Movies may sell more than books, but they only do because they’re a story told visually through the work of many artists. Stories are the best teaching tool. Ask any student what they remember best about their favorite teacher. It’s never the lessons they gave. It’s the way they related to the students and the stories they told.
This is what Disney does best. They bring age old tales to modern life through the silver screen. Any observant parent or teacher can utilize many a movie as great forums for teaching their kids. Here I will focus on The Princess and the Frog.
Early in the movie Tiana placed her faith in the wish upon a star and the other tale of you have to kiss a frog to get your prince. Both betrayed her as all lies will.
Too many of us place our faith in faulty places. Then we regret the devastating repercussions that ensue. But for the emotionally teachable, it serves as a great spring board into character development of which this movie is all about.
Tiana, Naveen, and Charlotte all had common character flaws that many of us have. Tiana characterizes the typical workaholic. It’s admirable that she’s willing to work so hard, but she’s out of balance with no time to relax and love. She believes hard work will solve her problems and falls into despair when it doesn’t.
Naveen falls on the other end of the spectrum is too selfish and lazy to work. He feels entitled because he is special. He is a prince, narcissistic one! Everyone else is supposed to solve his problems.
Charlotte believes the lie that marrying a prince will guarantee her a life of forever happiness. How many girls are raised to think that this will solve their problems?
These characters set a great stage for teaching our children about the challenges of growing up.
First, consider fantasy verse real. Dreams are great, but one needs to go about fulfilling them through realistic means. Fairy godmothers or Mama Oddie in this tale may play with magic, but in real life one needs to create their own magic by developing their gifts and talents in emotionally healthy ways. Those who sit around waiting to be rescued usually miss the train. Or they succumb to kissing frogs.
Secondly, immature love doesn’t understand the value of honesty in relationships. Those struggling with childish ways hide behind lies, distract, and manipulate others to get what they want. Little do they understand that truth is what will set them free and enable them to experience the joy of living. But truth hurts, especially when it reveals one’s own character flaw or poor choices. One must muster up the courage to face the truth. This is the first step towards maturity. But it is tough for many if they fear rejection from their peers and believe that the truth will alienate them.
Then dark lessons present. The shadow man entices Naveen with Voodoo magic, but he believes the real power in this world isn’t Voodoo, it is money. How many people ruin their lives pursuing money at all costs? Isn’t this what happened early in the movie, the greedy businessmen broke their contract with Tiana for a better deal? Not all business people operate this way, but way too many do.
Another challenging lessons presents as both Tiana and Naveen need to over come their fear of asking for help from someone they were taught not to trust, Louis, the alligator. How often is it that people are taught to fear the very people who are most likely to provide genuine help?
Next the little are dismissed as insignificant. But where would they have been without Ray, the firefly? He might have been small, but numbers can make a meaningful difference. He also represents light. And how often that light might be very small in the midst of darkness. Demons hate light and cannot remain in its presence.
Mamma Oddie’s sings great wisdom, but it takes more journey for Naveen and Tiana to understand.
“Prince Froggy is a rich little boy You wanna be rich again That ain’t gonna make you happy now Did it make you happy then? No Money ain’t got no soul Money ain’t got no heart All you need is some self-control Make yourself a brand new start You gotta dig a little deeper Don’t have far to go You gotta dig a little deeper Tell the people Mama told you so Can’t tell you what you’ll find Maybe love or grant you a piece of mind Dig a little deeper and you’ll know…”
Often one hears what one needs, but more time is needed for one to meander through their personal odyssey. They also must stand up and implement what they have learned. Tiana had to overcome her fear and stay strong in the presence of the Shadow man. Naveen had to find courage when his convictions of his selfishness made him feel unworthy of Tiana’s friendship and love. It is only then that both of them are released from the curse of being frogs and freed to be human again.
Hope Mucklow is the author of Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo available at most online retailers and published by https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/childrens/picture-books/rojo-the-baby-red-panda-at-the-zoo/