Top Children’s Eco Films

In Part Three of our Eco Entertainment series, we look at children’s films!


By Kate Fathers – Mindful Mum

If you look hard enough, you can find an eco-conscious message in any film, particularly a kid’s film. But which ones are the most interesting? Here are a few of my favourites

The Lorax (1972 and 2012)

The first film based on The Lorax was a television special made in 1972, with a teleplay written by Dr Seuss. Only 25 minutes long, it is almost identical to the book (see: Eco Entertainment: Children’s Books, and the alterations it makes only serve to make the subject matter more complex, such as addressing the issue of what becomes of the Thneed factory workers if production is stopped to save the environment.

The second film is a feature length adaptation from 2012. It’s more loosely based on the book, with an altered structure, new characters, the relationship between the Once-ler and the Lorax transformed into a bromance gone bad, and a second antagonist added in the form of Mr O’Hare who sells oxygen.

WALL-E (2008)

A multi-award winner (including a Hugo and an Oscar), WALL-E tells the story of a cleaning robot stuck on an abandoned, refuse-covered Earth. Desperate for companionship, WALL-E’s wish is granted when a spaceship arrives bearing a reconnaissance robot named EVE. He follows her to a spaceship bearing Earth’s lost humans, where he helps set in motion a chain of events to bring the humans home. It’s an absolutely beautiful film, and one both children and adults will love.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

In Australia (where no one has an Australian accent), there is a forest called FernGully, tended by faeries including our heroine, Crysta. But when loggers come into the forest and accidentally release the toxic spirit Hexxus, Crysta and human Zak must stop him before he destroys the forest. While a slightly dated film thanks to some 1990s slang, it is still one that kids will enjoy.

Studio Ghibli (1985-present)

This Japanese film studio and its celebrated director Hayao Miyazaki regularly put out films with an environmental message, so it’s difficult to pick just one. The three films with the most overt eco message are Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Pom Poko, and Princess Mononoke. Others have a more subtle environmental message which often doesn’t dominate the plot, such as in Spirited Away, Ponyo, Arrietty, and My Neighbour Totoro. Each one is visually stunning and totally timeless, and can be enjoyed by parents and kids alike.

Note: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke may be more suited to older children due to story complexity and overt cartoon violence. Parental discretion when choosing films is always encouraged.

Happy Feet (2006)

An Oscar winning film about a penguin named Mumble who can’t sing to attract a mate so tap dances instead. Believing that his dancing is that cause of a food scarcity, Mumble is exiled, inspiring him to set out and discover the cause of the depleted fish population. The film handles the environmental issues (specifically pollution and overfishing) with skill and subtlety, which carries over into the film’s sequel Happy Feet 2.

Once Upon a Forest (1993)

Based on A Furling’s Story by Rae Lambert, this film set in the fictional forest of Dapplewood, where three children named Abigail, Russell and Edgar set out to find medicinal herbs when their friend Michelle becomes ill from poison gas. While the humans are the ones who cause harm to the animals, the film, like Happy Feet, shows that they can learn from their mistakes.

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