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Mental Disorders and Illnesses in Children's Animation

What are some examples of representations of mental ilnesses/disorders in animations aimed at children? Who exactly are the characters that exhibit certain maneurisms of such things for? Are they for the children to idenify and connect with or for the parents to have an awareness and to help spot any symptoms?

The big example for both it’s animation adaptation and book is Winnie the Pooh. Essentially all the characters appear to be diagnosable with specific mental disorders; Eeyore is perhaps the instantly recognisable one with depression, but Poo exhibits symptoms of ADHD, Owl dyslexia and even Christopher Robin with schizophrenia.

Other animated characters that could be mentioned I can think of off the top of my head come from Pixar. There are various examples of depression in the Pixar film universe – Marlin(Finding Nemo, Carl (Up), Jessie (Toy Story) and Wall-E may exhibit some signs of OCD and/or anxiety disorders.

There are plenty of different animations that could be mentioned for this, but the real driving point should be the questions mentioned at the beginning. How can these characters be read in terms of what illnesses they may portray? Who are these representations for? What purpose (if any) do they serve and is it useful?

  • I feel as though this topic is especially important since the new character released on Sesame Street (or that has been announced to be, anyways, I'm not sure if she's on the show yet). Julia is a puppet new to Sesame Street meant to demonstrate the struggles of autism and help alleviate stigma towards it. Will children identify the character as autistic, or just another puppet? Is she there for the kids or the parents? – Slaidey 6 years ago
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  • I think one thing worth mentioning is whether or not the characters were intentionally made for children to identify with or if the character is only speculated to embody that trait. Like the aforementioned Winnie the Pooh characters or Julia from Sesame Street. – Austin Bender 6 years ago
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  • I think there are a couple different reasons as to why as to why an artist or author would depict character traits so diversely without singling them down to just one. For instance, to add depth and diversity to the overall dynamics rather than having a variety of essentially all the same character archetypes, by differentiating personality traits, not only does the plot to the overall story thicken, but also the intended audience is no longer targeted down to one specific person or point of view. In doing so, anyone experiencing the show may be able to relate to a certain character that might reflect a certain quality or aspect in their own life and take comfort in that, especially children who are easily influenced and captivated by what they are watching. A young child may not have the capacity to fully understand the psychology behind a character depicted, but this doesn't necessarily mean they are not already processing that information and learning to recognize certain behaviors that they will inevitably learn to recognize in the real world or within themselves. In most animated shows, someone going through a tribulation learns to overcome it all the while taking away a hard earned life lesson, the road to happiness isn't always painted in bright colors. – IsabellasIncendia 6 years ago
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  • Don't forget the film Inside Out. I believe there's already been some discussion on how those characters can help children understand mental illness (i.e. sadness governs the mother's head = depression, anger governs the father's = anger issues). I found it particularly striking that the little girl was unable to access her joy and her sadness, so anger pretty much took over. Anger is commonly a cover for other emotions such as sadness. I also thought that it was interesting that the movie demonstrated that there was a place for every emotion... and ALL of them were trying to help the little girl, whether or not we might perceive them as negative. Overall, it really encouraged healthy psychological functioning! – Laura Jones 6 years ago
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