Does Art Imitate Life?

It’s no secret I love animated movies. It becomes a challenge if I must choose between Stallone or Ferdinand. It should be fairly obvious why I like action movies, because who doesn’t want to see some buff guy with his shirt off, taking names, kicking butt, and making sure the good guy wins? But why animated? You can always be assured of one thing, you’ll have plenty of good, clean fun watching one of them.

That’s not their only salient point, however. You don’t have to be a genius to pick up on the moral of the story. For instance, in Ferdinand you find out it’s okay to be different. Being different doesn’t make you wrong, you’re just…well…different. And that’s okay. Just because you’d rather smell a flower than fight another bull doesn’t make you a coward. Besides, the world could use a few more flower-smelling-not-butt-kicking people, don’t you think?

Feeling unloved? Think you don’t deserve love or happiness? Watch Shrek. Once you peel back the layers of Shrek’s personal onion, you discover that deep, down inside he feels exactly the same way. Of course, you probably don’t live in a swamp where you put up walls to keep people out, but you might have built your own wall. Better to keep someone out than take a chance on getting hurt, right? Wrong. If you don’t take that giant leap, chances are you’ll never be truly happy. Am I saying you need a significant other in your life to be happy? No. But you do need people. Most humans aren’t satisfied to be hermits. Shrek let Donkey into his life. Once he did that, he opened his heart to Fiona and by the end of the first movie, our favorite ogre is happy.

Sometimes we believe what people tell us about ourselves, what we can and cannot do. Dream Crusher’s job in The Good Dinosaur is to keep Forrest Woodbush from having unrealistic goals. Pretty sure we’ve all had a Dream Crusher in our life at one time or another. Why are they so easy to believe? Po in Kung Fu Panda had a bunch of naysayers. In fact, the only person who thought he had a chance in you-know-where of doing Kungfu was himself. But, did he believe he could become the Dragon Warrior? No. He listened to those voices that said he couldn’t. It was only when he started believing in himself that he became the Dragon Warrior. There’s a great life lesson in there. Even if the only person who believes in you is you, it’s enough. Go for it!

Some of the best life philosophies come from Kung Fu Panda. My favorite? “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” Oogway was a very wise turtle. We spend so much time regretting yesterday and worrying about tomorrow that all the good stuff happening today passes us right by.

There have been some animated movies made with the sole intent of pushing someone’s agenda. I don’t like those. If I want to be preached at, I can get that at church, probably from someone a whole lot more knowledgeable than a producer. I like movies where you must look for the message, which means it’s open to interpretation. Everyone can put their own spin on the movie.

Despicable Me, Shrek, Tangled, Rio 2, and others have at least one character in there who turns into someone we like, when initially we might not be so fond of them. I was watching Rio 2 for the bazillionth time the other night, and I always get frustrated at how Jewel’s father treats Blu. Just because Blu was a “pet” doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy. Eduardo holds Roberto in high esteem, but Roberto doesn’t have anywhere near the strength of character as Blu. By the end of the movie, Eduardo realizes how wrong he was. My takeaway? If you let your preconceived notions about someone go by the wayside, you’ll find they’re so much more than what you thought. Sometimes, all people need is a chance. Don’t stand in their way.

My latest obsession is Smallfoot. I have the bad habit of anxiously waiting to buy the latest animated movie, then it just sits on the shelf. I don’t ever seem to get around to watching it until it comes on cable TV. I’m positive it’s not just because I’m too lazy to use the Blu-Ray, but I suppose that might be a factor. Once I watched Smallfoot, I was hooked. I don’t even mind all the singing because those songs are great. The moral of the story is a little in your face, but I don’t mind that either. Yes, it’s blatantly obvious we’re supposed to learn we can all get along despite our differences, but how they go about it is downright hilarious. It’s been a while since I’ve spent so much time guffawing throughout a movie.

So, does art imitate life? Yes. I don’t think you can find that anywhere as much as you can in an animated movie. They take “problems” they see in everyday life, like not believing in yourself, feeling unworthy or unloved, judging proverbial books by their covers, etc. and turn them into something we can all relate to. And laugh during the process.

Animated movies are a great escape from all the nonsense on the nightly news. Sick of the election already? Watch Moana. In a blue funk because your day (or month) didn’t go right? Smallfoot is calling your name. Had an argument with someone important to you and don’t know if it’ll ever be okay again? Toy Story will teach you that even the best of friends argue and still love each other. Lost your job and afraid of the future? Planes: Fire & Rescue will convince you that just because your plans didn’t work out, a better plan may be within reach, if you just give it a chance.

I find one thing fascinating about animated movies. Most of them have a biblical principle in them, but you’re so busy enjoying the movie you don’t really feel like someone is preaching to you. In other words, if you pay attention to the underlying message, you’ll realize what they’re trying to tell you isn’t very far removed from what you read in the Bible. In my next life, I think I’ll take up writing animated movies based on Bible stories. Most of the current movies come from fairy tales or some kid’s book, but why? They made a movie about Noah and the ark, but if they made an animated movie about it, I seriously doubt anything would be funnier. A deer housed next door to a lion would absolutely be worth a few belly laughs, don’t you think? Would God approve or would He think we’re making fun of the Bible? He made a camel, didn’t He? Don’t tell me He doesn’t have a sense of humor.

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