Key point: If you’re relying on movies to teach your kids about green living – don’t.
There are plenty of “Best green movie” lists for kids around the web, and they’re okay lists, but overall, I personally don’t think the movie industry is interested in making environmental movies for kids.
Kids aren’t adults:
First of all most movie makers assume, I guess, that eco-friendly means militant adult eco-knowledge or extremely dull documentaries. My son has watched many eco-films like Flow and No Impact Man. While Cedar was somewhat appalled by all the bottled water in Flow, neither of these movies, or other movies like them held his interest for very long. These are clearly made for adults, which is fine, but then what?
Cedar’s also watched many a documentary about animals, national parks or nature in general and most didn’t empress him. While some fascinated him, he wasn’t fascinated to the point where he’d re-watch them over and over. Plus, these films didn’t appear to inspire any eco-ethics in him.
What the kid says:
I’m not a kid so I asked my ten-year-old which kid movies he thought were eco-friendly. Keep in mind that Cedar is a decent kid to ask. He’s seen a lot of films and more importantly he’s got a pretty good handle on green issues. He’s always used reusable water bottles, he carries reusable grocery bags when shopping and he’s not interested in using paper towels. He’s used rain barrels, composted, cooks organic, recycles and can tell you about the pros and cons of most simple green issues.
Because Cedar’s been raised green, I figured his judgement about green movies would be good.
So, I asked, “Do you think there are any eco-friendly movies for kids?”
Cedar said, “Totoro…. and maybe Dirt.”
Two movies? Two?! I said, “Are you sure you can’t think of any others?,” and he said, “None that I like.”
Although short, here’s my list of eco-movies for kids:
Personally, I can think of a few more eco-minded movies, but none that Cedar has totally loved. In any case, here are my green kid movie picks…
My Neighbor Totoro (2010 version): Cedar was right about Totoro. I agree that it’s a great green movie. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the BEST green movie you could buy your kids. We have the old school My Neighbor Totoro version, which is soooooo hard to find now, but we like it a lot more than the newer, Disney remade version. If you can find it inexpensively, I suggest the older version before the new one. I’ll have a long Totoro review posted soon.
Dirt! The Movie: I loved Dirt! but more importantly, Cedar enjoyed it too. We were both simultaneously fascinated, appalled and entertained by it. The themes surrounding were adult, but not so adult that kids can’t drink the issue in. This movie got both my son and me thinking and talking about the simple, yet ultimately complex issue of dirt and how it shapes our planet. Read a review of Dirt!
Wall-E: My son loved Wall-E and my best friend’s little girl is entirely obsessed with it. According to most green movie lists for kids, Wall-E is top notch eco-education and usually hits the top three on these lists.
My confession is that I HATE Wall-E. I can’t even watch it without wanting to off myself, and I consider myself fairly mentally stable. Wall-E is so utterly depressing. I remember taking Cedar to see this at the theater, and at first I was all, “Well, it’s cute – look at that sweet robot.” By the end I wanted to run away. No trees, an overweight lazy society and zero common interest in others.
I get it. Wall-E was meant to make a point. The problem is that since Wall-E has come out, have things gotten better? People spout off about the incredible statement this film made, yet we shut down national parks, parents are in denial about the childhood obesity epidemic, kids sit inside all day in front of screens and green spaces everywhere are declining. Who actually paid attention to this movie? Honestly, not to sound terribly depressing, but all Wall-E does is remind me that we’re in bad shape as a society and that our future may be very grim indeed.
The Lorax: It’s hard to find the old Lorax movie on DVD, but if you can it’s a classic tale of what happens when we fail to protect trees. There’s a new, not quite as good version out too, but I’d suggest the The Lorax book over it. Plus of course, there’s the new Lorax feature film, which hasn’t been released so I haven’t seen yet.
The Rescuers Down Under: I loved this movie as a kid. My son didn’t love it as much, but he did like it and watched it more than once. This movie offers a great kid-friendly overview of animal safety, poaching and nature protection with enough comedy tossed in to make it fun and re-watchable.
Happy Feet: This film makes most “Best green movie” lists. I didn’t love it and I felt it took a really abrupt and odd turn to eco-issues suddenly at the end. My son thought it was funny once, but wasn’t interested in watching it more than that. Still, I know some kids like it.
Disney Nature: Disney Nature has gone a long way in recent years towards trying to bring some nature issues to light with movies like Earth, Oceans, African Cats and now the new soon-to-be-released Chimpanzee. I think the Disney Nature movies are extremely well done. They contain beautiful imagery, wonderful kid-friendly themes and stories and are narrated by the best in the biz. The only downside of these, like many nature documentaries, is that they don’t have a high re-watch value at my house. We liked Oceans best and might re-watch it again, but overall, my son doesn’t ask to watch these over and over.
Kid movies with minor eco-themes:
Spirited Away: Not a total eco-film, but my son caught the subtle green inclusions and enjoys watching it over and over. I like almost all Hayao Miyazaki movies (he also did Totoro) because they’re cartoons I don’t mind watching. I.e. not brainless or boring and all have an adventurous kid slant. Castle in the Sky is another good Miyazaki film with subtle green influences.
Ponyo: From a nature standpoint, I suppose one might count Ponyo as a greenish movie. Honestly, I don’t like Ponyo. For some reason it bored me, which is a first when it comes to Miyazaki movies. I made it through this film once and once only. My son is another story. He loved Ponyo as much as he loved the other Miyazaki movies and so do tons of other people I know.
Babies: Babies was amazing. It’s not green exactly, but it’s very heavily based on family time, attachment parenting, kids being kids and shows what it’s like in other places – a key issue when raising green kids in my opinion. It’s awesome to be able to capture a child’s attention about what life is like elsewhere, not just in the U.S. Interests like this lead to curiosity and questions about the world around you.
You might think this is in no way an appropriate movie for children. At first glance it looks like a dull documentary. However, I watched Babies with my then nine-year-old son and then I watched it again with my partners kids (12 and 14 – both girls) and all the kids LOVED it. It’s entertaining, beautifully shot and 100% amazing. If you’re weird about nudity, note that there is some in Babies (very open breastfeeding) but not one of my kids mentioned it or seemed to care, they were simply enthralled. it’s one of the few documentaries I’d watch over and over and I highly recommend it.
Eco-kid movie I haven’t seen:
I haven’t seen Hoot and neither has my son. I hear it’s a great green movie for kids though. It looks a little hyped to me, but honestly, I have no idea. It could be amazing for all I know.
This isn’t a very big list is it?
It’s a little depressing that there aren’t more green kid movies around. It’s terrible when my own kid can only name two. That said, Cedar does like some other films which focus on kid adventure, a theme that is important for green kids, so soon, we’ll go over some of those choices.
Now though, why not tell me in the comments if you know of any other good green movies for kids – and by good I mean they have re-watch value.