29 Oct 2014

DreamWorks and Pixar Movies Promote Veganism

In my previous post titled Disney Films Promote Veganism, I discussed the various ways in which Bambi, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Fox and the Hound, Dumbo and various other Disney films all follow animal rights related themes. Disney is not the be all and end all of pro-vegan films for children, however. Many similar and equally effective films also exist, instead under the names of DreamWorks and Pixar. In this post, I will discuss those films in detail.

"These movies are not propaganda - they are simply aimed at young children, as most young children understand that animals are friends, not food."

In 2013, a film called Free Birds was released. Free Birds is not a DreamWorks or Pixar production, but rather a similarly styled CGI film made by a lesser-known company called Reel FX Creative Studios. It wasn't the best movie by any means. It holds a dissatisfying 5.9/10 rating on IMDB, and I personally found it outstandingly mediocre. I did, however, appreciate the message the film portrayed. The film follows a group of turkeys who travel back in time in an attempt to remove themselves from the Thanksgiving menu - thankfully, they succeed. For me, it's always satisfying to see films shown from an animal's point-of-view. This message, however, didn't hold up well with a few other IMDB users. Scrolling through the Free Birds IMDB boards, I found several posts screaming 'Free Birds is vegan propaganda!", "Did PETA make this film?!"... you get the drift. All of this seemed strange to me, since I'd never seen anyone else complain in such a way about the abundance of other films (such as those made by Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks) that project a similar message. These movies are not propaganda - they are simply aimed at young children, as most young children understand that animals are friends, not food. I believe we should all watch these films again as teenagers and as adults. They really could teach us a thing or two about showing love, respect and sympathy towards all life - an important value that, unfortunately, many adults seem to lack.


Moral: Animals don't belong in zoos

Madagascar follows the lives of four zoo-dwelling animals - a zebra, a lion, a giraffe and a hippo. The moral message is quite clear here - the animals are out of place in the zoo, which is situated smack-bang in the middle of the hustle and bustle of New York City. Instead, the animals belong in the wide open expanses of the wild. In captivity, their lives are dull, repetitive and sheltered. Because of light pollution, they see nothing but endless darkness when they gaze up at the night sky. Instead of the melodic ambiance of natural wildlife, they hear manufactured reverberations from a radio. The zebra, Marty, knows this is not how life should be. When the four animals are rescued from the zoo by a group of animal rights activists, plans are made to ship them to a sanctuary in Africa. Along the way, however, their crates topple from the boat into the ocean, eventually washing up on the shores of an exotic island country known as Madagascar. Here, the animals meet new friends and eventually realise that, despite the extra work involved, life in the wild is much better than life in captivity could ever be. This film teaches us that zoos, regardless of how 'well' the animals are treated, are not the place for wild creatures.

Chicken Run

Moral: Animals farming is cruel

Like many children's films with animal rights themes, the humans in Chicken Run are depicted as evil and sadistic. This, unfortunately, isn't far from the truth. Many farm owners care only about making the greatest profits - they extend absolutely no care or compassion towards 'their' animals. This film depicts chicken farming in the most realistic way ever shown in mainstream cinema. The chickens, for example, are expected to lay several eggs daily in order to keep up with supply demands. Some chickens have attempted to escape from the horror, unable to deal with the pressure of laying egg after egg any longer. Shockingly, yet realistically, one hen is slaughtered and eaten after going several days without producing any eggs. Soon, when profits begin to dwindle, the farmers decide to begin selling chicken pies instead of eggs - much to the animal residents' collective horror. They consequently devise a calculated plan for escape, and eventually succeed. This film encourages the idea that animals do not want to and do not deserve to be killed and eaten. They are as equally deserving of respect, freedom and happiness as any human.

Finding Nemo

Moral: Fish are friends, not food

Finding Nemo explores the story of some of the world's most misunderstood and under-appreciated creatures - fish. For some reason unknown to me, fish are often seen as less deserving of freedom, love and respect than land-dwelling animals. They are killed and eaten by the billions each year. Perhaps this is because of the unusual sentiment that fish don't feel pain (an idea that has been debunked many times). In this 2003 Pixar film, we finally see the world from the point of view of these fascinating creatures. Like Madagascar, this film touches on the concept of animal confinement. Somewhere along his journey, Nemo finds himself trapped in a small fish tank in a dentist's office. On finding out that he will soon be given to a young girl to keep as a pet, he desperately attempts escape. The film also explores the concept of mass fishing. Fishing boats are Nemo's father's biggest fear, and he forbids Nemo from going anywhere near them. In this way, we see these unfortunate fish as individuals, and are exposed to their suffering at the hands of the greed of humankind.

Nemo is a friend, not food
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Moral: Horses deserve to run free

This film follows the life and trials of a headstrong horse named Spirit. This film revolves strongly around the theme of humanity's greedy, violent nature. During the film, Spirit is captured and taken to a US cavalry post where he sees restrained horses being ridden and used by humans. Understandably, Spirit is frightened and confused by this behaviour, believing that the restrained horses are being used as slaves. When a man known as the Colonel tries to tame and ride Spirit, he refuses and is harshly punished by being tied to a post for three days with no food or water. After many attempts to tame and ride Spirit, and many battles, the humans finally acknowledge that Spirit and his friends shall never be tamed, and they are set free. This concept reinforces the idea that horses are not transport devices or slaves. They were not put on this earth to serve humankind - they exist for their own reasons and deserve freedom.

"Animals do not want to and do not deserve to be killed and eaten. They are as equally deserving of respect, freedom and happiness as any human."

The form films listed above are only some of many. Look to Disney (as detailed in my other post), Warner Bros., and Blue Sky Studios for various other examples of films that promote animal rights. Through these films, I learned many important moral lessons as a child. These morals are still embedded strongly in my mind to this day. Unfortunately, for some people, these important morals wear off as time goes on. People fall victim to the malevolent influences of our greedy, callous and money-hungry society. We need only to look back to these films to remember what we may have forgotten - something that all children understand. Animals are here for their own reasons, not for our use. They are not ours to eat, to capture or to wear. They are our friends, and we should treat them as such.