Why I Still Love Animated Kids Movies as a (Grownup) Highly Sensitive Person

A highly sensitive person watches an animated movie with their family.

Animated movies are good for the sensitive soul, like a cozy mug of hot chocolate. 

There are few movies beloved by individuals across ages, generations, and cultures more so than those of animated movies. Indeed, the mere mention of these movies harkens a multitude of enchanting visual and musical memories, often associated with our childhood. And although some may consider these animated features to be “children’s” movies, when done well, folks of any age can enjoy the movie.

I have found, both in personal experience and in talking to others, that highly sensitive people (HSPs) are particularly drawn to the world of such movies, from Disney’s Bambi to Charlotte’s Web to One Hundred and One Dalmatians (and many, many more). Due to certain traits we HSPs often possess (such as empathy and appreciation of beauty), it’s common for us to feel connected to certain movies, stories, and characters. And the qualities of these movies form a dance with such HSP traits, making them compelling to HSPs specifically. Spoiler warning for some movies ahead!

6 Reasons Why HSPs Love Animated Movies

1. They are a source of comfort.

Animated movies are good for the soul, like a cozy mug of hot chocolate. Between the story, animation, and music, there is something inherently comforting about these movies. One reason for this is the nostalgia. Most of us grew up watching such movies and listening (and singing along) to the soundtracks (probably on repeat), so we associate them with our childhood. 

This special place in our heart for these movies is meaningful for HSPs, given that we tend to be sentimental. Another reason why such movies offer comfort is due to their familiarity. We know the stories, including that there will be a happy ending. In a world that is largely unpredictable, chaotic, and out of our control, the familiarity and predictability of these movies make them an old, reliable friend we continue returning to. 

2. They have emotional stories full of heart.

What distinguishes a timeless animated movie from other animated movies is that they are made for all audiences, not necessarily solely children. They are movies that happen to be family-friendly, but due to their complex plots and overall quality, they appeal to all ages. This is due in part to their deep, emotional story lines. Given HSPs’ propensity to feel deeply, these movies can be an emotional catharsis to us, pulling at our sensitive heart strings. We tend to prefer movies that are full of heart and that make us feel, as this is more meaningful to us. And, indeed, these movies are full of profoundly emotional moments that grab our heartstrings.

Let’s look at some examples: in Pixar’s Up, when Carl is looking through Ellie’s adventure book and realizes that their life together was her adventure; in The Lion King, when Simba ascends Pride Rock and takes his place as king of the pridelands; in Moana, when she realizes Te Ka is not a monster and restores her heart into Te Fiti; and in Coco, when Miguel sings to Grandmother Coco, not only helping her regain her memory, but also healing decades of generational trauma. These are just some of the countless heartfelt moments within these movies.

3. They tackle serious issues and have deeper meanings.

Similar to the previous point, in addition to having emotional depth, another way in which such movies appeal to a larger audience is the serious nature of many of the issues addressed in these movies. These issues include grief, death, and loss; personal struggles; poverty; abuse and neglect; gaslighting; and social justice issues. For instance, Zootopia addresses both implicit and explicit bias regarding racism and sexism; The Hunchback of Notre Dame addresses xenophobia and religious corruption; Inside Out addresses mental health struggles; Pixar’s Wall-E addresses climate change and environmental neglect; and the story of Luca has many parellels to homophobia. 

Although these are issues that are important for children to learn, such themes will be more apparent to older audiences. And due to the compassionate nature of HSPs, we are often drawn to stories that have deeper meanings and address these vital issues, and we may even resonate with some of these themes.

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4. They contain relatable characters for HSPs.

The first time I encountered a fellow HSP, it was not another living person, but a character on screen. Or rather, characters — characters from my favorite movies, to be exact. Many of the main characters in animated movies are HSPs, or at least display HSP qualities. For example, these protagonists display the trait of compassion, as they tend to be exceptionally kind to others, such as when Aladdin gave his only loaf of bread to starving children so they could eat, or when Mulan took her father’s place in the war in order to save his life. 

Similarly, many of these characters feel a strong affinity toward animals, a common HSP trait, and are often communing with their woodland friends (such as in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) or have one or more animal sidekicks along for their journey (such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Rapunzel from Tangled). Additionally, like HSPs (who are the minority of the population at nearly 30 percent), many of these characters often feel different from others and have difficulty fitting in, such as Elsa from Disney’s Frozen or Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Further, many of these characters appear to be deep thinkers and feelers, and display their emotions without shame or fear that they are being “too emotional.” 

However, I believe the two most prominent examples of HSP characters are Belle from Beauty and the Beast and the titular character of Pocahontas. Both Belle and Pocahontas are deeply compassionate, rely on their strong intuition, are authentically themselves, follow their own path, and have a rich and complex inner life. In a society that often undervalues sensitivity, it is a gift to see HSP qualities reflected and celebrated in movie protagonists.

5. They are deeply beautiful. 

HSPs are moved by beauty, and movies are no exception to this. Classic animated movies are beautiful in numerous ways. First, the animation in these movies is a work of art. In the older movies, the hand-drawn animation is breath-taking, while the new computer-animated movies continue to push the boundaries of what is possible. 

Second, the music of these movies, often written and composed by Broadway professionals, are some of the most beloved songs of all-time. Such songs as Colors of the Wind (Pocohontas), The Circle of Life (The Lion King), God Help the Outcasts (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid) are deeply emotional and beautiful, both in the musical composition and the messages of these songs. 

Finally, the stories themselves, along with the themes and lessons of these stories, are profound. The stories of such movies often contain themes that resonate with HSPs, such as the value of interpersonal relationships, the importance of compassion, and being true to oneself.

6. They are a source of hope.

Life can be difficult for everyone. However, due to our sensory processing sensitivity and propensity to feel overwhelmed, HSPs can be especially impacted by the challenges of life. This is why we need a source of hope — and I believe animated movies can offer just that. 

As previously mentioned, these movies acknowledge the hardships of life, as the characters in these movies have to endure some extremely challenging situations, including loss of a loved one, prejudice, depression, and finding self-acceptance. And, yet, hope is never lost. 

Despite all these difficulties, the protagonist always ensues and eventually reaches their happy ending. This can be a good reminder for us to carry hope in our hearts. That even when our world seems bleak and full of sorrow, things will get better. This message of hope can help counteract the negativity of the world that deeply impacts HSPs. In the wise words of Jiminy Cricket: “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”

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