A plethora of people in the world share a love for all things Disney, visiting their nearest Disney park with loyal Mickey Mouse ears proudly displayed on their heads. The magic of imagination annually brings 20 million children and adults alike to the Disney World in Florida. But the real reasons behind Disney's intense following are their beloved characters: Minnie, Mickey, Winnie the Pooh, the Princesses.... the whole shebang. These animated cartoons teach complicated lessons in a simple way, and people are raised from a young age with these stories. There's enchantment, innocence, curiosity, and so much to be learned in these childishly amazing tales.
The power of Disney propelled the cartoon and animation industry all the way to where it is now, creating clever characters that don't even speak a real language, yet you still connect with them. The genius people who think up these caricatures are able to think in ways that many people have lost nowadays. They know how to stop thinking about themselves and immerse themselves into the wonders of the world around them, liberating the mind into the freedoms of imagination. Here are some of my favorite characters (including non-Disney ones) that really stand out with their creativity:
I find it so interesting how they took these pill-shaped, banana-yellow creatures and made them have a story even though they speak this super-language of nonsense. Their purpose is evil, but they're so cute that you hardly even notice. The creator of Minions, Pierre Coffin, says of their speaking: “It’s gibberish. It’s a mixture of all the languages of the world and it’s about finding a particular magical rhythm and melody that makes the nonsense make sense." I particularly like the part where he talks about making the nonsense make sense; this is where the connection is really made between the audience and the minions. They aren't big and mean- just cute, giggly, and simple. Very simple. Coffin continues, "How can you tell a story with one frame that by its simplicity, manages to tell a story, a gag that evokes an emotion in you? ....the success of the Minions is not particularly their characterization, it’s the fact that anybody can draw them." Minions are for anybody, kids and adults alike- just like Disney.
What amazes me about Groot from 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is how all he has says in the entire movie is "I am Groot," and yet he's still so mesmerizing. He appears full-sized in one movie and as a baby in the next, but he's always helpful and loyal to his friends. I always wonder how the person behind this came up with him- were they just staring at a tree and wondering what it would be like if they had eyes and could move? That is really some artistry. Here's a tall, expressionless tree-man that we're going to make you love! Groot has the imperfections of a human- roughly woven vines and roots that look uncannily similar to human musculature- and he has this look of trustworthiness and wisdom in his eyes. Maybe it's a play on how we depend on trees to survive, but it makes him seem very much like a mortal earthling. Groot is definitely impressive- both as an old tree and as baby Groot.
A few years ago, I sat down in a theater to watch the sequel to one of my all-time favorite movies: Finding Nemo. Before Finding Dory began, there were a ton of previews and I was seriously wondering whether or not the movie was ever going to start. Then, one of the last previews played, but it ended up being a brilliant, 6-minute short film (it won an Oscar later that year) called Piper. There is not one single dialogue spoken in the film, and it was absolutely wonderful. The story is about a sandpiper who wants food, but has to overcome her fear of the scary ocean waves to be able to find any food. First of all, this is so vivid and realistic it's hard to tell it's even animated. It's very much aesthetically pleasing. Second, the story is so uniquely done that you have to love it. Instead of humanizing the birds, the director made it so that the birds communicated like real birds do, but there is still a very interesting parallel drawn in the film. It shows that animals in their natural form face the same types of problems that humans do, and we're really not all that different.
Watch part of "Piper" here.
Obviously, there are so many more examples of these genius characters: Mike & Sully from Monsters Inc., Buzz Lightyear & Woody from Toy Story, and so many more. These are just the less popular creatures of animation that I think are compelling and moving, too.
What's your favorite character from a kids movie?