Editor’s Note: Disney•Pixar and Babble are both owned by The Walt Disney Company.
One of the best things I’ve learned along the way as a mom is the ability to see past surface behaviors in kids to uncover root causes. I have experienced “mean kids” acting out on the playground at recess because they were feeling left out. I’ve learned that toddler tantrums in the kitchen are sometimes a result of needing undivided attention from me between household tasks.
I also displayed surface behaviors of my own in adolescence, as a reaction to trauma. I was, in fact, a bully myself — taking my pain out on others. It took me a good long while to understand my own actions and how they seriously affected others. It was important for me to make it right after the fact, but the damage was done.
It’s easy to dismiss someone as mean and want to just stay away from them, but it’s so important to see past the ugly to find what’s causing them to act that way — that’s something that Disney•Pixar does amazingly well in their brand new short film Lou.
Lou tackles the important subject of schoolyard bullying by digging deeper into the actions of the boy in the story.
At the beginning of the tale you meet J.J. — and you won’t like him very much as you watch his interactions with the other children on the playground. He’s constantly stealing toys and meaningful objects from other kids around him, stashing them into his own backpack. J.J. is a bully that the other children hope to avoid and it’s clear to see why.
Lou is a character made up of various “lost and found” items at the school (you can see his name formed from missing letters on the box). He has a spunky personality that you’ll immediately find yourself giggling over, but it’s how he helps J.J. see the impact of his harmful actions that makes him truly special.
As the short film beings, you’ll start out puzzled wondering where the story will lead, but then start to piece it all together. You’ll laugh and then you’ll say “aww” as you understand why J.J. is the way he is. Before you know it, tears will sting your eyes as you watch him learn an important lesson.
You’ll want to take J.J. in your arms and give him a big, warm hug as you see him being held accountable as he tries something new.
All of this takes place in the span of six minutes. No one, and I mean no one, nails storytelling like Disney•Pixar. They can make you cry with a little set of desk lamps, so expect nothing less when you see Lou.
I think we all have an inner child that will react to this story. I identify with J.J. on many levels, from his anger and loneliness to his epiphany and redemption. I love that this story shines a spotlight on the “why” without letting J.J. off the hook.
Bullying is always wrong no matter how you slice it. Believe me, I know. As a former miserable bully and now as a mom with children in school, I’m aware of behaviors that signal deeper meanings. I’m glad for the awareness this short film brings because understanding where bullying begins goes a long way towards prevention and protection of other children.