Some 20 years ago people saw animated movies or cartoons - as just entertainment for young minds. And through time, the rise in popularity of animated movies have caused a shift in focus from just children’s entertainment, to full-on action with profound storylines, touching the hearts of millions of people worldwide. Animation movies are my all-time favorite due to their unique style, larger than life cinematic story-telling.
For some people, these animations (as well as general movies) are just for the purpose of entertainment. But animation movie studios like DreamWorks and Pixar cleverly use the technology to affect our emotions thereby giving the movie a deeper meaning, feel and impact on the viewer!
Delving into the presentation and style of animated movies, this art form cleverly uses technology to convey great storylines and food for thought. While not every animated movie focuses on the greater storyline, some have successfully captured the audience and conveyed deep spiritual truths and life lessons through this kind of storytelling.
In this article I would like to use the wonderful movie Trilogy, Kung Fu Panda, created by DreamWorks studios, as an example. The first movie in the trilogy was released in 2008 and DreamWorks has successfully created box office hits of the movie sequels in 2011 and 2016 respectively.
If we look at concepts of good and evil, self-acceptance, inner peace and reaching your highest potential; these are not always easy to understand by just reading and some people also have difficulty comprehending these teachings even when uttered from the lips of a true spiritual master. Yet the Kung Fu Panda trilogy has skillfully presented some of the greatest spiritual teachings in a fun, humorous and affecting way!
For those of you who may not have watched the movie, Kung Fu Panda is a story about an ordinary, perhaps lazy, cute and innocent Panda whose destiny is to become The Dragon Warrior. The movie is set in China and focuses on the journey of Po (the Panda) from being an everyday Panda in a small Village, to being the Dragon Warrior.
While this is not a review of the movie, I would like to touch upon some of the great life lessons and spiritual truths (gems of wisdom) hidden in this movie!
The first spiritual truth we can look at is the idea of Self Acceptance. Po saw himself as fat, lazy and unworthy of being anything great. This idea of himself was also a reflection of the way society, the Furious Five (other warriors of Kung Fu) and Master Shifu (the Kung Fu teacher) saw him as none of them believed that he could ever be the real Dragon Warrior.
The second great teaching in this movie is the idea that a true spiritual master (or Guru) is fully aware of one's highest and true potential. Master Oogway, a centuries old master of Kung Fu and ‘Guru” in the movie, saw Po for who he really is. Oogway trusted in the universe and trusted that Po had everything to be the Dragon Warrior. And therefore the trilogy takes place as Po goes through various stages of self-transformation, understanding and accepting himself and being 100% true and authentic.
Other great teachings in this movie include, the journey within, self-belief and inner peace by not letting anything affect you. The movie also subtly focuses on the importance of being in the present moment, and how one should start from where they are, with what they have, using all their strengths and weaknesses, to achieve the best version of themselves. While other movies can and have also presented these great spiritual truths, the impact of animation movies opens up wonder and awe to a whole wider audience who eagerly sit through to watch the movie because of the animation and therefore, subconsciously also take in the profound teachings throughout the movie.
The cinematic style and modern technology to bring 3D characters and exotic locations of ancient China to life greatly enhance the key concepts of this movie. And while these timeless spiritual teachings have been available for centuries, how many people will actually read or follow a spiritual master to learn about it? Yet millions of people can easily grasp these concepts presented in the fun and entertaining way of 3D animated movies!
Author: Maheshwari Mohanji, TAT editorial team