We are going to confuse the children.


I don’t plan to make a habit of buying Disney sequels, but the kids like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) so much, and I have fond enough memories of The Tigger Movie (2000) and Piglet’s Big Movie (2003), both of which I saw on the big screen, that I decided to buy a boxed set that includes both of these sequels as well as Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (2005), which I had not yet seen. And what do you know, the kids — my daughter in particular — have become big fans of Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, or the “mommy elephant” movie, as my daughter calls it.

But here’s where things get dicey. The film concerns the fear that Pooh and his friends feel when they hear the Heffalumps from a distance, and near the end of the film, when they finally come across a baby Heffalump in person, they lasso it and try to capture it — and this is after the Heffalump has been caught in a trap made of twigs and branches. What Pooh and his friends don’t realize is that little Roo, whose mother Kanga has been looking for him, has already met the Heffalump and befriended it — and so, as Pooh and friends stand there holding their ropes, Roo makes an impassioned plea to set the Heffalump free, while his proud and understanding mother Kanga also stands there, beaming beatifically at Roo and offering him moral support.

It’s a little more moralistic, and potentially even traumatic, than the stories in the original Pooh film, but I can sort of deal with that. Certainly my kids don’t seem to mind. But I can’t help thinking I am setting my kids up for an even greater confusion when Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! comes out on DVD later this year. Yeah, sure, each of the twins has seen the film in the theatre once, but that’s nothing compared to watching the film again and again at home — and in Horton, if memory serves, a noble elephant is trapped or tied up by an even worse mob, an angrier mob, and in that film, the mother kangaroo is the primary antagonist, and not the defender of good! (I can’t find any photos from this scene online, so I’ll make do with the image below, which at least conveys the antagonism.)

Now, this may not be all that big an issue. Certainly my children have already had to deal with similar species role-reversals; consider how the striped feline creature in the Pooh movies, i.e. Tigger, is a fun, jovial, good sort of chap, whose non-stop bouncing has been a source of inspiration to my ever-jumping son, whereas the striped feline creature in The Jungle Book (1967), i.e. Shere Khan, is an out-and-out villain, whose fights with Baloo always prompt my daughter to yell at the screen, “No pushing! No pushing!” (Hmmm, come to think of it, she does say that to her brother a fair bit, too.)

But, y’know, I think I’ll be monitoring this situation anyway.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06403255764384760662 Betty

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06403255764384760662 Betty

    Hey, it seems to me like an opportunity for a good life lesson about misleading stereotypes. :)

    (Ahem. Reposting without the typo. :) )

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17492591447246532970 jasdye

    betty beat me to it.

    “see, honey, there’s different types of mommy kangaroos and tigers. some are nice and some are mean. just don’t get near them when they’re hungry or in a fighting mood…”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18293658542211510275 Gaffney

    Gotta lean with Betty on this one. Seems less a chance of confusion, and more an opportunity to not fall into stereotypes. If a child can distinguish between kangaroos behaving well, and kangaroos behaving badly, that puts them miles ahead in the race/gender/religion game.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Betty, I liked your typo. :)

    And hey, yeah, I’m all in favour of teaching the kids complexity. But first they’ve got to learn simplicity, y’know? At least, I assume so.

    I’m all in favour of challenging stereotypes. But what lurks at the back of my mind is the idea that animals and objects might “represent” something to children at this age, and, just as the kids are learning to speak the verbal language of their parents, they might also be learning to speak the language of symbols, including visual symbols and animals that “represent” certain human characteristics. At this stage, where repetition and predictability are key to their learning, it might be confusing to have “representative” characters flipped around like this. Might be.

    But yeah, if we’re treating all the animals as just people, then sure, learning that there are different types of people — and different types of kangaroos and tigers — is definitely good. Which is precisely why we’re going to show them all these films!


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