Whenever I ask people, “What was your favorite Disney movie growing up?” I get a wide variety of responses. From The Little Mermaid to Treasure Planet and Mary Poppins, each person has their own special film. The one thing that remains consistent in their responses is the way their eyes light up with excitement. The person answering suddenly becomes a little kid again and immediately shares why they loved that film as a child--and still love it as an adult.
As you grow older, your tastes change. You might have rushed at the chance to eat crazy flavored ice cream as a kid, but now prefer a simple piece of chocolate as an adult. Maybe you’ve traded watching SpongeBob on weekend mornings for streaming Bob’s Burgers after a wild night on the town. Most tastes seem to change as you grow older, but it seems that Disney films are different.
This past weekend, I decided to re-watch one of my favorite films: Tarzan. When I was a kid, I loved Tarzan for the great music and cute love story between Tarzan and Jane. It was a simple story about acceptance, love, and friendship. Now that I am older, I not only appreciate the film for what I noticed as a kid, but I also appreciate the depth of each character and subtle symbolism woven throughout the film.
Tarzan goes through a major identity crisis when he realizes that there are other creatures who look like him. He has always known that he was different, but he was never told why. Tarzan constantly redefines his own identity as he is being torn between the two worlds. Jane also becomes torn between the two worlds, as Tarzan shows her all the beauty found in the jungle. Jane’s new love of the jungle is even portrayed in how she dresses--the colors of her clothing become increasingly neutral to match with the jungle background as the film progresses. I never consciously noticed that subtle hint towards her ultimately staying with Tarzan when I was a kid.
Re-watching Tarzan as an adult also made me realize that it is a fairly dark story for children, like many other Disney films. The film kicks off with three deaths and we are briefly shown the dead bodies of Tarzan’s parents--with bloody leopard footprints surrounding them. Then, Tarzan kills the leopard, Kurchak is shot and killed, and we can see Clayton’s hanging body when the lighting flashes. That is a lot of death for our characters and children to process.
So why do we keep watching these classic Disney films well into our adulthood? I believe it’s because we can always learn something new from them. The message that stuck with me from watching Tarzan this weekend was the difficult task of Tarzan learning to shape his identity, but when I was younger, it was that love can overcome any obstacle. When I have a kid of my own, the message might be the unconditional love a mother shows her child. Disney sticks with us because their films benefit and entertain audiences of all ages.
So tonight, throw on your favorite Disney film from when you were a child. You never know what you might newly discover about the film--and about yourself.
What was your favorite Disney movie when you were a kid? What have noticed from re-watching the film as an adult that you didn’t notice as a kid? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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