Are you looking for a movie to enjoy together as a family? We have a few suggestions for you of animated films that are suitable for both children and adults (some of which are older, and others more recent). All three share a common theme: the importance of friendship, loyalty, and sharing one's life with others, especially in times of pain.
The Land Before Time (Don Bluth, 1988)
This film is set in the prehistoric era, with some cute, brave little dinosaurs as the protagonists. It’s a time of severe drought, and several herds of dinosaurs are looking for a better, safer, and more livable place: a paradise known as the "Great Valley."
Littlefoot, a young long-necked dinosaur, meets Cera, a triceratops. The two, getting along well, begin to play together. Their parents get after them, saying it’s not acceptable for different races to be friends, so they continue to secretly see each other. One day, while Littlefoot and Cera are together, a ferocious Sharptooth appears and attacks them. Littlefoot's mother runs to the rescue, but in saving them, she is seriously injured. At the same time, an earthquake opens a deep ravine that swallows the Sharptooth and separates Littlefoot and Cera from their herds. Littlefoot finds his dying mother, who, in her last breath, instructs her son to go to the Great Valley.
This is how our whimsical journey begins... Littlefoot sets off, together with a few friends he will meet along the way, on an intrepid and unforgettable journey – a journey of hard work, hope, and sharing – filled with both calm and chaotic moments.
It is a journey that portrays the path of life – a path less difficult when faced together with others.
The film, on a symbolic level, suggests that we can aspire to have a better world than the one we inhabit. It is a matter of striving to seek it, to build it, to make it come true. It's about not standing still in our unhappiness, but rather about moving forward together with others and fighting for something different.
Lucky and Zorba (Enzo D’Alò, 1998)
It’s a cartoon about the value of loyalty. A seagull, about to die due to injuries sustained during an accident, asks a cat in her dying breath to guard the egg she has just laid. The cat, initially reluctant, eventually agrees to make her three promises: to guard the egg, to not eat the egg, and to teach her son to fly.
Zorba the cat – who has always eaten eggs and has no idea how to teach a bird to fly – suddenly finds himself brought into this situation. He knows he's responsible for that puny bird: he's given his word to his mother, and he feels he can't let her down.
So, he will have to protect the gull’s baby from everything and everyone, including his own cat friends. Zorba will teach Lucky to fly, just like her mom would have done. The film sends a beautiful message about the importance of keeping our word.
The film then lends itself to gently talking about the subject of parental death.
Faced with the gull that has just died, Zorba answers Lucky’s questions, including the question about what the bird is doing lying on the ground. "It’s not sleeping,” he explains, “it’s flown into the sky," and he makes the little gull understand that for a certain kind of flight "you don't need wings."
Finally, it is touching to see how even an orphan, with a painful start to life, can take flight in life, thanks to the love of those around him (which, in the case of a child, can be his grandparents, uncles and aunts – even an entire community). It’s a story that gives hope to young and old, because it helps us to believe in life and to see that death doesn’t get the last word.
Big Hero 6 (Don Hall, 2014)
San Fransokyo is an imaginary, futuristic city with spectacular landscapes: a mix between San Francisco and Tokyo.
Hiro, a young robotics genius, lives there with his older brother Tadashi and his aunt.
Just thirteen years old, our protagonist exploits his vivid intelligence and puts all his efforts into illegal fights between robots to make easy money. His rather serious and responsible brother, worried about how Hiro wastes his time, would like him to use his talents to bring something more uplifting and useful to society. So, he invites him to come to his university, where he is part of a group of inventors at the Institute of Technology, led by Professor Callaghan.
Hiro agrees to present one of his inventions. He presents some micro particles that can be controlled telepathically and are able to perform any kind of work.
Shortly after, however, the lab catches fire and Tadashi dies.
Hiro suspects that someone has taken possession of his invention, causing the tragic death of his brother. So he decides to begin the hunt for the criminal with the help of the young inventors in the lab and Baymax, a giant, soft, inflatable robot, invented by Tadashi.
Baymax represents a loyal, honest friend that everyone dreams of having. He is sweet, witty – a little clumsy, but caring – attentive, and present. He’s got a big heart and a deep spirit of sacrifice.
The film skillfully displays the intricacies of friendship and life’s difficulties, with seriousness and delicacy. It explores themes of crisis, adolescent mood swings, grief, how to deal with anger, and how talents are truly valuable when used to help others.