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As a parent, I watch a lot of PG, family-friendly films and over the years I realised that the most successful family films have those five things in common:
1. One of the characters is an animal. It doesn’t have to be the main character, but the animal is an integral part of the whole plot, like ‘Babe’ or ‘Stuart Little.’
2. The main character is usually an underdog and comes from a background with either financial difficulties, or emotional baggage, has a lot of self-doubts, and their confidence is either very low or doesn’t exist at all. During the film, the character discovers that confidence doesn’t come from external possessions but the inner strength. Good examples here are ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, ‘Hugo’, or ‘Karate Kid.’
3. Kids can easily identify with the character because they experience the emotional upheavals often felt and agonised over by themselves, such as lack of friends, feelings of isolation and not being part of the group, feeling alienated at school, especially when they struggle or have hidden learning difficulties. Quite good examples here may be ‘Inside Out’ or ‘The Neverending Story’.
4. Before the characters can reach their goals, they will have to go through a long process of learning, either academic or inner discovery of who they indeed are and where they belong in the world. All that knowledge will allow them to discover their inner strength and accept themselves for who they are. In my eyes, such film (or series of it) are: ‘Harry Potter’ saga, ‘Lion King’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’
5. The main characters are willing to sacrifice a lot, often even their lives if that is going to help the greater good of the world, society or their community like the characters of ‘The Jungle Book’, or ‘The BFG’.