One and Only Ivan, The

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Short takes

Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 7 (sad/emotionally intense themes and scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for One and Only Ivan, The
  • a review of One and Only Ivan, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 24 August 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to sad/emotionally intense themes and scenes (death of parent, death of a friend, saying goodbye).
Children aged 5–7 Parental guidance recommended due to sad/emotionally intense themes and scenes (death of parent, death of a friend, saying goodbye).
Children aged 8 and over Ok for this age group.

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: One and Only Ivan, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild Themes
Length: 94 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Ivan, a Silverback Gorilla (voiced by Sam Rockwell), is the headlining star of a circus show that has been running inside a shopping mall for many years. Day in, day out, "The One and Only Ivan" plays his act, along with his fellow performers: elephant Stella (voiced by Angelina Jolie), poodle Snickers (voiced by Helen Mirren), chicken Henrietta (Chaka Khan), seal Frankie (Mike White), and rabbit Murphy (Ron Funches). Audience numbers are dwindling, however, and ringmaster Mack (Bryan Cranston), is in desperate need for a new act, so he recruits baby elephant Ruby (voiced by Brooklynn Prince). Naturally, Stella takes Ruby under her wing. Ruby turns out to be a popular attraction and becomes the new headliner. Pushed to the sideline, Ivan reflects over his purpose in life as a circus animal. He also picks up a new pastime: drawing – after the custodian's daughter Julia (Ariana Greenblatt) gave him some paper and crayons. Not long after, Ivan's life takes another challenging turn; when his old and wise friend Stella senses that she is dying and makes Ivan promise to look after little Ruby, and to make sure that she will be free. With the help of their stray dog friend Bob (Danny de Vito), Ivan and the others attempt a prison break but their taste of freedom does not last long and they are returned to their cages. But now, Ivan is more desperate and determined than ever to reconnect with his wild roots and keep his promise he gave to Stella – to make sure that Ruby can grow up in freedom.


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.

Family drama/comedy; Talking animals; Wild animals in captivity; Animal rights; Family; Friendship.

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.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • In a flashback, the audience learns that poachers killed Ivan's father – the death happens off-screen but is indicated through the sound of a gunshot.
  • In one scene, Mack is pushing Ruby past her point of exhaustion, trying to teach her new tricks.

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:

  • Even though Stella the elephant dies peacefully in her sleep, young or sensitive viewers might get upset over her death and the knowledge that she was never happy being trapped in a circus.
  • Young or sensitive viewers might get upset to learn that Ivan's father, and potentially other family members, got killed by poachers.
  • Animal rights campaigners pressure Mack to give up his animals and for them to be relocated to a more appropriate home. The goodbye is extremely emotionally intense. After all, Mack raised Ivan from when he was a baby and treated him much like his human child; he even lost his relationship over the chaos Ivan caused. The animals and the circus were Mack’s life and basis of his existence, and it is unclear what will become of him.

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.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Nothing further of concern.

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.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

The One and Only Ivan is an adaptation of Katherine Applegate's award-winning 2013 novel of the same title, which is based on the true story of silverback gorilla Ivan. Ivan was indeed snatched from the wild in the Democratic Republic of Congo, raised in America, and was a circus animal for 27 years, before he came to the attention of animal welfare campaigners, and was finally transferred to Zoo Atlanta. It is also true that Ivan got fame for his drawings.

By making the animals talk, Disney gives the audience an endearing, funny, and inspiring insight into the minds of the animals. Compared to the book, the film has reduced the portrayal of physical cruelty against the animals, even though the viewer gets a good sense of how the animals suffer from living a life in captivity, restricted to a small cage and stage. Even though disrupted by cheerful Bob's funny comments and actions, the film has a rather sad and thought-provoking undertone, and there are a lot sad and emotionally distressing scenes and themes, which might upset young or sensitive viewers. Unlike many modern films, The One and Only Ivan also takes its time, and young or impatient viewers might find the slowed pace challenging. Nevertheless, or maybe exactly because of these aspects, while the film is unsuitable for children under 5 and parental guidance is recommended for viewers under 8, The One and Only Ivan is a great pick for families who are looking for an inspiring family film that contains many important messages and positive role models.

The main messages from this movie are that it is important to fight for your dreams, that you achieve more with the help of good friends, and that it is important and sometimes difficult to see a situation from the other person's perspective. This dilemma is illustrated through the depiction of Mack: It is obvious that he cares deeply for his animals and does not want to lose them, but at the same time it is clear the animals would be better off in a more appropriate environment. The viewer will very likely be torn between feeling sorry for the animals, but also sympathetic for Mack.

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

  • friendship & family
  • teamwork
  • respecting animal rights
  • viewing a situation from different perspectives and angles.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • hunting and capturing wild animals
  • using wild animals for entertainment purposes
  • keeping wild animals in restrictive species-inappropriate enclosures.