul” goes at length about what waits for people beyond death and making the most of life. Demonstrating how loss informs our lives is a core aspect of “Soul”, and they are able to convey the gravity of death without despairing over it.

One of the ways “Soul” does this is through its main character, Joe, and his love for jazz, an iterative genre of music with an emphasis on profound spiritual expression. This expression is at the core of its theme, not just delving into the nuances of life and death but truly focusing on what makes life worth living.

Joe is a middle aged pianist teaching part-time at a middle school and vying for a chance to play alongside his idol Dorothea Williams as part of her jazz quartet. On his way to audition, he comically falls into an open sewer drain post-montage and goes comatose. 

In his coma, his soul leaves his body for the “Great Beyond” where he meets 22, a young soul who is afraid to go to Earth. For the rest of the movie, Joe’s soul and 22 try to find passions and gather experiences necessary for moving on to Earth. 

The way this film best demonstrates its themes has to be when 22 temporarily possesses Joe’s body and experiences the real world through his senses. Here 22 understands how music makes Joe feel empowered and inspired, and how music gives him purpose, the passion and zest for life 22 was lacking. Something people all need to be reminded of every now and then.

Everyone needs reminders as they age and outgrow their childhood; the lessons people learn in their formative years are some of the most important.

One important lesson that the Warner Brothers’ “The Iron Giant” can remind viewers of is being true to ourselves in the face of discrimination.

Typically, if someone saw an 80 foot tall metal man trudging through the countryside they would probably have the same response that many residents of the coastal town of Rockwell did.

In “The Iron Giant,” a giant robot crash lands on Earth and wanders the countryside in search of metal. In its rampage, the Iron Giant comes across a power plant late one night and is knocked unconscious from the powerlines. Hogarth sees the iron giant in pain and shuts down the powerplant, saving the metal man. A deed that would not go unnoticed as the iron giant and Hogarth meet again in the forest and quickly become friends. 

For the remainder of the movie, Hogarth tries to teach the iron giant how to be unafraid of others’ reactions to him and to consider his actions. He also teaches him how to be a hero and to use his strength for good. 

In many ways it is as though Hogarth is trying to teach viewers how to be stronger, better people. People often go misunderstood throughout their lives and tend to fear or make fun of others for it. Having the emotional strength to rise above discrimination is an important life lesson that can make the difference between immaturity and maturity. 

 The common factor between many of these studios and their movies is that they do not feel the need to dumb it down and explain everything. They encourage viewers to make their own conclusions. In other words, it praises the audience for their intelligence instead of belittling them out of fear of not understanding.

It goes to show being true to oneself, in the same way these studios have, makes for better storytelling. Hopefully viewers will appreciate the fine quality of writing beyond childhood as I have with these films.