When you think of animated media, you might think of Disney movies or TV shows for children. Although, the world of animated television is vast and beneficial to watchers of all ages. There are animated projects made for adults, but in this list I want to focus on media that is made for everyone. These movies and shows are filled with heart, endless lessons in life and love, and will help you connect with and heal your younger self.
In this epic clash of fantasy and sci-fi, young shapeshifter Nimona teams up with a disgraced knight to cause unchecked chaos–and prove his innocence after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. A story about the labels society assigns to people and the desire to belong, Nimona is a lesson in embracing our differences. With beautiful queer representation, an engaging plot, vivid animation style, and steller voice acting performances, this film deserves all the awards.
The Sea Beast is a fun tale about a young girl who stows away on a ship hoping to learn the ropes of sea monster hunting, but ends up discovering much more. Perfect for fans of How to Train Your Dragon, this film is packed with adventure and has an adorable found family at its heart.
This film follows three generations of explorers as they plunge into uncharted territory to save their town’s dying energy source. The Clade family serves as a lesson in charting your own path, and accepting that you don’t always have to follow in the footsteps of those who came before you. The characters and stunning visuals in Strange World are sure to amaze you.
Set in Italy, Luca and Alberto enjoy an adventure-filled summer on land while hiding the fact that they are sea monsters. In a tale widely accepted as a queer allegory, these two boys slowly change the minds and hearts of the village people and start down a road of acceptance and coexistence. This film’s courage, friendship, and youthful wonder is nothing short of spectacular.
Widely credited as the best Spider-Man movie to date, Into the Spider-Verse tells the origin story of Miles Morales, a kid from Brooklyn who is bitten by a radioactive spider and given superhuman powers. This film is funny, entertaining, and incredibly genuine. With the most intentional and beautiful animation style I’ve ever seen, I recommend this film to anyone who will listen.
In this show, two young princes form an unlikely alliance with an elf assassin in order to bring peace to their magical land. This world is home to dragons, elves, wizards, and all kinds of magical creatures. With many fun adventures and heartfelt moments, The Dragon Prince easily captures the admiration of audiences of all ages.
Teens Barney and Norma get jobs at a theme park, only to discover that it’s haunted. Along with Barney’s talking pug, the teens spend their summer battling demons and trying to save the world from a supernatural apocalypse. Hilarious, imaginative, and sincere, Dead End brings to life loveable and relatable characters whose adventures reflect what it means to be growing up in a scary, but loving, world.
Set in a world ruled by an evil group called the Horde, a teenage soldier named Adora finds a magical sword that turns her into a mythical warrior princess called She-Ra. She deserts the Horde and joins the Rebellion, leaving her childhood friend Catra behind. The show follows Adora and her allies as they fight the forces of evil, and Catra’s struggles in the midst of the Horde. Full of lessons in friendship, doing the right thing, and acceptance, She-Ra is a show you won’t want to miss.
A beloved classic of the animation field, ATLA follows young avatar Aang as he wakes from a hundred year sleep to a brand new world. With the help of his friends, Aang ventures to take down the tyrannical Fire Nation, which has taken over the world. Aang must master the four elements of fire, water, air, and earth to be capable of bringing peace to all the nations. A show with a strong sense of community and friendship, ATLA delves into interesting aspects of fantasy politics and what it really means to peacefully coexist.
Young siblings Sean and Lisa try to hitch a ride with their father to work, whom they believe to be a truck driver, and end up in space. They discover that their dad is actually a famous bounty hunter called Sabo who tracks fugitives all over the galaxy. Centered around a strong sibling bond and a complicated family dynamic, My Dad the Bounty Hunter is a meaningful and fun space adventure that explores the complexities of parenting and growing up.
Sometimes you just need that feeling of being a kid sitting on the floor watching cartoons after school. This list contains some of my favorite movies and shows that gave me that feeling, while also giving ample material to engage critically with as an adult. I hope that they can help you feel at peace with your inner child, too.