5 Family-Centric Disney Films To Cheer You Up This Holiday Season

By: Brittany Maddox

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You may feel downer than usual this holiday season — around this time of the year many people become more depressed. Science has shown that this phenomenon is called SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder. It occurs during the later times of the year, as the season changes. Many affected by this may experience moodiness and feel more drained than usual. This is generally a temporary lasting into the winter months but subsiding as it begins to get warmer and daylight last longer. I would to say that these feelings are normal, symptoms include but are not limited to: oversleeping, appetite changes (especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates), weight gain, tiredness or low energy. This provides underlying causes for one to experience sadness, loneliness and a plethora of negative feelings.

I am not a health care provider, but solely, I am a mental health care advocate. While we see and partake in many forms of self care today, one that I personally prefer to indulge in is watching films. I share this recommendation to you if you have the time this holiday to watch some films. We all know how time-consuming this merry season can be. For me, the holidays mean spending time with family, biological and chosen, simply surrounding myself with those that I love. During this time I choose to reflect on the good things, and even remain hopeful of what the next year is to bring. So I hope when you read this list you’ll take some time to watch these films with someone you love.

1. Lilo and Stitch

“ ‘Ohana’ means ‘family.’ ‘Family’ means ‘no one gets left behind or forgotten.’ ” — Lilo Pelekai

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Released in 2002, Lilo and Stitch is about a young Hawaiian girl and her troublesome pet who form an unlikely family amidst adversity. Lilo Pelekai is a young girl who is being raised by her older sister in rural Hawaiian town after their parents died in a car accident. Lilo’s older sister, Nani, does her best to try to make ends meet but doesn’t really have time to bond with her younger sister. Lilo is misunderstood, often singled out, for being a little eccentric. To make sure Lilo stays out of trouble, Nani adopts Stitch into their family. Stitch is an alien fugitive disguised as a dog, which brings a lot of mischief into the Pelekai household. I recommend this film for those who want a kid friendly film that deals with real world issues such as: loneliness, grief and the meaning behind a sense of belonging. Lilo and Stitch is a film that strives to make a realistic portrayal of family without biological family members, which doesn’t happen often in animated films. If there’s one thing this movie will give its viewers is the lesson that no one is an outsider.

2. The Lion King

“Remember who you are.” — Mufasa

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Released in 1994, The Lion King forms part of the Disney Renaissance animation period in the 1990s. Without a doubt, this film is regarded as a classic and it was recently announced that a live-action adaptation is set to premiere in 2019. The Lion King is the story of young cub named Simba who finds it difficult to fill in the the shoes (or rather paw prints) of his father, the leader of the animal kingdom and the lion pride, Mufasa. As young Simba is aware of his royal destiny, he is led astray by fear and guilt due to the untimely death of his father Mufasa. Young Simba is abandoned but is rescued by the aid of a kind and unlikely duo of a warthog and meerkat, Timon and Pumbaa. Simba continues living his life in the secluded jungle with Timon and Pumba, under different rules than when he was with his father in Pride Rock. That is until he is confronted by Nala, now a grown lioness, to return to Pride Lands and fulfill his destiny as ruler. The subject matter in The Lion King centers ideals about chosen family, ancestral veneration and destiny. The Lion King is a vibrant film, full of catchy songs that you won’t forget and in animation styles so neat yet beautiful. It’s also a great film for fellow animal-lovers as it showcases a variety of sub-saharan wildlife.I recommend this film for anyone who thinks that they have legacies that are too big for them to carry. Know that you can call on the ancestors for guidance at anytime, know that they are with you.

3. The Princess and the Frog

“The only way to get what you want is through hard work.” — Tiana

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Released in 2009, The Princess and the Frog is the a story of a young woman named Tiana who lives and works in 1920s New Orleans. Tiana dreams of opening a restaurant in honour of the shared aspirations with her late father, James. Tiana works two jobs as a waitress to support her dream financially, which she laments through various songs throughout the film. Her life take a tailspin as she is turned into a frog by a voodoo curse. Although she was not seeking love in her life, Tiana realizes the strong love and support that she receives from Naveen. Along the journey to become human again, she and Naveen meet a rag-tag crew of swamp animals that also show her love and support, as a family would. Tiana is the first black princess and the only one that is identifies as African American. The Princess and the Frog is one of the few animated Disney films that has predominantly black cast. I recommend this film for anyone who needs encouragement pressing towards their dreams, no matter how daunting they seem.

4. Moana

“Sometimes the world seems against you/ The journey may leave a scar/ But scars can heal and reveal/ Just where you are.” — Gramma Tala

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This is more recently released as it premiered around the same time last year, 2016. Moana follows the journey of a young girl who is developing her skills as a leader in Ancient Polynesia. Moana is based on several folktales in this region of the world. As Moana tries to find a solution to the sudden blight on her island, she discovers a hidden history of her forefathers being wayfinders. Wayfinders are people who are spiritually connected to the ocean and allow them to further navigate themselves across the waters, but has been banned in her island village after terrible a accident. Moana must carry on this tradition, even if it feels daunting at first. Her travels lead her to the demi-god Maui who teaches her the traditional ethics of wayfinders. Moana is a colorful film that features a strong-willed female protagonist who’s making strides from some of the more docile female heroes we have seen in prior years. Moana’s Pasika background is heavily embedded in the cultural aspects of the film; being seen through everyday life and activities, and folktales and songs that steer the story on. The lesson in this film can be viewed as: We are never sure what we are capable of but faith, in ourselves and in the things we do, goes a long way.

5. Coco

“Never underestimate the power of music.”

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Literally released last weekend, Coco is Disney Pixar’s latest film that will make you feel all the tenderness and warmth this holiday season. The story revolves around the secret musical ambitions of young Miguel who dreams of becoming an accomplished musician . Miguel comes from a long traditional family of shoemakers, but that’s not his heart’s desire. Despite his family’s wishes against this, Miguel is determined to find more about his lineage and why music is banned from their house. Our young hero finds himself in the Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Miguel must journey his way through the Land of the Dead to learn about his ancestors as well find his musical roots. Coco is a heartwarming film that focuses on Mexican traditions and viewers will be delighted to see many cultural and non-stereotypical references that appear throughout the film. Without revealing any spoilers, the biggest lesson from this film is: You don’t have to compromise your happiness to appease your family.

I hope that you all take time to reflect on this past year and spend time with your loved ones. And whether you plan to do the both or none at all, it’d be extra special if you watched these recommended films and keep the lessons of each in mind.


Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam

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Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!

You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.

From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.

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