by Taylor Baugh, Ball State University
Movies have the power to truly move a person – and children’s movies are no different. Movies like Wall-E, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Chicken Little, and Ice Age all have a similar message. These movies depict an apocalypse-level event for the characters, but the characters are given the chance to redeem themselves and save their world from an end, whether the destruction originates from environmental issues, food falling from the sky, or aliens. These children’s movies are opening kids’ eyes to the power they have over the future of their world.
Wall-E depicts a time when humans have completely destroyed the Earth and have to move onto a ship in space, where they are gaining weight and becoming useless. As the movie progresses, it takes two robots, Wall-E and Eve, to inspire the humans to care about the Earth and the environment.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs follows a scientist named Flint Lockwood, who creates a machine called the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR), which turns water into food. However, this doesn’t work quite the way it should, and a giant food storm begins, putting the world in danger. This storm creates a mountain of food that collapses, destroying the town. Flint eventually stops the machine and everyone is able to go back to their town, but this is the end of their old town and life, as they knew them.
The title character in Chicken Little faces a similar change in life when the sky begins to fall. It turns out that the “sky” that was falling was actually a part of a UFO. The aliens begin to invade, and, as they begin tearing the town apart, Chicken Little must try to save his community. In the end, it is revealed that the aliens weren’t vaporizing the people, but rather were bringing them aboard the alien ship to ask the citizens about their missing child. However, the people of the town are still given the knowledge of aliens, and their world is forever changed.
The characters in Ice Age face an apocalypse of their own as they try to escape the ice age by moving south. Sid, Manny, and Diego find themselves stuck within the ice age separated from the rest of the world and they face many challenges on their way to the warmer climate. Their world is changed and they must move to survive.
Children’s movies are filled with apocalyptic imagery and plotlines. America starts kids off thinking about the apocalypse at a very young age. While each of these movies have very different types of apocalypse, they do have something in common: they all have happy or hopeful endings. Each of these movies depicts the main characters saving the world in some way. Wall-E and Eve inspire the humans to take charge of their lives once again, and they begin to take care of the world. While Flint was the one who started this food apocalypse, he was also the one who saved the town in the end. Chicken Little warned the people of his town and tried his best to protect his town. In Ice Age, the group ends up saving each other throughout the movie so that, by the end, they have each other and they have survived their version of the apocalypse.
I believe that each of these endings were written as a way to inspire the kids and even adults watching them to realize they have control over their future. These writers seem to want the audience to know that the future is in their hands and that they have the power to make the changes necessary to ward off apocalyptic events. According to James Berger in After The End:
“Until the end of the world… we tell stories. This is the message and the plot of the Decameron, the Arabian Nights, Melville’s The Confidence Man, Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending. After the end, there will be something else – unimaginable: ‘heaven blazing into the head’ – but until the end, there will be narrative, the verbal mark of temporality. There will be stories about the end, forestalling and invoking it, constructing moments that are conclusive, and thus definitive. The present, the world in history, is in the flux and ambiguous; Kermode’s expression is ‘in the middest.’ The apocalypse becomes a clarification, an alchemical precipitation into pure principles” (34).
Berger is stating that storytelling is something that will be a part of our culture until the very end, and that these stories can be anything from predicting the end to stopping the end. I believe that the writers of the stories we see within these children’s movies are doing just that, telling the story they wish to see in the world and to the people who are our future, those in control of the future. These movies motivate kids to care about the world at a younger age, so that they grow up thinking more about how their actions affect the people and environment around them. It’s important for kids to see these depictions because it teaches them that they are the future and they have power in the world.
Ice Age. Directed by Chris Wedge, Twentieth Century Fox, 2002.
Wall-E. Directed by Andrew Stanton, Disney Pixar, 2008.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Sony
Pictures Animation, 2009.
Chicken Little. Directed by Mark Dindal, Walt Disney Pictures, 2005.
Berger, James. “Trauma and The End of The World.” After the End: Representations of
Post-Apocalypse, University of Minnesota Press, 1999, pp. 19–56.