Animating child activism: Environmentalism and class politics in Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke (1997) and Fox’s Fern Gully (1992)

Abstract:

Informed by ecocriticism, this article conducts a comparative examination of two contemporary animated children’s films, Princess Mononoke (1997) and Fern Gully (1992). While both films advocate for the prevention of deforestation, they are, to varying degrees, antithetical to environmentalism. Both films reject the principles of deep ecology in displacing responsibility for environmental destruction on to ‘supernatural’ forces and exhibit anthropocentric concern for the survival of humans. We argue that these films constitute divergent methodological approaches for environmental consciousness-raising in children’s entertainment. The western world production demonstrates marked conservatism in its depiction of identity politics and ‘cute’ feminization of nature, while Hayao Miyazaki’s film renders nature sublime and invokes complex socio-cultural differences. Against FernGully’s ‘othering’ of working-class and queer characters, we posit that Princess Mononoke is decidedly queer, anti-binary and ideologically bi-partisan and, in accord with the underlying principle of environmental justice, asks child audiences to consider compassion for the poor in association with care for nature.

Written by Michelle J. Smith and Elizabeth Parsons


Smith and Parsons. 2012. Animating child activism: Environmentalism and class politics in Ghibli's Princess Mononoke (1997) and Fox's Fern Gully (1992)