Princess Mononoke and beyond: New nature narratives for children

Abstract

Eco-cinema for children is a growing sub-genre of film that attempts to introduce environmental issues to young audiences. The conventional approach employed by many of these films from Bambi (Algar et al., 1942) to The Lorax (Renaud and Bauda, 2012) is to use a melodramatic narrative structure in which heroic nature is pitted against harmful humanity. The use of melodrama makes sense given the narrative tradition’s revolutionary roots and its accessibility to wide (and young) audiences. However, the efficacy of such an approach is debatable, especially in regards to its positioning of the audience as passive consumers rather than active participants. Given the understanding of film viewers as ‘active audiences’, this issue of the subjectivity of the child spectator is especially important. The following article engages in a comparative analysis of the conventional approach to ecocinema for children and a new nature narrative, principally demonstrated by Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke (1997). While including certain elements from melodrama, Mononoke is able to more effectively represent some of the complexities of environmental discourse and subsequently encourage more critical, active participation among its young viewers. Finally, the article argues that Princess Mononoke initiated a new trend in nature narratives for children, and that films like Wall-E (Stanton, 2008) continue to demonstrate the efficacy of eco-cinema for children that artfully balances complexity with accessibility.

Written by Benjamin Thevenin.


Thevenin. 2013. Princess Mononoke and beyond: New nature narratives for children.