Life Lessons in Animation

I was recently asked to put together and deliver a presentation, while it is not directly endo related I think it’s a nice message I would like to share here.

I have always personally been captivated by animated films, from a child, to a teenager, to a (still young) adult. I love them for many reasons not just the bright colours. Animated films have a wonderful way of addressing some of life’s biggest challenges in a way that speaks audiences of different ages. Animation has a way of creating a safe, soft, welcoming environment that allows the viewer to relate to, because it is not live action we can place ourselves in the character’s shoes -There are no boundaries. I wanted to tell you about four films that resonated with me. Four films that made me stop and think. Four films that I am unashamed to say I reflect on when I need inspired. Four films that I continue to love even after watching them time and time again. I apologise in advance for any spoilers…

Big hero 6 – I watched big hero 6 for the first time this Christmas actually and I have been a huge fan since. After losing his parents when he was young Hiro lives with his aunt and his older brother, Tadashi. Hero makes plans to attend the same college as his brother until a fire breaks out on one of the campus building – killing is brother. From then, with the help of Robot friend baymax, Hiro seeks to find and destroy the person responsible for his brother’s death.

But when Hiro is questioned “Will terminating Callaghan improve your emotional state?” he falls apart. While this is an extreme scenario it’s message still very relevant to everyday life. All too often we are too reactive, we act on emotions and impulse rather than stepping back and analysing the situation.

The impulsive reaction is rarely the right one, trying to rewrite the past is a fruitless endeavour. Often we bench our skills and thought process in favour of achieving an ill thought out and ill planned agenda. In any situation be it work or play we should always take moment to breath, think analytically and then react.

Inside out – A piece of original scene play genius! This animation crosses a boundary that no other animation has done until now, addressing the thoughts and emotions everyone experiences. The film focuses on 12 year old Reily, her mum, her dad and the struggles they face moving to a new city. Each character has their own joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear who all behave and respond differently to situations depending on what memories are built up in the person’s memory bank.

For me there are two main messages in this:

Firstly, new situations can be daunting and difficult at any age. Emotions run high and each one joy, fear, anger, greed and sadness all battle to take centre stage. How you prepare for the experience will ultimately determine which emotion leads. For me, I like joy to win. So I still listen to my inner monologue of fear, sadness, anger and disgust – I’ll acknowledge their concerns but I choose to see the positives in life, look for the joy and overall is worked for me so far. It is all to easy to let negativity slip in and tint how you view things; its easy to be the one who sits and complains rather than finds solutions and fight for what makes you happy.

Secondly, Each person has a different emotion in control, each person has a different memory bank and each person will interpret and react to situations differently. This is a little commonsensical when it is spelt out but I find it amazing how many people forget this on a daily basis. We expect others to have the same understanding of situations as ourselves, we expect them to react the same way, we expect not to be challenged. This film reminds me that everyone’s thought process, reasoning and actions are unique to them.

So it is important to employ a little empathy in your day to day life. It is important to discuss and debate with others and not just assume your way is the right way. It is amazing what you can learn from those around you.

Finding Nemo – Remains one of my favourite animated feature films 13 years after its release in 2003. When Nemo is caught by a dentist who puts him in his office aquarium his timid father undertakes an epic rescue mission to get him back. Along the way his father comes across different species of water creature, befriends his natural enemies and faces his fears head on. And Yes while the talking turtles are most definitely awesome, there is still a lot to be learned from the adventures of this little clownfish.

Fear and pre conceived ideas are crippling to personal growth and development. All too often we let our preconceived misunderstandings of situations, our fear of the unknown and our fear of failure stop us from undertaking new things – be it research, a new sport, a new hobby or club. But ultimately you never know until you try and you’ll be surprised what you can achieve when you push past the fear and anxiety. Some of my best experiences have come from challenging my fears – travelling to Canada alone, moving out of home and this interview so far.

We must constantly strive to educate ourselves. There is a lot to learn in this world by mixing with people from different cultures, creeds and socio-economic backgrounds. In doing this we are giving the amazing opportunity see, understand and experience new things. We can break down barrier and challenged preconceived ideas – allowing us to benefit from a greater understanding of the world around us.

Up - Up has become a staple films for those hormone induced emotionally unstable days. Without a doubt this film has the most heart wrenching opening half hour that any other film I have ever watched. If you haven’t seen it you must, if you have then you know exactly what I am talking about. This film is beautifully bittersweet and despite the elaborate flying balloon house I still feel the narrative of this film speaks to the audience in a way everyone can identify with. After losing his Wife Carl Fredrickson undertakes to travel to Paradise Falls – A trip he had promised his wife but never found the right time to go.

This film reminds me of two important lessons

Firstly, as Benjamin Franklin said “Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today”, Carl never found the time or the money to take his wife away and one day it was too late. It is much easier to come up with excuses in life to postpone or delay. But the truth is few things in life are actually insurmountable, sometimes you have to grab the bull by the horns or in the case of up – the bird by the feathers- and start living. Take your dream holiday, take the dance you’ve always wanted, start that new hobby! By putting things off you are setting yourself up for disappointment, be happy, do what you love, carpe diem!

Secondly, life rarely goes according to plan. Situations change, unexpected things happen but how we deal with this events make all the difference. Think outside the box, use your skills and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. A flying balloon house is a tad bit farfetched perhaps but by thinking outside the box in difficult situations we can save time, money, resources and create a system that works better for the future.

These animated film (and indeed many more) address everyday reality in a way that’s exaggerated, extreme, fun and colourful. But the deeper messages exist and resonate. The older I have gotten the more I realise that I take things for granted, I feel I have a monopoly on the truth and I sometimes drift in a world of blissful ignorance. But these films ground me, they allow me to view the world with childlike wonder and remind me I still have a lot to learn. Animation has a magical ability to encourage us to think, evaluate and learn in a way that live action cannot compare to.

So if you do one thing this week, I recommend that you curl up on a sofa and watch one of these four amazing films and see what lessons you take away.



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