5 Great Kids Films To Help Them Appreciate Diversity
In an age where digital technology has made the world smaller and children are growing up with greater access to a whole range of cultures than ever before, it’s important to encourage children to adopt a positive and appreciative attitude to multiculturalism and gender equality. This can, however, be difficult when you consider the traditional offerings of the multiplex.
For all it’s aspirations towards diversity, Hollywood is (at least at face value), still very much a white men’s club. Not only do most mainstream Hollywood blockbusters lack originality, they’ve become over reliant on existing IPs (Intellectual Properties) and therein lies part of the problem. When Tim Burton’s Batman hit bigger than anyone expected in 1989 movie studios began buying every superhero property they can get their hands on, and this mentality has pretty much pervaded ever since. While these movies have certainly been profitable for studios, they’ve unintentionally hindered big screen progressivism. After all; what do Captain America, Superman, Thor and Iron Man all have in common?
As much fun as children may have watching the latest Avengers or Transformers movie it’s only a matter of time before they start to wonder why the multicultural world they inhabit isn’t reflected on screen. While this year’s Wonder Woman has bucked the trend, putting an Israeli born woman front and centre, there’s nonetheless a real dearth of material for young kids seeking positive representation of non-white, non-male characters. Sure there may be a smattering of diversity in the top ten kids movies on Netflix and the latest Star Wars movie did a great job of showcasing its female lead character, but an appreciation of cultural and gender equality is still hard to glean in this cinematic landscape.
Hence, we’ve compiled this list of age-appropriate classics that feature a range of interesting cultures as well as showcasing the contributions of female and minority characters.
Kubo and the Two Strings
While its voice cast is predominantly caucasian, Kubo and the Two Strings is steeped in Japanese culture and mythic archetypes sure to broaden the minds of children experiencing Japanese culture for the first time. The film is not only fun and exciting (featuring a few scary moments that may not be suitable for very young children) but also lavish in its visuals with stop motion animation so smooth it looks indistinguishable from digital animation at first glance. Asian characters are horribly underrepresented in popular culture and this celebration of Japanese mythology is a positive step in the right direction.
A childhood staple of Generation Xers The Wiz has aged surprisingly well. The music is just as catchy and the sense of fun the movie parades is just as infectious. While there’s always a chance your kids’ initial reaction might be “meh, it’s old”, we defy even the most jaded family to sit and watch this without a single foot tap. The sheer magic of seeing Diana Ross and Michael Jackson together on screen make this a historic moment in cinema and popular culture.
Akeelah and the Bee
Bookish children can never have too many outlets for positive reinforcement and Akeelah and the Bee is a touching story featuring some of the best acting talent working in the industry today including Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett. It’s an uplifting story that’s uncompromising in its depiction of the cultural and economic adversities felt by black communities in south Los Angeles yet affirming in its depiction of intelligence and education rather than money and success as tools for social mobility and personal fulfilment. Something that kids of all races can learn from.
The Princess and the Frog
The last of the old school Disney films, favouring the digital augmentation of hand drawn animation rather than going full CG. The film is one of Disney’s most underappreciated masterpieces and a veritable gumbo pot of multicultural celebration, drawing heavily on Creole, French and Cajun influences. It’s plot is ambitious yet easy to follow but its lead character Tiana that’s the real draw. She’s as smart, funny and resourceful as you might expect from a Disney princess but while all Disney princesses wish upon a star, Tiana relies on hard work and belief in herself rather than waiting for the stars to align around her.
Kirikou and the Sorceress
Just as Kubo and the Two Strings was a celebration of Japanese myths, this equally movie does the same for the typically under represented African storytelling tradition. It’s lead character is a newborn baby who saves his village from an evil witch. With its roots steeped in West African legend and its execution in lavish 2D animation it’s an accessible yet profound tale for all ages.