12 Children's Movies That Helped Us Realize Animals Have Feelings Too
Disney recently announced that Tim Burton will direct a live-action and CGI remake of "Dumbo." The classic film has a decidedly anti-circus message, and the news is particularly fitting in the wake of Ringling Bros.' recent decision to finally retire its elephants.
In honor of both announcements, here's The Dodo's randomly ranked list of childhood classics with the best pro-animal messages - starting with the obvious.
Dumbo's mother, shackled to the wall, reaching through her bars to caress her crying baby - is there anything sadder? Ringling Bros. might have decided to retire its elephants, but countless elephants have experienced similar treatment at circuses around the world. It might seem easy to dismiss this film as an animated children's movie, but its humanizing portrayal of captive elephants is all too real.
2. "Lady and the Tramp"
This film is the perfect reminder of why the best breed is rescue. From the cavalier, down-on-his-luck Tramp to the characters' ongoing fight against the dog catcher, the movie is an ode to the pluck of homeless puppies. No other film has captured the sadness of a shelter quite so sweetly as the minute-long montage of dogs crying in the pound.
It's impossible to walk away from this movie without rethinking your connection with nature. Though it's one of the few Disney films where the animals don't talk, Meeko and Flit have no trouble communicating. Pocahontas shows that it's possible to empathize with animals even when you don't share a language - and that doing so can introduce you to a whole world of wonders.
4. "The Fox and the Hound"
Predator and prey become the best of friends in this often-overlooked Disney classic. The film turns our ideas of companion animals vs. hunted animals on their head, and like any interspecies friendship reminds us that all animals share the same emotions our cats and dogs do.
5. "The Little Mermaid"
Has there ever been a scene more animal-friendly than when Ariel tries to usher a still-alive Sebastian onto her plate in Prince Eric's banquet hall? From King Triton denouncing humans as "spineless, savage, harpooning fish-eaters" to the film's persistent personification of crabs and flounders, the entire movie is a PSA against eating our fishy friends.
6. "101 Dalmatians"
Part of the reason Cruella de Vil's plan to turn puppies into a coat is so horrific is because puppies have such a special place in our collective heart. But by the end of the film the fact they're puppies becomes less important, and the idea of skinning any animal to turn him into outerwear is terrible in and of itself. The film also reminds us of the steep price of wearing fur - 101 animals for one coat?
A group of kind gorillas takes in an orphaned baby, and are rewarded for it when a group of human explorers tries to capture them. This film turns the traditional explorer model on its head by making the humans the bad guys, and acts as a harsh reminder of just how little respect humans sometimes have for our wild cousins.
8. "Happy Feet"
Happy Feet does the same thing for marine parks that Dumbo does for the circus. Mumble goes from being a happy wild penguin to a penguin trapped in a marine park prison, a sad warning against placing wild animals in captivity. The film reminds us of the negative effect humans can have on marine life.
If you've seen Bambi, you've probably never been able to think of hunting the same. The scene where Bambi wanders through the snow calling out for his dead mother is probably one of the most heartbreaking images ever shown on film, and it's all the more poignant because we know that there really are baby deer out there who are waiting for hunted mothers who won't come back.
10. "Finding Nemo"
The most memorable line from the film is "Fish are friends, not food." Enough said. But there's also a more poignant message hidden in the film about keeping animals in captivity, as Nemo struggles to escape the dentist's aquarium and find his way back home.
11. "Chicken Run"
Considering the entire plot revolves around a plucky group of chickens trying to escape slaughter, this film is bound to make you rethink the lives behind your dinner. At the very least, you'll never be able to look at chicken pot pie the same way again.
12. "The Sword in the Stone"
At first, this film might seem like an odd pick considering its grand total of one main animal character. But the film's plot centers on Arthur learning life's most important lessons by living as different animals. What better reminder of how much we can learn from our furry and scaly friends, and how much more they seem to know?