Australian Council on Children and the Media

Free birds

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Short takes

Not recommended under 5, parental guidance recommended to 8 ( Violence; Scary scenes; Confusing plot)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Free birds
  • a review of Free birds completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 14 January 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes. The plot is also very confusing for young children.
Children aged 5 to 8 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, scary scenes and a confusing plot
Children aged 8 and over OK for this age group, although some children may need to have aspects of the plot explained to them.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Free birds
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: Some scenes may scare young children
Length 91 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Reggie the turkey (voice of Owen Wilson), the smartest turkey in the flock, has spent his life warning the rest of the flock to wise up and realise that they are being fattened up for the Thanksgiving menu. But the rest of the flock, who are not quite as switched on as Reggie, believe that they are being taken to turkey paradise rather than the slaughter shed. Thanks to the President’s young daughter (voice of Kaitlyn Maher), Reggie ends up being chosen as the annual Pardon Turkey and is taken back to Camp David where he lives a life of leisure watching TV, eating pizza and wearing slippers.

Reggie’s life of pampered pleasure comes to an abrupt end when he is kidnapped by a fanatical turkey named Jake (voice of Woody Harrelson), who is a member of the Turkey Freedom Front. Apparently Jake has been sent on a mission by the “Great Turkey” to find Reggie, go back in time and change history, so that turkeys are no longer on the Thanksgiving menu .

Through a combination of determination and a comedy of errors, Jake and Reggie manage to end up in an experimental time machine named S.T.E.V.E. (voice of George Takei) and are transported back to Plymouth in 1621, three days before the first Thanksgiving. There they become involved with a flock of native turkeys led by Chief Broadbeak (voice of Keith David) and his charming daughter Jenny (voice of Amy Poehler). Unfortunately for Reggie and Jake they find that they have gone from the frying pan into the fire because the native turkeys are battling for survival against a ruthless hunter named Myles Standish (voice of Colm Meaney). He is on a mission to round up and capture the wild turkeys for the first Thanksgiving feast.  

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

People raising and killing animals for food; time travel; changing history

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains cartoon violence scattered throughout, some action violence and peril, some violence involving gun and cannon fire, and the death of a main character. Examples include:

  • One scene shows a turkey factory where turkeys are kept in small individual cages and fattened up for slaughter. A young turkey attempts to escape, running away from the cages while being chased by humans; the young turkey has several eggs tucked under his wings.
  • Two large male turkeys challenge each other to a fight. They puff up their chest and tail feathers in a threatening but comical manner and punch each other in the face and slap each other across the face. The two turkeys inflate their wattles until they burst and end up dancing with each other. 
  • We see a large crowd of angry humans holding pitchforks - a man accidentally stabs himself in the foot with a pitchfork but the actual stabbing occurs off screen.
  • Turkeys are chased by men wielding guns which they fire at the turkeys; no turkeys are shot or injured. Bullets rip large holes in the sides of trees and explode around the escaping turkeys.  
  • Turkeys are chased by humans through a forest, avoiding several booby traps including pits filled with sharpened stakes and large suspended logs that swing down from trees.     
  • A flock of turkeys take up spears and march on a fort. A standoff occurs between the turkeys and the humans, with the turkeys launching flaming pumpkins at the humans; one of the flaming pumpkins hits a human in the face. The people fire red hot cannon balls at the turkeys. A time machine appears out of thin air and creates a swirling vortex that sucks up both cannon balls and cannons.
  • A man using an axe chops his way into a hollow tree covering the entrance to a hidden underground turkey city. Humans then dig their way into the hideout and chase the turkeys, including one turkey holding a number of chicks, with savage hunting dogs. Men grab turkeys by their necks and we see a number of captured turkeys in cages. A man pours flammable liquid over the ground and sets fire to it in an attempt to burn out the turkeys - the fire rages through tunnels. A large turkey stands beneath a falling burning log to hold it up while the other turkeys escape. Eventually the log crashes down, killing the turkey beneath and a later scene shows a memorial service for the turkey.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • One scene depicts an egg shaped time machine surrounded by sporadic lightning flashes. One of the two turkeys in the machine transforms into a combination of mutated creatures.
  • Several scenes feature vicious snarling hunting dogs chasing turkeys.
  • One turkey has a bad eye that appears to roll around in the turkey’s eye socket; when the turkey holds her nose and blows the eye rights itself.
  • The film’s main villain is an unshaven scar-faced hunter, who carries a large hunting knife which he uses in a threatening manner.
  • One scene with comic intent depicts a metal nut flying through the air to become embedded in a turkey’s eye socket; the turkey removes the metal nut without any apparent injury.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be scared by the above-mentioned violent and scary scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be scared by this movie

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

Nothing of concern in the film, but associated merchandise being sold.

Sexual references

The film contains a few low-level sexual references. Examples include:

  • The US President’s young daughter tells a turkey that a female assistant likes her daddy, but that the turkey can’t tell anyone. She then tells the turkey that one of the men is getting a divorce.
  • A turkey watches a Mexican version of a soap opera about man who women find irresistible and want to marry; we see numerous stereotypical love struck women making flirtatious eyes at the man.  
  • A male turkey makes reference to “rubbing wattles” and a female turkey tells a male turkey that she is into less muscle and more mind.
  • A female turkey tells a male turkey that a turkey chick wants him to throw-up some worms into her mouth and then says “What girl wouldn’t?”
  • A male turkey asks a female turkey to kiss him.      
  • A male and female turkey flirt mildly.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

Unspecified drinks on the table at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Coarse language

The film contains occasional exclamations and name calling that young children may imitate. Examples include:

  • turkeys are dumb
  • lunatic
  • you idiot
  • shut up
  • bleeding birds
  • shut up fatty

In a nutshell

Free Birds is an animated adventure comedy that portrays the story of the very first Thanksgiving holiday from a turkey’s perspective. Older children are likely to be entertained by the talking animals and lots of cartoon humour but, despite the G rating, there are a number of violent and scary scenes which are likely to scare under 6s and some older children. Parents may need to explain the film's plot. Children may find the film’s time travel confusing and the plot may be even more confusing for Australian children who are unfamiliar with Thanksgiving holiday customs.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Respect the ways of others.
  • Sometimes you need to make a stand (possible involving physical violence) against violent acts.


Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Bravery: a lead character in the film makes the ultimate sacrifice while defending the lives of the ones he loves.
  • Teamwork: by working together a flock of turkeys were able to overcome insurmountable odds to protect themselves and survive.    


Parents may also feel that they need to talk about where our food comes from and why people kill and eat animals.  Some parents may also be concerned by the stereotypical way in which Native Americans are portrayed and the depiction of wild turkeys as looking like stereotyped Native Americans.

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