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environmentally-aware animations

The experience of watching Raul Garcia’s ‘El Lince Perdido’ last night led me to consider the animated films of my youth that utilized environmental awareness as their fundamental goal.

There is something poignant and beautiful in these attempts, especially as they toe the line between message and comedy in careful consideration for the attention span of their audience. Two of the best examples are ‘Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest’ and ‘Finding Nemo.’

Despite the 11 year difference between these works, each film follows a similar structure. We are first introduced to a lush and utopian environment–pristine rainforest or the clear waters of a coral reef, and from that beauty we are led to the polluted barren wastelands of human consumption. It is only through the use of magical forces or the otherworldly power of the paternal instinct that our characters escape these horrible environments and return to their safe and human-free homes.

In these films, humans are an inevitable force of destruction, and the only escape is to hide within pockets of wilderness that are still out of their reach. While neither of their films discuss solutions to the devastation of our natural resources, they both offer an image of humanity as as inconsiderate and insensitive giants who are blind to the results of their consumption.

More recent films dealing with these issues, such as ‘El Lince Perdido’ and ‘Ponyo On the Cliff by the Sea’ portray humanity as more nuanced in its interactions with its environment. Humans may be aware of the damage done to the world around them, but they are in many ways incapable to act–they are either unable to communicate, too busy protecting themselves from the mysterious forces of nature, or too young or feeble to make much of a difference.

These new films portray humanity as an uncertain force, still undecided on how they should consider their environment, and, at times, led astray by their own good intentions.

If anything, this shift in mainstream environmentally-aware animated films indicates our own mainstream shift in personal identity as we grapple with our (sometimes misguided) attempts to lead less environmentally damaging lives.


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