All children (and most adults) have an animated character they can easily pick out as their favorite. There are characters out there who model traits like adventure, creativity, and acceptance. Whether they love the spirited Rapunzel from Tangled or the quizzical Curious George, we should allow our kids to embrace these characters. Here are the top 10 animated role models for kids:
Move over, Mulan — there’s a new kick-butt animated girl in town. And Rapunzel, the heroine of the movie Tangled, doesn’t need to be saved by some ridiculous Disney hunk. Instead, she’s the one who does the saving. In a world full of frilly princesses, Rapunzel brings spunk, moxie, and cute dresses to the table. She's a great character for young girls to aspire to be like.
Olivia is a six-and-a-half-year-old pig who believes she can do anything. Her rambunctious spirit and imagination make her an excellent role model for little girls and boys alike. D.G. Bahtuoh, children’s author and father of a two-year-old girl, notes, “[Olivia is] a dreamer, big sister, and a responsible pet owner.” What more could you want for your kid?
If a pudgy panda can be a ninja warrior, the sky’s the limit for your kid! In a size-ist world, Po from Kung Fu Panda uses his own unique skills and abilities to battle evil, all while maintaining his sense of self — and his sense of humor. Not only does Po embody the message of “believe in yourself,” but he also teaches kids to work hard for their goals and ignore the jerks who mock them.
WordGirl, an alien from the planet Lexicon, fights crime with her powers of flight and super strength … and does homework. The parallels to Superman are uncanny, but WordGirl is far from anyone’s knock-off superhero. She’s smart, spunky, and she really teaches kids a thing or two. Mom of two girls Jody Halstead says: “We love WordGirl! My daughters go around the house spouting off works like “flabbergasted" and "in retrospect"… and [they use] them correctly! A great vocabulary will take you places, and my kids are well on their way to ... somewhere!”
Toy Story’s Woody is a passionate cowboy who throws himself into every action with his whole heart. Whether it’s saving toys from destruction or trying to find his owner, Andy, Woody is everyone’s best friend, leader, and confidant, the toy who all the other toys respect. He’s also flawed — and a little bit of a doofus — but that only makes him more relatable. Woody isn’t afraid to learn from his mistakes, and your kids shouldn’t be either.
While only accidentally naughty, Curious George has a joie de vivre that is infectious and engaging. His insatiable curiosity both gets him into trouble and makes him a clever little primate who always learns his lesson and does his best to make amends. We bet your kids have a bit of a mischievous streak themselves, so perhaps seeing their favorite monkey deal with the consequences of his actions will inspire them to do the same.
In a world of nefarious criminals, Mr. Gru, the anti-hero from Despicable Me, is the evil mastermind with a heart of gold. He starts off evil, but his cruel heart slowly melts under the influence of three orphaned girls — Marlo, Edith, and Agnes — showing that people really can grow and change for the better. And while Mr. Gru achieves his goal of stealing the moon, he eventually realizes there are more important things in life, like family.
If boredom is the enemy, then Phineas and Ferb (of Disney show fame) are the conquering heroes. Phineas is a dreamer who can’t handle being bored. Ferb is the introvert of the two but is always cooking up something. Together, these stepbrothers serve as the perfect role models of fun and creativity. While their sister, Candace — obsessed with boys and thwarting her brothers — isn’t exactly a stunning character for girls to look up to, she’s the relatable “wet blanket” to every young child’s schemes.
This sassy cartoon chick isn’t tangled up in boys and popularity. Instead, she focuses on saving the world and preserving peace, all while resisting pressure from her more superficially inclined mom and classmates. She’s got two friends (and that’s all she needs), integrity, some serious butt-kicking moves, and she battles evil. We need more cartoons like Betty.
As the heroine of the Shrek movies, Shrek’s wife, Fiona, is a star in her own right. Her permanent transformation from stick-skinny princess to curvy ogress sends the message that looks aren’t all that matters. And while in all of the Shrek movies, Fiona has proven she’s a great fighter (remember her Matrix-like moves in the first one?), in the sequel, she even gets to lead her own army. Fiona is the strong, independent, and capable princess we like to see. (It’s just a shame she has to get upstaged by Shrek and Donkey.)