As the parents of a three-year-old, my husband and I are always on the lookout for a new children’s movie to add to our video library. Young children tend to watch the same movie a thousand times over and over and over again before they are ready to move on. And speaking for myself, I can only cope with repeating that same movie so many times before I start having dreams where I take on one of the leading roles of our daughter’s current movie obsession. Yes, I had such a dream back in the days of Riley’s obsession with Frozen. It was around the time of her second open heart surgery. During our hospital stay, Frozen was on a continuous repeating loop in her room. If she woke up and the movie was not playing, or worse if something else was playing, she broke down into an inconsolable crying fit. Not a good thing for a small child (or anyone for that matter) who is recovering from open heart surgery. Nothing calmed her down during these episodes. Nothing except for hearing the opening song to her favorite movie.
That was 18 months ago, and I can count the number of times we have watched Frozen in the last twelve months on one hand. We have gone through a few other movie obsessions since the days of Frozen. I try to make sure that each movie she watches not only provides entertainment value but also has some sort of positive lesson to teach. A few examples from our video library include:
- Tangled, which teaches young girls to stand up for themselves. More important, is the lesson of not allowing anyone, even a loved one, to stand in the way as they follow those dreams.
- Wreck-It Ralph gives children a safe way to explore the topic of bullies and shows how much words can hurt. Also, there is the valuable lesson that we should not judge a person by their outward appearance.
- Toy Story teaches children the importance of friendship and teamwork.
- Inside Out shows us how emotions are often more complex than they first appear on the surface. Also, it gives voice to the fact that a person’s actions do not have to be controlled by emotion.
- Home illustrates the value of individuality when a person is surrounded by conformity. It also explains the value of a single true friend over the accumulation of masses of acquaintances.
I know that at three-years-old, Riley is still a bit too young to be aware of these lessons. I also know that she does understand the intended feelings of the different situations presented.. No matter how many times she has seen these movies, she gets upset every time when Ralph smashes the cart that he and Vanellope built together. The same for when Merida thinks that she has lost her mom to bear form forever. And she becomes distraught when we are left to believe that Oh is crushed by the giant alien spaceship. And when the happy endings come, she performs a full cheer, complete with arms raised high and a huge smile on her sweet face. So, she does understand happy versus sad events, and I have no doubt that she will grasp more of the nuances of these stories as she grows older.
The Kung Fu Panda series is by far one of my favorites to date. The series is filled with funny moments, but it is also filled with learning moments.
For those who have not watched these movies, the main character is a panda named Po. Po has always dreamed of learning Kung Fu. Even as he spends his days working at a job he hates in his adoptive father’s restaurant. One day, Po gets the chance to turn his dreams into reality when he is chosen as the Dragon Warrior. The Dragon Warrior is supposed to be a Kung Fu master who will save the valley during a great time of need, and his coming was foretold in a 500-year-old prophecy. The rest of the series shows Po learning Kung Fu and fighting the bad guy who threaten the village when nobody believes he can do it. He is often clumsy, and his approach is never what would be expected from a great Kung Fu Master. And yet, his approach works. The whole series teaches children to think outside of the box, and just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that is the only way to accomplish their goal. The series is pretty deep on the subject of personal growth, but does it in a way that is not preachy.
May 13th marked the home video release of Kung Fu Panda 3, and I can say that Riley is in love with it. She asks for it at least twice a day. Often more. This is huge for our girl who has barely a handful of words because she actually says “danda.” while pointing to the movie tile on the screen. That in itself is enough to make this mommy love the movie. But it is a great movie filled with funny moments and tons of great lessons for both children and adults alike.
For instance, there is a scene where Po’s teacher, Shifu, has turned over teaching the training class to Po. It is a disaster and Po is left feeling humiliated afterward. When he finds out that Shifu knew he would not be able to teach the class, Po asks why he set him up to fail. The answer, “If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are.” What an awesome lesson for children and adults alike! There are, of course, many more comedy-laced learning moments throughout the film.
In short, if you haven’t already seen it, even if you don’t have children, Kung Fu Panda 3 is a great movie that adds to the overall story of the series while standing on it’s own for those who have not seen the first two movies. I highly recommend it!