Hunchback poster Treasure Planet poster

I realized that we haven’t written a lot about children’s movies, so I thought it might be interesting to compare two animated movies made by Walt Disney Feature Animation.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released in 1996 and was rated G.  Treasure Planet was released six years later in 2002 and was rated PG. 

If you haven’t seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame recently, you might be surprised at the high amount of adult content in it.  It deals with important themes like the battle of good versus evil and the idea that we are all children of God, but it also includes dark scenes delving into the lust a church official feels for a gypsy girl (including a song called “Hellfire”) and featuring violent murders of innocent people.  In contrast, the only potentially offensive material I can remember in Treasure Planet is some fantasy violence. 

I personally prefer The Hunchback of Notre Dame over Treasure Planet, but I would never let my young children watch it.  I feel that the ratings for the two movies, especially when compared with one another, do not accurately portray the content in them.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame should definitely be rated PG.  What do you think?   


Another example of a movie that borders the line between PG and PG-13 is The Work and the Glory: American Zion, which is rated PG-13.  There is actually extremely little offensive content in the movie–mostly dark thematic elements and brief violence.  There is no profanity or innuendo.  In fact the MPAA said it would have been rated PG except for the fact that a character the audience has come to care about, Joseph Smith, is a victim of the violence.  Scott Swoford, who produced all three Work and the Glory films, as well as the films shown in the Legacy Theater on Temple Square (Legacy, Testaments, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration) said the Church movies he produced are much more violent and bloody than American Zion

However, many LDS families still refused to see the movie solely because it was rated PG-13 and “our family doesn’t watch PG-13 movies–no exceptions.”  So many members of the Church missed out on a beautiful and spiritual film about the prophet Joseph Smith that tastefully hinted at some of the violence that took place in that period of history.  Because of this, the final movie in the Work and the Glory trilogy was edited to make sure it would be PG.  It is readily apparent that certain violent scenes were shortened because of this.  The movie was still great, but it could have had even more impact if the audience had supported the addition of some of the darker material. 

These movies are a prime example of why ratings sometimes just don’t matter.  They are very important as an initial warning that there could be objectionable content, but it’s also important that we realize a PG-13 movie about Joseph Smith is probably much more uplifting and worthwhile than the Pokemon movie, even if it is rated G. 

American Zion

Return with Honor poster Becoming Jane poster

I thought it was an interesting trend this summer that there were so many PG-rated movies geared toward adult audiences (Hairspray, Evan Almighty, etc.).  It seems that PG movies are usually mostly kids fare.  Two other examples of “adult” PG movies are two of my favorites this year: Return with Honor and Becoming Jane.  Neither contained content that was substantially offensive, but I felt that they bordered the line between PG and PG-13. 

Return with Honor is about a returned LDS missionary who dies in a car accident and then is given 60 days to convert his mother.  As cheesy as the premise might sound, it is actually a beautifully nuanced film about the judgment we can impose on others.  Thematically, it is definitely not meant for children, as it deals with domestic abuse, alcoholism, violence, sex, and prostitution, though tastefully.  The movie doesn’t have any gratuitous sex, but it is sometimes intense and includes some mild language.  Becoming Jane is about the love life of Jane Austen.  It is very similar to other movies based on her novels, but much more naturalistic, dealing with the hard facts of life.  Life isn’t as clean-cut–or as clean–as her novels.  I was a bit shocked to see two completely naked men from behind in a PG movie.  The sexual innuendo was also very prominent and much more explicit than many PG-13 movies I’ve seen. 

As I said before, I thoroughly enjoyed both movies.  However, I would not want young children to be watching either of them until they are old enough to understand what they are watching.  Maybe they should be rated PG-13, but then again, most PG-13 movies are much worse than either of them.  I sometimes wonder if there should be a third rating in between PG and PG-13 for movies like these that don’t seem to fit either rating.  Or, conversely, these could be PG-13 (they are definitely fit for a 13-year-old to watch), and another rating could be added in between PG-13 and R for movies with more offensive content. 

At any rate, it will always be difficult to pidgeon-hole so many widely varying movies into only five or six ratings.  That’s why, even though ratings are a good guide, it’s also important for us to know what’s in movies before we go to see them or allow our children to watch them. is a great place to go for that.  Before I see a movie, I usually check it out there first to see if there’s anything in it I might find offensive (although the site usually makes the content seem worse than it is).  If there is, I wait for the movie to come out on DVD so I can watch it on my Clearplay player with the content filtered.          

Enchanted and Hairspray

November 27, 2007

Enchanted posterHairspray poster

On Wed., Nov. 21, I saw Disney’s Enchanted in the theaters for the first time and Hairspray on DVD for the third time.   They’re two of my favorite films this year.  I feel that they are good movies to compare and contrast since they are both PG-rated live action musicals released in 2007.  (James Marsden also co-stars in both, but that shouldn’t have an effect on the ratings…) 

Both films are bright, fun, and enjoyable for all ages, but a G rating would be inappropriate.  PG is a much better rating for them.  They both definitely have adult elements, especially sexual innuendo, but not nearly as much as in most PG-13 movies.  However, I remember hardly any innuendo in PG movies of the ’90s, if any at all.  It seems that the PG rating may have become more adult since then. 

That said, the innuendo in both Enchanted and Hairspray is virtually invisible to children.  It is very subtle in both films.  In Enchanted, sexuality is viewed from the childlike perspective of a Disney princess lost in New York and learning about the “real world.”  In Hairspray, it is mostly present as double entrendre in song lyrics.  Sexuality is more integral to the plot of Enchanted than to that of Hairspray, but it isn’t offensive enough in either to merit a PG-13 rating.  

In the case of Enchanted and Hairspray, the ratings seem to be uniform.  The movies have about the same amount of adult content as well as the same overall feeling to them, so it seems right that they are both rated PG.