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8 Disney Films To Enjoy With Your Children

14/08/2014 16:55 | Updated 22 May 2015

Parents and children watching television together

There are so many reasons why having a child is an amazing, beautiful and wonderful experience. Children bring joy, fun and laughter... they also give us the opportunity to enjoy children's films again and, boy, don't we love them for it?

There's something so relaxing about settling down with a small child for a Disney movie. And if you need any more excuses to snuggle up, well, just consider all the essential life lessons your little one will be learning!

Every movie's got a moral...

Work hard to achieve your goals

The heroine in The Princess and the Frog, Tiana, sets a great example of how to focus on a goal and work hard to achieve it. Much was made over Tiana being the first ever African-American princess, but the key message of this movie is not about race, it's about determination.

Tiana lives in New Orleans and has always dreamed of opening her own restaurant. While her best friend, Charlotte, wishes upon stars in the hope her dreams will come true (and rather traditionally, all she wishes for is a prince), Tiana works every hour she can as a waitress, saving pennies in jars to put towards buying her own establishment.

Accidentally being turned into a frog hinders that ambition for a short time, but while amphibian, she falls in love with an apparently penniless suitor. Of course, he'll turn out to be the love of her life (second only to her long-fought for eating establishment!).

Look on the bright side

Cinderella has it pretty rough really, doesn't she? A vile old stepmother, stepsisters with faces as ugly as their hearts are mean, all of them ordering her about and laughing at her rags.

But how does Cinders respond? With unrelenting generosity and high spirits. She makes friends with animals, for want of any human kindness, and always stays positive in the face of the grimness that is her life.

There's an element of good things happen to good people here – lord knows, Cinderella's fairy godmother realises she's due a break. And even after the ball, when the wicked women try to prevent Cinderella from trying on the glass slipper, her true friends, the animals, come to her rescue in return for the kindness she had shown them.

Be true to yourself

What's not to love about Brave? Merida, the feisty young Scottish princess, feels decidedly uncomfortable about being married off into some neighbouring clan.

And why wouldn't she, when she's obviously more intelligent, not to mention more adept with a bow and arrow, than any of her potential suitors. She knows in her heart there is more to her than being someone's wife.

Naturally, all goes somewhat awry when Merida trusts a witch to cast a spell on her mother the queen, in the hope it will change her mind. But, as the story unfolds, Brave explores the family dynamic – particularly the mother-daughter relationship, and the need to communicate well. As with all good stories for children, everyone learns their lesson in the end.

Don't judge on appearances

Although it's not Disney's most famous film, Beauty and the Beast was a massively successful one, winning an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for Best Picture.

The key message is obvious – beauty is skin deep, and don't judge a person by how they look. When a prince turns an ugly old woman selling apples away from his door, she casts a spell to make him hideous himself. The spell will only be broken when he finds someone to love him.

When Belle shows up, looking for her father, the Beast holds her prisoner – yet it seems she is the sort of woman who can see past the Beast's frightening exterior, and even past his bitterness, to find the good inside him.

Believe in yourself and ignore the bullies

Aw, Dumbo! Possibly the cutest ever Disney creation, right? When the poor little elephant is teased and laughed at by the other circus animals because of his big floppy ears, his mum steps in to protect him – and ends up being locked up.

Left to defend himself, Dumbo is shy and lacking in confidence, until he befriends a mouse who will help him find his destiny.

There's a strong message for children here about bullying. They can see how hurtful the jibes are for the little elephant. But in the end, with help and support from his pal, Dumbo finally learns to believe in himself, despite what other people say about him. And, of course, a star is born.

Seeing past labels

The Fox and the Hound might not be for the youngest children with its hunting imagery, but it is a beautiful story, and the key message an important one.

When Tod and Cooper meet, as a rescued fox cub and a hunter's puppy, they bond instantly and are inseparable. But they soon learn that tradition insists they should be mortal enemies – hunter vs hunted.

The film explores the complicated issues of expectation and social order – if you're from a certain background, then you should behave in a very specific way. But of course, we as individuals can choose how we behave.

The film also examines the complexities of friendship in the context of clashing values. It's a tough message – because there is no gooey happy ending here. Rather, a bittersweet admittance that in a world where certain relationships are taboo, they can and will still exist, but they might have to exist quietly.

Whatever boys can do, girls can do too

Mulan was Disney's first warrior princess and the film is based on a legendary female Chinese warrior. The film stretches away from Disney's tried and tested 'boy meets girl' model (for the most part at least), which is both refreshing and inspiring.

When China is invaded, Mulan's father is called to go and fight – but he is too weak to go. So the heroine dresses as a man and sets off to war in her father's place.

Mulan becomes a brave and skilled fighter. Even when her true identity is revealed, and she is banished from the army, she fights on and she risks everything to save China from the Huns. Along the way, Mulan discovers who she really is by following her heart.

Respect the world we live in

If you can watch Bambi (particularly as a parent) without crying, you must have a heart of stone!

The film deals with loss, of course, but it does so in a gentle and positive way. The goings on in the forest show that life springs eternal, and there is always hope for happiness.

Bambi also carries a strong message for little ones about mankind's effect on nature. Told from the perspective of the woodland creatures, it shows how humans' lack of respect for all things natural can be devastating.

What's your favourite Disney film to watch with your children?

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