Australian Council on Children and the Media

Thumbelina

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Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 8 (themes, animated violence, scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Thumbelina
  • a review of Thumbelina completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 June 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to themes, violence and scary scenes.
Children aged 5–8 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, violence and scary scenes.
Children over the age of 8 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: Thumbelina
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact
Length 86 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Given a seed and told to plant it, an old woman (voice of Barbara Cook) who longs for a child soon finds herself with a beautiful flower. When the flower finally opens it reveals a small girl inside, a girl only as tall as the old woman’s thumb. Deciding to call her daughter Thumbelina (voice of Jodi Benson), they live happily together until Thumbelina begins to question her size, feeling she must be the only tiny person in the world. Learning about fairy tales, Thumbelina longs to meet a fairy prince and, as luck would have it, just such a prince happens past her window one twilit night. They meet, they talk, they fall in love and Prince Cornelius (voice of Gary Imhoff) promises to return for her in the morning. Unfortunately, shortly before he arrives, Thumbelina is kidnapped by a mother toad who heard Thumbelina sing and wants her to join the family road show. Thumbelina is dragged away into the dawn leaving her mother devastated. Prince Cornelius pledges to find Thumbelina and bring her home but he must outwit Grundel (voice of Joe Lynch), a nasty toad who wants Thumbelina for himself and is determined to marry her at any cost; a beetle (voice of Gilbert Gottfried) who also briefly desires Thumbelina; and later on a mole (voice of John Hurt) who attempts to marry Thumbelina too. Lost in a world largely unknown to her, Thumbelina, with the help of a friendly bird Jacquimo (voice of Gino Conforti), tries to find her way home through the forest before winter truly sets in and before she is married off to someone she does not love.

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.

Arranged marriages; kidnapping; separation from a parent; gender stereotypes; the objectification of women and girls.

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:

  • Grundel roughly throws his brothers into the air for laughing at him.
  • A fox throws Jacquimo into a thorn patch where he injures his wing.
  • The beetle won’t listen to Thumbelina and drags her to a beetle ball despite her protests.
  • Grundel strangles the beetle. He slams and punches him for calling Thumbelina ugly. He then stomps on his head and rips off his wings.
  • Thumbelina kicks Grundel while trying to escape.
  • Cornelius stabs Grundel in the bottom before being knocked unconscious by a club.

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:

  • On a couple of occasions the toad that is after Thumbelina looks evil and menacing. He is angry at his brothers and his features become distorted which could disturb some children. The beetle also looks sinister on occasion.
  • Thumbelina is stuck on a lily pad and about to go over a waterfall. As the river gets rocky and wild she screams for help and nearly goes over the edge. She is rescued at the last moment and lays on the ground unconscious but is shown to be fine a few moments later. The scene is loud and intense and may frighten some younger viewers.
  • The toad appears to attack the three little jitterbug kids who are trying to help Thumbelina. He looks terrifying as he looms over them. The log they are hiding in collapses around them while they scream in terror.

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:

  • Thumbelina is told of a dead bird in a cave and quickly identifies him as Jacquimo. He is lying upside down with a large thorn in his wing and appears to be dead. Thumbelina is devastated until she kneels beside him and hears his heart faintly beating. She later pulls out the thorn, dresses his wound and helps him recover.
  • Cornelius freezes to death after falling into a pond while looking for Thumbelina. He is frozen in a large block of ice which the beetle brings to Grundel. Thumbelina is inconsolable when she learns of what happened. The images of the frozen prince desperately reaching toward the surface may upset some children. He is later defrosted and found to be fine.

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.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • The beetle repeatedly calls Thumbelina, “Toots”, kisses her hand and arms and tells her that he is feeling “hot to trot”.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • The mother toad has very voluptuous breasts that are accentuated by her tight, skimpy outfit. She does a little dance for Thumbelina, trying to teach her to move seductively, while rubbing her hands down the side of her body and shimmying in a sexy manner.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Audience members at the Beetle Ball drink what appear to be alcoholic beverages.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Occasional use of the term, “Shut up!”
  • Some name calling such as, “ugly” and “buzz off buster”.

In a nutshell

Thumbelina is a 1994 animated musical based on the story by Hans Christian Anderson. The animation is fairly basic and the plot is predictable but there is something appealing in the story about following your heart and finding true love. However, the themes and ideas contained in the film send some dangerous messages and perpetuate some unfortunate stereotypes, specifically around the objectification of women. While the film is aimed at younger audiences this is one that parents should watch with their children if only to put a more positive spin on some of the content.

The main messages from this movie are to never wish to be anything other than what you are; and that if you follow your heart nothing is impossible for your heart will lead you home.

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

  • Persistence
  • Positivity
  • Empathy
  • Helpfulness
  • Courage.

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

  • The idea girls need to get married in order to be happy.
  • Looking at females as a possession or something to own and disregarding their thoughts and wishes.
  • Gender stereotypes that boys should be strong, brave and handsome and girls pretty, weak and in need of being rescued.
  • Kidnapping someone.
  • Arranged marriage versus marrying for love.

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