07.17.12Martha Golea

Summer Entertainment Series: Animation + Activism

Pocahontasimage from Stephh922 on flickr

Is it fair to say most little girls aren’t programmed to love the color brown? From birth, girls know brown usually equals healthy, sensible, or old fashioned (like Cheerios, khaki pants, and wooden blocks). Some grow to love it, but it may take years.

So what was Disney thinking in 1995 when they released Pocahontas, an animated movie starring an eco-friendly princess in a plain brown tunic? The princess-in-pastel-gown-gets-rescued-by-handsome-prince formula had always been their bread and butter, but Pocahontas seriously threw a wrench in that plan. This girl was a passionate activist who was willing to give up anything to save her land from being mined, her tribe from going to war, and her man from execution. Oh and don’t forget she sang one of the most popular movie songs in Disney history, Colors of the Wind.

But is she on any of the Disney Princess merchandise? Rarely. Does your 5 year old know who she is? Doubtful. Why not?

I have 2 theories.

  1. It’s that brown tunic. Practical for paddling a canoe but terrible for printing on lunch boxes.
  2. Pocahontas was way ahead of her time. Green was just a color in 1995, not a lifestyle, not a global movement, and definitely not a popular topic for animated movies.

What’s around the river bend?

Lately, however, environmental themes are popping up all over in kids’ movies. Rango, Wall-E, Astro Boy, A Turtle’s Tale, Happy Feet, I’m sure the list goes on.

In some, the agenda is so lofty it will be completely lost on children and possibly even obnoxious to parents, but others emphasize simple topics that kids can understand and do something about. Rango may not inspire your 8 year old to revolt against golf course irrigation but A Turtle’s Tale may make her aware of what causes pollution, and both will provide a little sustainable entertainment on a hot summer day. Two thumbs up.

Do you have a favorite animated film with an environmental message, or does activism in kids’ movies drive you nuts? Let me know in the comments.

Martha Golea – Check out my other posts and follow me on Twitter @MarGoH2O or @VCh2o


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Martha Golea

A seasoned communicator and passionate water conservationist, Martha Golea tracks projects in progress and reports on usage of new and exploratory irrigation technology and water management strategies. Martha also regularly contributes content on water management and conservation to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.




  1. Tuesday, 1:30 Lauren Hanson

    This post brought me back to childhood. FernGully was one of my favorites growing up, although I did see Happy Feet recently and can’t get enough of that dancing penguin! Thanks for the fun read Martha!

  2. Tuesday, 1:31 Karen Kennedy

    Martha, you hit on several important topics here. I have 2 young girls and they love all of the movies you mention AND they are great champions in our household of recycling and conserving resources. The kiddos sort bottles and cans and we make a special trip to the recycling center to cash them in. And, I am using the very favorite parenting tool of bribary to hold their interest since I let them set a goal on what our recycling bucks will be spent on.

    As far as other movies, The Lorax was a big hit with us this past spring and who doesn’t love TREEs? I was really impressed when our two schools created some extra credit activities around seeing The Lorax and promoting discussions around sustainability. Thanks for this thought provoking topic!

  3. Tuesday, 1:54 Martha Golea

    Lauren, thanks for mentioning Fern Gully! That was another one of my favorites from childhood.

    Karen, it’s great to hear that your kids are so invested in the recycling at your house. I haven’t seen The Lorax yet, so thanks for adding that to the list!

  4. Wednesday, 5:04 Abeer

    The Lurax by Dr.suess was such an inspiration!

  5. Wednesday, 11:16 Ginny

    subliminal seduction? if it’s used in advertising in a negative way, why not use it to instill valuable ideas…like conservation?

    No lunchbox logo…but if you put a little boy in that canoe with the little girl in the brown tunic, you could surely start a song…a boy and a girl in a little canoe with the moon shining all around…ah, I feel the need to get out on the water. Since Dad prefers a kayak these days, I guess we’ll solo kayak in CO…unless I feel talented enough to solo canoe – sure takes less talent than surfing!!

    I hope your blog is making a good difference to many individuals, like it’s been making for me. I wring out my washcloth on top of a plant instead of sending that valuable water down the drain – with only doing one task – my plant appreciates the drink and the water accomplishes two things!

  6. Wednesday, 12:10 Martha Golea

    Mom (Ginny), that’s a great idea to wring your washcloth out over a plant! I’m compiling all of your ideas for a future blog post.
    Now I have the “boy and a girl in a little canoe” song stuck in my head…thanks. 🙂

  7. Thursday, 10:49 Sid

    The world does tell us that brown is bad. I mean, who doesn’t leave the brown m&m’s till last!

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