“Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories.” – Andrew Stanton.
Below I would like to explore the 10 revelations I’ve experienced from the stories of 10 animated movies that inspired, provoked and touched me.
1. Arthur Christmas
Takeaway: You will get what you work for, not what you wish for.
In “Arthur Christmas,” unlike his brother, Steve, Arthur never aspires to be a Santa but is compassionately concerned with delivering a missing gift to little Gwen Hines, which is the core requisite to be a Santa. At the end of the film he becomes Santa. So the film’s affirmation is to work for what you believe in not just wish for it. Success will arrive when you are the least concerned about it — because you might have deserved it by then.
When Gwen Hines eagerly gets down to grab the gift under the Christmas tree from Santa.
After a quarrel amongst the Clauses as to who is going to give Gwen her gift, the family realize that Arthur is the only one who truly cares about Gwen’s feelings and he is allowed to deliver the gift.
Gwen Hines: Santa brought me the bike I wanted!
[Then as Arthur is watching little Gwen unwrapping the present in awe …]
Grand Santa: Steve, you deserve to be Santa, but Steve, I wonder if Gwen is right.
[Then Steve accepts his brother as the new Santa.]
Takeaway: Someone special will always make you special.
Many of us worry about choosing our partner, but make sure you opt for someone who inspires you, supports you and makes you feel special, not someone who drains energy out of you. Someone special will always make you special. In “Rio,” Blu is a pet and can’t fly initially, but having met Jewel he does things he couldn’t do earlier. Jewel literally transforms Blu in all ways and makes him special.
When Jewel falls out of a plane and can’t fly due to injury, Blu literally jumps out to protect her, being aware of the fact that he can’t fly.
Jewel: Blu, you are crazy. What are you doing?
Blu: I’m not gonna let you go. We are chained-to-each-other birds, remember?
[Then magic happens, Blu starts flying…]
Jewel: Blu, you are flying … you are flying!
Blu: Yeah, I’m flying, ohoooooo … I’m really flying! You are right: I’m not an ostrich, I’m not an ostrich!
3. Finding Nemo
Takeaway: Go on a quest by faith, not by sight. You will be rewarded nevertheless.
Marianne Williamson famously said, “As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.” So if you believe in something, sometimes you have to just go by faith, not by sight. Had Marlin never gone on his quest, he wouldn’t have found Nemo. Had Nemo not tried to escape from the aquarium, he wouldn’t have reached his father. Both trusted their gut instincts and defied the odds to come through, finally reaping love.
After rescuing the fish from a trap, Nemo lies still on the ocean bed while his dad, Marlin, rushes eagerly to his little son.
Somehow this subtext moment brings me tears, particularly the mere mention of Sandy Plankton. It’s not actually about Sandy Plankton, it’s all about the daring quest of Marlin against the vast and deep ocean.
Nemo: Daddy, I won’t hate you anymore.
Marlin: Oh, no, no, no. I’m so sorry, Nemo.
Marlin: Hey. Guess what?
Marlin: Sea turtles? I met one, and he was a hundred and fifty years old.
Nemo: Hundred and fifty?
Nemo: Oh. ‘Cause Sandy Plankton said that they only live to be a hundred.
Marlin: Sandy Plankton? You think I would travel the whole ocean and not know as much as Sandy Plankton? He was a hundred and fifty, not a hundred.
4. Kung Fu Panda
Takeaway: To be someone special, you just have to believe that you are special.
There is no secret to anything, it just takes belief. Once you believe that, you can make anything happen. This is how Po realizes the true meaning of his own reflection in the Dragon Scroll in “Kung Fu Panda.” Belief is everything. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen at your will and nothing can stop you.
Having lost hope from an empty Dragon Scroll, Po tries to vacate the village along with his father, Mr. Ping, while he reveals the secret ingredient of the secret soup.
Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is … nothing!
Mr. Ping: You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.
Po: Wait; wait … it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?
Mr. Ping: Don’t have to. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.
[Po looks at the scroll again, and sees his reflection in it.]
Po: There is no secret ingredient! [Goes to fight with Tylon.]
Takeaway: Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.
There is an artist in everyone but many of us are afraid to take the leap, doubting our abilities. Nobody is entitled to become a great artist based on personal advantages and vested interests, but everyone can become an artist provided they are decisive and passionate about it. It’s all about choice, not about opportunities. If a rat could become a fine chef in “Ratatouille,” why can’t we become anything we aspire to be? You may argue that it’s just a fiction, but every fiction is a figment of someone’s imagination, inspired by truth.
When Anton Ego writes a critique about the new Chef Ratatouille defying his own conventions.
Anton Ego: The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.
Takeaway: The worst part in your life could turn out to be the best part later.
Lightning McQueen, the super race car in the film, accidentally ends up in a small town called Radiator Springs. He is desperate to win the Piston Cup Race, which is going to be held in Los Angeles in a week, but he is forced to stay in the small town until he mends the road he destroyed. However, after initial hesitation, he begins to develop a beautiful bonding with the people there and he finds something beyond Piston Cup: love and family. “Cars” had a very simple lesson to tell: sometimes the worst possible things that happen in your life could turn out to be the best ones later. You may not understand why initially, but later you realize those moments actually define you.
Mater: I knew it! I knew I made a good choice!
Lightning McQueen: In what?
Mater: My best friend. [Referring to Lightning McQueen.]
7. Despicable me
Takeaway: It’s all about family.
Family is not an important thing: it’s everything. Life is all about human bonding. Stop searching fanatically for other possessions and just find your “family.” In “Despicable Me,” Gru desperately wants to steal the moon, but in due course, after adopting three little kids for selfish gains, he paradoxically finds a love that changes his perceptions forever. He is not the same person anymore.
When Gru reads a made up story of his own to the three little kids in in a moment of retrospection.
Gru: [reading the book he wrote] One big unicorn, strong and free, thought he was happy as he could be. Then three little kittens came around and turned his whole life upside down. They made him laugh, they made him cry. He never should have said goodbye. And now he knows he can never part from those three little kittens that changed his heart.
Takeaway: We are many leaves from one tree, nobody is alone.
A lot of us worry about circumstances that demand our resilience, and we feel self-pity, telling ourselves, “I’m alone.” But for your kind information, you’re not alone. And the world out there is not as bad as you think. Whenever you are feeling alone, depressed and hopeless, don’t worry. Keep on trying and seek help from people in all the ways you can. You’ll be never left alone; actually, we all are connected.
When Nod comes to rescue Ronin while he is trying to protect the pod from dying.
Mandrake: What’s that little saying you people have? “Lots of leaves, something, something …” Very inspiring. But in the end, every leaf falls and dies alone.
[Lifts his sword to kill Ronin, but right before it hits, a leaf man sword blocks its way in the nick of time. It proves to be Nod.]
Nod: No one is alone. Not even him.
9. How to Train Your Dragon
Takeaway: Never judge others cynically.
Judging is easy but understanding is difficult, that is the reason most of us are quick to judge. Before leaping to judgment, try to understand others’ perspective. You never know what they might have been going through. In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Stoick has fixed notions based on his prejudices, but Hiccup tries to understand dragons from their perspective. Once he does that, the whole island is saved and dragons become residents. A considered understanding without judging is all we need for the betterment of our lives.
When Stoick finds out that Hiccup is actually trying to defend Toothless, his dragon.
Hiccup: I screwed up. I should have told you before now; just … take this out on me, be mad at me, but please, just don’t hurt Toothless!
Stoick: [shocked] The dragon? That’s what you’re worried about? Not the people you almost killed?
Hiccup: H-he was just protecting me! He’s not dangerous!
Stoick: They’ve killed hundreds of us!
Hiccup: And we’ve killed thousands of them! They defend themselves, that’s all! They raid us because they have to! If they don’t bring enough food back, they’ll be eaten themselves! There’s, something else on their island, Dad, it … It’s a dragon like …
10. Kung Fu Panda 2
Takeaway: Know yourself first.
It’s all about you. Carl Jung famously said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” Once you discover yourself, nothing seems to bother you, like Po in “Kung Fu Panda 2.” From the beginning of the film, Po is always searching for inner peace. Once he finds it, he can face anything in the world, even the deadly weapon he couldn’t face before. It’s a beautiful metaphor to explain that one has to fight with one’s inner demons first. Once you do that, demons from outside don’t actually matter.
The final confrontation when Po ruins everything that Shen dreamed of.
Shen: How did you find peace? I took away your parents, everything. I scarred you for life.
Po: See that’s the thing, Shen, scars heal.
Shen: No, they don’t. Wounds heal.
Po: Oh, yeah? What do scars do? They fade, I guess …
Shen: I don’t care what scars do!
Po: You should, Shen. You got to let go of the stuff from the past because it just doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.