Wall-E (Photo: Pixar)
An animated movie plot on climate change issue is not as rare to find as in feature films. There are many animations related to the environmental catastrophe whether it is global warming, dystopian futures, ecological collapse, and climate change in general. It also talks about how human activities affect the environment including the animals that live there.
Discussing climate change with young children especially in this kind of era is very important even though it would be tough to discuss. By giving them kid-friendly movies and documentaries to watch, climate change and how it affects life will be easier to be understood and we don’t have to explain the definitions or the concepts behind it which is too complicated for them, yet.
So, below are some of the animated movies on how climate change and human activities affects the environment, even if it’s just a small background or side story to the whole movie. This list is sorted by date and only includes animation and animated film series, not documentaries. May contain spoilers!
1. Ice Age (2002)
Types: Film series | Movie count: 5 (2002-2016) | Age: 6+
Rating: PG | Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy | Runtime: 1h 21min | Country: USA
Ratings: 7.5 (IMDb) | 77% (Tomatometer), 82% (Audience Score) | 60 (Metascore)
Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 29 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “Set during the Ice Age, a sabertooth tiger, a sloth, and a wooly mammoth find a lost human infant, and they try to return him to his tribe.” —B&M.
Directed by: Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha | Cast: Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Ray Romano | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: Set during the days of the ice age, a herd of prehistoric animals is migrating to warmer climates to escape the ice age. The film centers around the adventures of Manny, a mammoth, Sid, a ground sloth, and Diego, a saber-tooth with a human baby that they are trying to return to his tribe. It also tells about how human hunters are responsible for killing some animals and makes them want revenge or left them alone without their family (Ice Age (2002)). The next sequels tell about escaping massive flooding caused by global warming, species going to extinct, a lost world inhabited by dinosaurs, drifting on an iceberg, and asteroids. Overall, it’s about how living species need to move and adapt to survive rapidly-changing Earth.
Watch on: Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Youtube | Vudu | View: Parents Guide
2. Happy Feet (2006)
Types: Film series | Movie count: 2 (2006-2011) | Age: 5+
Rating: PG | Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy | Runtime: 1h 48min | Country: USA, Australia
Ratings: 6.4 (IMDb) | 76% (Tomatometer), 70% (Audience Score) | 77 (Metascore)
Awards: Won 1 Oscar: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year. Another 19 wins & 26 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “Into the world of the Emperor Penguins, who find their soul mates through song, a penguin is born who cannot sing. But he can tap dance something fierce!” —Kennedy Miller
Directed by: George Miller, Warren Coleman | Cast: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: The film is about an estranged emperor penguin named Mumble and his journey. There is a scene at Marine World where penguins are kept in secluded confinement to attracts the human crowd. Lovelace, one of the penguin characters, has the six-pack rings entangled around his neck which is the result of human plastic waste that enters the ocean. It also introduces us to many animal species such as Adelaide penguin, rockhopper penguin, Magellanic penguin, leopard seal, elephant seal, and skua. There is a message on how humans are overfishing and how governments act on it. Overall, it teaches us why should we and how to be kind to animals and their environment. Things that we seen as entertaining or fulfilling to us could be seen otherwise for animals and the environment (Happy Feet (2006)).
Watch on: Netflix | Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Vudu | View: Parents Guide
3. Wall-E (2008)
Age: 5+ | Rating: G | Genres: Animation, Adventure, Family | Runtime: 1h 38min | Country: USA
Ratings: 8.4 (IMDb) | 95% (Tomatometer), 90% (Audience Score) | 95 (Metascore)
Awards: Won 1 Oscar: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year. Another 90 wins & 90 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.” —tb4000
Directed by: Andrew Stanton | Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: The movie follows WALL-E, a robot left to clean up the garbage on a future, uninhabitable Earth in the 29th century. The Earth turns because of overconsumption and environmental neglect by humans. Then, he met EVE, a probe sent to the Earth to scan for plant life whom he falls in love and pursues her.
Overall, the film talks about many issues such as human environmental impact, global catastrophic risk, obesity, consumerism, waste management, and humans-robots relation on daily life.
Watch on: Disney+ | Netflix | Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | View: Parents Guide
4. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (2012)
Age: 5+ | Rating: PG | Genres: Animation, Adventure, Drama | Runtime: 1h 26min | Country: USA, France
Ratings: 64% (IMDb) | 53% (Tomatometer), 63% (Audience Score) | 46 (Metascore)
Awards: 4 wins & 8 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.” —Universal Pictures
Directed by: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda | Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: It is based on the iconic children’s book The Lorax written by Dr. Seuss and first published in 1971. The film adaptation looks like it leaves the environmental message as the background of the film and it’s not as compelling as the book. The story concerns the danger of human destruction of the natural environment. In the walled city of Thneedville, everything is artificial and the air is becoming a commodity that comes with a price. the Lorax (activism) who speaks for the Truffula trees confront the Once-ler (industry) who causes environmental destruction. It also talks about factories that pollute the air and the water, animals forced to migrate because of human activities, protecting the forest from lodging, and unsustainable logging practices.
Watch on: Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Youtube | Vudu | View: Parents Guide
5. Frozen (2013)
Types: Film series | Movie count: 2 (2013-2019) | Age: 5+
Rating: PG | Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy | Runtime: 1h 42min | Country: USA
Ratings: 7.5 (IMDb) | 90% (Tomatometer), 85% (Audience Score) | 74 (Metascore)
Awards: Won 2 Oscar: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song. Another 78 wins & 57 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “When the newly-crowned Queen Elsa accidentally uses her power to turn things into ice to curse her home in infinite winter, her sister Anna teams up with a mountain man, his playful reindeer, and a snowman to change the weather condition.” —Anonymous
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee | Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: It tells the story of the journey of Anna, a princess with Kristoff, a rugged iceman, Sven, a loyal reindeer, and Olaf, a naive snowman to find Elsa, her estranged sister in a palace of ice. Their kingdom, Kingdom of Arendelle, is trapped in eternal winter because of Elsa’s uncontrollable ice power. And it can only be mitigated through them working together to bring back Elsa and for her to undo her magic. Elsa’s magic power to alter things to ice and how she is playing with it and afraid of it because she couldn’t fully control it might be similar to how humans able to alter natural resources to things that fulfill their needs but couldn’t fully control how much they need or want. Overall, the film’s message for us is to not taking things for granted, taking care of the surrounding, and respecting the natural power of the environment (Frozen (2013)).
Watch on: Disney+ | Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Youtube | View: Parents Guide
• Common Sense Media. “Movies That Teach Kids About Climate Change.” →
• McKinnon, M. 2015. “The 8 Best Movies About Apocalyptic Climate Change.” Gizmodo. December 10. →
• Cronin, A. “Top 12 Movies About Climate Change.” iMatter Youth Movement. April 1. →