4 great life lessons from animated movies

Mr Ping Kung Fu Panda life lessons from animated movies

Fans of animated movies find solace in the variety of its offers. These drawn or built worlds that mimic some of our reality to help us relate while offering more alternative perspective of its perception expand the imaginations often held hostage by fear of change and evolution, and comfort in the acquired, known and familiar. A number of lessons can be extracted from the best animated movies but here are 4 great life lessons that can boost a positive, enriching and fruitful mindset, not just in children but also in adults.

In everyday life…

Life lesson 1: Express yourself fully

The MaskIt is ironical how we wear masks to blend into the flavour of the day, the fashion of the season, the very world we build to protect us. These masks stop us from expressing who we truly are, from the skin we live in, to the things we say and the way we speak. There are rules embedded in the fabric of society that influence presumptions such as soft-speaking being a token of people’s gentleness. There are individual preferences disguised as tribal to universal facts depending on how many one can get to bend under the whim of their fashion, such as thinness or symmetry being signs of beauty. Such preconceptions do not only limit our potential and our possibilities as individual humans, they deprive the world from our unique print, the rainbow from our unique colour and thereby the final light from its complete truth.

Expression is so very important for our individual growth and for our contribution to the bigger picture. It allows us to make sense of who we are and to learn to be the best we can be for ourselves and the people around us. By knowing itself and the rules around, it knows the boundaries that its freedom must have to not harm its surroundings. It grows in confidence and exercises creativity. It runs away from lies. Its sense of humour cannot shy away from the fun and comedy of its full expression, a medicinal secret that cartoons have long understood and shown the full extent of. Even the main character in the movie The mask, interpreted by Jim Carey had to be “cartoonised” to reflect the extent of his emotions.  The only way to live a positive life, is to not let such beauty in your true personality choke at your throat but rather to let it out and discover and nurture the treasures and creative nuggets that we are made of.

Stride over and defy the natural perception of reality boundaries that limits us

RatatouilleDefy the natural boundaries or rather the perception and perspective of reality that limit us. Cartoons and other animated movies have their own physics, which a dedicated viewer would wallow in but an unfamiliar spectator would not immediately understand. Our eyes, our perception of the world intrinsically limits us.  This is not about believing we are superhuman, it is about knowing what our environment, in all its beautiful nurturing, has sown of subjectivity in us and of boundaries around our minds. Brad Bird and his team constantly setup the type of environment that is conducive to releasing their creative flow, to pushing the barriers of their current knowledge so that it does not prevent them from opening up to new possibilities, to new points of view, to new ideas. They are the team that brought us the likes of Ratatouille, the rat chef, an oxymoron that in itself sums up the minds at work behind the animated movie. The film’s other protagonist, Anton Ego, a food critic better known as the “Grim eater” for his harsh, no-nonsense food reviews, bet his notoriety and job on his belief in exquisite food, even if prepared by a rat, in a world that was just not ready for it.

We might not be ready to eat a perfect meal cooked by a master rat, or even to believe in such a possibility. We are not required (or rather we are encouraged please not) to literally defy physics the way that characters in cartoons do. Rather, this is an invitation to see, sense behind the barriers erected by fear and ignorance, the possibilities that enrich our perceptions, that boost our creativity, that nurture the emancipation of our minds and our mental evolution.

In the business world…

Ascertain and reflect your Identity, your Brand

Incredibles (2004)Edna 'E' Mode (voice by Brad Bird)Believe it, you are more than a name, no matter how rare yours it. You are a purpose, a unique reason to be alive and a unique print in the tapestry of the world. Since the world perceives this mainly through its senses, the sound of your voice, your appearance, you must reflect your brand in a way that even identity thieves or homonyms cannot be confused with you.

In cartoons, in comics before, and increasingly in films, superheroes have a signature outfit. This carries a spirit, reresents their brand, identify them uniquely. What they are presenting to the world is who they want to be, what they represent. But this is not limited to superheroes. In Scooby Doo, a character explains at some point “what’s the point? We always wear the same clothes everyday”. We know who they are not just because they look the same, but because they wear the same clothes, just like Nick Larson in City Hunter and in Oggy and the cockroaches, where they always show a rack of the same clothes.

While in businesses, this branding makes sense and gives a sense of predictability and stability that reassures both existing and potential customers, in everyday life, it is more complicated. There are people who dress according to their mood, others who dress according to fashion, both making sure that their outfit is anything but predictable. Most people do not have the level of OCD that require a set rack of identical wardrobe pieces. A lot of people are still figuring out who they are, what they like, what fits them. What helps is to know the identity you want to wear, because those clothes, those glasses, those items of wear are an extension of the skin in which you live.

Sometimes, help makes a whole difference. Arm yourself with a connoisseur – The incredibles had the uncompromising Edna, who knew the needs of her clientele, kept abreast of the latest technology, kept an eye on the performance of products similar to hers, thought with a mind fusing creative and functional energies and learnt lessons from the past even when she made sure to publicise:

“I never look back, darling. It distracts me from the now”

We have google, fashion, shops and many more places and people that can help us with the choice. We can try outfits on even with online shopping. We can read fora, ask for opinions. We can monitor how wearing a colour, a material, a type of garment, etc. makes us feel. We can learn, we can chose what makes us happy because feeling good in our clothes is feeling good in our second skin. Of course, there is more to that brand that the clothes. The jewellery, the make up, or the lack of it, the people we haunt, the way we speak are as many of the expressions of our brand.

There is a (business) opportunity in every life event

Mr Ping Business Man from Kung Fu PandaWhether it is a positive or a negative event, Mr Ping, the adoptive father of the most famous Kung Fu Panda will see its silver lining and read the underlying business opportunity.

He is a dad as much as he is a business man and he will cry about losing his son to Kung Fu and Dragon Warrior duties whilst taking any ensuing business advantage from the situation. There is no doubt in our minds about the love he has for his son yet his smiles or tears will never blind him from the chance of turning a profit. A favourite quote from him that also sums up some of that sentiment is:

“In honor of my son, free tofu dessert for everybody!” “Yaaaay!” the crowd cheered. “With purchases!” Mr Ping added.

Every details counts: from a menu item that offer “dragon warrior size” food to changing the name of his restaurant from the family Golden Harvest Noodle Restaurant to the “Dragon Warrior Noodles & Tofu“. It is beyond father’s pride. This has adaptability, marketing opportunity grabbing, responsiveness, client appeal written all over it. It is business sense. There is equally no doubt that in spite of his personal pride towards his son’s achievement, he would have no hesitation to change the name back, was there any long-term unfavourable turn on Po’s part in the public eye. His son will remain precious but love should never have to blind business sense.

This exercise remains one of balance. Whilst love should not hinder business sense, business should not be an excuse to deny love. The father himself knows so and only wished for his son to take over because he believed that the boy had the “dream”. But he equally bowed to his love of King-Fu when it transpired in his title then in his actions. The first opportunity to pass on your knowledge and leave your legacy is to your progeniture. It makes business sense. They experience the work every day, from a little age. They are embued with the knowledge to its details because they literally cannot escape it as they grow. To be able to accept that all that training might have been wasted and he might be the last of his line in his business shows love and a clear statement of the required balance between love and business. That makes Ping rather than a devious opportunist, a wordly-wise businessman.


There are so many more lessons to be drawn from the parallel perspective that animated movies share with us. Maybe this is just the beginning of a series…