When it comes to eco-friendly films, it seems to be the adult viewers who are really spoilt for choice. Grown-up movies like An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour offer penetrating insights into global issues like climate change and overpopulation. The only problem is that they’re far too complex for kids to enjoy. In fact, the sight of Al Gore delivering a lecture about rising temperatures could be enough to put children off environmentalism forever!
Luckily, more and more directors and screen-writers are slipping environmentally-friendly themes into their films. There are also plenty of classic kid’s movies that will make younger audience start to think about how humans could be destroying the world around them. The following films are all available on DVD, so look out for them next time you’re at the library.
When it was first released this cute animated movie became an instant classic – mainly because of the way animators lent the robot at the heart of the story a real ‘human’ feel. But there’s also a strong environmental message buried in the action too. Wall-E spends the first part of the story sorting out the piles of waste that the human race has left behind. The loneliness of the robot as he works in between these great mounds of consumer junk helps kids ask some pertinent questions about what mass production is really doing to the planet.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
The early Star Trek movies have become standard fare for Bank Holiday on terrestrial TV channels – so look out for this film to cheer up a wet afternoon. In this kid-friendly sci-fi romp Spock and co have to head back to Earth to help stop the whales becoming extinct. Adults will find the eco message laid on a bit thick (and the crew of the Starship Enterprise were beginning to look a bit elderly at this point in the franchise) but older children will enjoy the action sequences while appreciating the tree-hugging storyline.
The Lion King (1994)
Another entertaining animated classic that helps kids to think about their place in nature. Songs such as ‘The Circle of Life’ rather touchingly illustrate the way the natural world works while the beautifully-rendered characters can inspire children to discover more about wildlife. The story of a young lion avenging his father could also come in useful when your kids get round to reading Hamlet at school…
Homeward Bound: An Incredible Journey (1993)
You may remember the cute Disney original featuring the trials of two dogs and a cat as they venture across the American wilderness, but your kids will probably prefer this sassier modern version. Older viewers may find the all-American back story a little icky, and yet the beauty and the dangers of the natural world more than make up for an excess of Mom’s apple pie.
Watership Down (1978)
Approach with caution: this downbeat British film is heady stuff for many adults, and could well upset young children. But despite this fact, the harsh reality of the way man can change nature is a lesson that mature teens and more emotionally robust kids will find well worth learning. The haunting artwork and an evocative soundtrack make the story of displaced rabbits resonate all the more powerfully.
When viewing these films with your children try not to let them become passive observers. Asking them questions about the story and the characters helps kids critically engage with what they’re watching and makes sure the eco-friendly message hits home.