Films rated PG-13 and R tend to be more violent than PG or G movies; that’s partially the point of PG-13 and R movies. But it turns out kids’ films are rife with death and tragedy all the same.
The British Medical Journal has found that animated children’s movies actually involve more character deaths than grown-up dramatic films, with murder occurring at nearly three times the rate of adult movies. Hit the jump for more results from the childrens movie death study.
The BMJ published the childrens movie death study as part of their Christmas Edition, which traditionally includes funny or lighthearted research pieces. This one is neither, though I guess it’s still fluffier than their usual fare.
The BMJ compared 45 top-grossing children’s animated films against 90 top-grossing adult-oriented dramatic films, using a “Kaplan-Meier survival analysis with Cox regression comparing time to first on-screen death.” (I’m not going to pretend to know what that means, but if you’re a mathematic / scientific type, there you go.)
“Two thirds of children’s animated films contained an on-screen death of an important character compared with half of comparison films. Common causes of death in children’s animated films included animal attacks and falls (intentional or not), while in comparison films common causes of death were gunshots, motor vehicle crashes, and illnesses. Notable early on-screen deaths included Nemo’s mother being eaten by a barracuda 4 minutes and 3 seconds into Finding Nemo, Tarzan’s parents being killed by a leopard 4 minutes and 8 seconds intoTarzan, and Cecil Gaines’ father being shot in front of him 6 minutes into The Butler.”
The researchers looked at a wide variety of films ranging from Snow White (1937) to Frozen (2013). Sequels were excluded, as were movies in which the main characters were neither human nor animal (so no Toy Story, for example.)
The grown-up dramas were pulled from the same years as the animated pics. They did not include action and adventure movies, as those are frequently targeted at kids, but did include horror pics (e.g., The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and thrillers (e.g., The Departed, Pulp Fiction).
The results seem counterintuitive until you think back to the plotlines of all those adorable kiddie cartoons. Lots of them center around characters who lose one or both parents, sometimes in the first few minutes of the movie (e.g., Finding Nemo, Tarzan). Heck, I’m still reeling from Mufasa’s death in The Lion King.
So just how dangerous is it to be a parent in an animated movie? This chart tracks how quickly the moms and dads in kids’ animated films die.
childrens movie death study
In conclusion, the researchers write, “children’s animated films, rather than being innocuous alternatives to the gore and carnage typical of American films, are in fact hotbeds of murder and mayhem.” They suggest parents watch these movies with their kids. Unless, presumably, you’re the parent in an animated movie, in which case you’re probably already dead.