Don't Shy Away from the Important Stuff!

by Jennifer Acker on March 17, 2022

I personally think adults do not spend enough time watching animated movies. There are some GREAT animated films out there (full-length and shorts),  and if people really took the time to check them out, they might realize that the films cover some very important topics that need to be discussed with children. Animated films can spark GREAT conversations and can serve as wonderful tools to help kids and adults better understand the world, their own feelings/perspectives, and/or feelings/perspectives of those around them.

Here is a short list of movies I’ve compiled that I suggest all adults watch. After you watch the movies, then you can decide if you want to hold off on showing them to a kiddo OR if you want to watch the movies with them (and have a great discussion). Remember: not all movies are right for everyone, so you need to make the best choice for you and the children in your care and let other adults do the same.


  • Inside Out
    • A movie about big feelings and how our emotions can drive us. It is interesting to note which emotion drives the kiddo in the movie, the mom, and the dad. Lots of great opportunities for conversation about recognizing, understanding and managing our emotions rather than letting our emotions manage us. This movie is my favorite movie to spark/start a discussion about managing big feelings.
  • Horton Hears a Who
    • This movie has been out a while. It focuses on the importance of noticing others and helping out in the world when/where you can. This is a great movie to spark/start a discussion about mission work and advocacy.
  • UP
    • This movie has been out a while. This movie is great way to spark/start a discussion about grief, leaning on others for support, and especially intergenerational friendships.
  • Despicable Me
    • This is where it all started with the Minions! Spoiler alert, there is an adoption story in this movie, which is great for sparking/starting that conversation.
  • Onward
    • This movie focuses on two brothers and their journey with grief over the death of their father. This movie will help to spark/start conversations about grief and leaning on family and those close to you for support.
  • Lilo and Stitch
    • Lilo is raised by her older sister after both of her parent’s die and then Lilo adopts Stitch, who turns out not to be a “dog”. Stitch tries to keep the family together. This is a great movie to spark discussions about foster care, adoption, family, and changing priorities.
  • Encanto
    • This is a fairly new movie and sparks great discussion about spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities (especially those that are sometimes hard to recognize), as well as discussions about family dynamics and personalities. It can also spark great discussion about people being left out or pushed away (shhh…yes, I’m talking about Bruno).
  • Loop (Pixar Short Film, 9 minutes)
    • This Short Film focuses on a non-verbal child who appears to struggle with sensory issues and presumably Autism. This movie provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss ableism, need for human connection, empathy/understanding related to those with different abilities, and learning how other people experience the world.
  • Turning Red (BRAND NEW ON DISNEY+)
    • This movie was just released and there is already quite a bit of controversy surrounding it. It’s a coming of age movie following a 13 year old girl as she begins her journey into puberty. It especially focuses on her learning to manage big, intense emotions while also balancing the need/want to please her family/friends. All this is happening while she is also learning how to (and how NOT to) exert her independence.
    • Some of the content will go right over younger children’s heads and other content will spark questions and conversations about topics that might be difficult to bring up otherwise. This movie is likely best for a child over the age of 10.
    • Lots of great teachable moments can be found in this film if positioned the right way and with the right questions (Ex. How could she have handled that differently with her mom? How could her mom have handled that differently? How do you plan to handle that when/if you are in that situation?)
    • As far as the controversy goes, I honestly don’t see this movie as much different than The Little Mermaid (Ariel wanted independence as a young teen, got mad and yelled at her dad, snuck away to explore the world and to see a boy). Ariel even gave her soul to Ursula the octopus in order to be with the boy. Maybe Turning Red seems just a bit more realistic because it features a person and not a mermaid (and there are some direct and indirect references to different aspects of puberty in Turning Red). Either way, a follow up conversation with an adult about the choices that were made by the character in the movie is one of the things that makes this movie a helpful tool for parents/grandparents. I will say that I don’t see this as a “babysitter” movie…in other words, this isn’t a movie I would turn on and then leave the room and not talk about or debrief afterward. In order to debrief this movie well, the adult needs to have watched it too.
    • There are many other things to debrief in this movie besides puberty and managing emotions. Other opportunities for conversation include: spirituality, cultural representation, mental health, diabetes (one character has what appears to be a glucose monitoring device attached to her arm), and many more.

I really hope that your takeaway from this blog won’t be whether or not I liked or reviewed a certain movie. I hope you will see this as a list of helpful tools/resources for future conversations you may need to have with a child. As adults, many of us want to shy away from the difficult conversations, but the kiddos need us there to walk with them through these things. So, let’s not shy away, let’s find helpful tools, and let’s have the conversations (no matter how difficult they might be). Let’s empower our kiddos with information and let them draw some conclusions on their own, so that they are better practiced at this as youth and adults.

I’d LOVE for you to send me an email (or comment below) and let me know what animated film you have watched (from this list or NOT from this list), what helpful conversations it has sparked at your house, and why! I’d love to have this information to pass on to other parents/grandparents when they are looking for resources. If you choose to comment below about a movie, then let’s covenant to not argue about the films, instead let’s all fully listen and respect one another’s opinion (not all films work for all people). Deal? Deal.

Here’s a great resource to find out why a movie has a certain rating (G, PG, etc.) and to read a variety of viewpoints and reviews. This will help you research a movie BEFORE your kiddo watches it (or the information may help you determine that it’s one you should watch WITH them):

Common Sense Media

Here are some great questions to spark conversation after you’ve watched the movie together:

  • What feelings did you notice that the characters were having?
  • When have you had those feelings? When have you noticed those feelings in other people?
  • What helps you the most when you have those feelings? What makes it worse?
  • What questions came up for you during this movie? What do you need/want to know/talk more about?
  • Would you recommend this movie to a friend? Why/why not?

Enjoy the show AND don’t shy away from the important stuff!

Previous Page