I’m pretty sure no one would accuse The Disney Company of realism in its animated features. (You mean, mines aren’t worked by little guys who all live in a house with a teenage girl as their caregiver? You mean, the plural of “dwarf” is “dwarves”?)
Certainly, there are moral elements, like good triumphing over evil (although that’s usually a case of good magic triumphing over evil magic), virtue as its own reward and the transcendent value of pure love; on the other hand, some features glorify the strong-willed child who rebels against his or her parents and the outlaw ne’er-do-well, who constantly outwits kings and those in authority.
For parents who want to raise their children in Biblical ideals and principles, those are not exactly examples to hold up for them to emulate.
But the movie Moana provides something of a starting point. Moana came out a couple of years ago and is based on the story of Maui. As I understand from the movie, Maui is the name of a demi-god who created the earth and all the lands and islands, pulling them up from the deep with his magic fish-hook:
However, the movie portrays Maui as an egomaniac who, when we meet him, is in a royal blue funk because his magic fish-hook has been stolen. Without it, he can’t create anything, can’t save what he has created, and turns out to be a bit of a coward.
(Important note: this is the story in the movie. I don’t know if that’s the way Maui is depicted in Hawai’ian/Polynesian tradition. This isn’t about that culture and tradition: it’s about the story in the movie*.)
The movie also describes Maui as a trickster, and incredibly vain. His first big number (it’s a musical) is called “You’re Welcome!”, in which he describes all the things he’s done for everyone and assumes that people should fall down and thank him — so in anticipation of that …
You get the idea.
But here is a golden opportunity to teach kids about God. We can use this to tell them that there really is a Creator, but He’s nothing like Maui. First of all, while the legend has it that Maui pulled the islands out of the sea with his magic fish-hook, the Creator put the sea there in the first place and added the ocean floor long before Maui came along.
But really, our Creator is the one who pulled up the islands and created a whole lot more than just the ocean and the lands, didn’t need any magic fish-hook to do the job: He had an idea, spoke it in words, and it came into existence. No one can “steal” His power, although, like in the movie, there are those who try, and still others who try to prevent Him from doing what He intends to do.
And above all, even though we should be saying “Thank you!” to Him every chance we get, He doesn’t demand that we do. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “praise” occurs 237 times in the New King James Version — 64% of those instances in the Psalms, either declaring that the Psalmist praises God, or urging others to praise Him.
Only twice, as far as I can see, does God, Himself, call us to praise Him.
For thus says the Lord: “Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel!'”
— Jeremiah 31:7“Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.“The beast of the field will honor Me,The jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen.
“This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.
But you have not called upon Me, O Jacob; and you have been weary of Me, O Israel.
You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings,Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices.“I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings,
Nor wearied you with incense. You have bought Me no sweet cane with money,Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; But you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;And I will not remember your sins.”— Isaiah 43:19-25
We shouldn’t need to be told.
But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?“
— Matthew 21:15-16
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, saying “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
— Luke 19:39-40
And (you could continue to the child), rather than chickening out when things got dangerous, our Creator allowed Himself to be killed in order to save us from great danger. Isn’t that a whole lot better than someone who talks big but can’t be relied on when you really need him?
I know: let’s take that hook and add something …
Oh, yes: when we say “Thank you!” to our Creator, He does say “You’re welcome!”, but in a completely different way:
He does more.
And keeps doing more.
And that’s no Disney fantasy.