Should Your Toddler See Chimpanzee?

We took Gus to see Chimpanzee this weekend. How could we not? I mean the entire city has been plastered with this:

How can you say no to these eyes staring you in the face at every red light? Hollywood sure has the market down on promoting the latest Disney movie. For the last month, we’ve been promising Gus over and over that yes, it was a movie coming out and that yes, he would get to see it.

Gus loves monkeys. I realize this movie is about chimpanzees, but to him they are all monkeys. For his first two years, we practically lived around the corner from the L.A zoo so we spent countless afternoons watching the gorillas. We even got to know their trainers we were there so often. We decided to take him to El Capitain to see it since they promised a live animal show beforehand and he was beyond excited. (Note to all my L.A moms: there is not a chimp at the live animal show. The billboards are misleading!).

I made a rookie parent move in that I didn’t research or think about the content of the show in any way. Not at all. And there are a few things in this movie that a toddler might be disturbed by.

(Spoiler Alert). The mother dies and the chimpanzee is left orphaned. Apparently, I didn’t pay that much attention during the previews, but I had no idea this was part of the story. Gus thinks I’m immortal and frankly, at three I’d like to keep it that way. If he caught on that the monkey’s mommy died, I knew the next day would be filled with questions about mommies dying and if I could die. I prefer to shelter him from these facts as long as possible. Thankfully, I think pretty quickly on my feet.

Here’s the better story line, the one we sold him on: the monkeys only thought that the mommy died. She really just hurt her leg bad while she was running so it was taking her a REALLY long time to get back. While Oscar (the star monkey) was waiting for his mommy to come back, he had to find someone else to take care of him. Feel free to steal the story. You don’t even have to give me credit.

Second, chimpanzees are carnivorous and guess what meat they eat? Smaller monkeys. Yep. It’s true. The chimpanzees go on a hunt for smaller monkeys. Both Yancy and I could see what was coming so we quickly engaged in some serious distractions tactics.  Gus had no idea that the chimps captured small monkeys and ate them for dinner. When the narrator says, “Chimpanzees also eat meat…” you should immediately begin to play a game with the popcorn.

Overall, it was a success and a really cute movie. Most importantly, we made it through without Gus being traumatized. Your toddler might not be so lucky.

Note to self: Always review movies first.

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21 Responses to Should Your Toddler See Chimpanzee?

  1. Yeah, but then you have to see a kid movie TWICE. You’re right, though–I learned that lesson after my oldest was traumatized by the first ten minutes of “Finding Nemo.” Which on the big screen, really was pretty scary.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Katy just pointed out all the mothers usually die in Disney movies and she’s totally right!

      • Caroline says:

        It’s because they want the main character to have a huge personal hurdle that they have to overcome by the end of the movie. It’s not just Disney. It’s Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and “grown up” movies (and books), too.

        I look up “parent ratings” on the internet before my kids or I see anything. I made the mistake in college of watching “The Good Son” with Macaulay Culkin without knowing what I was getting into, and now can’t watch anything without a really good idea of what it’s about and what might be in it.


  2. Disney, come on, you’re killing me! Whoever is and has been in charge of that studio has issues with mothers: every mother dies in their kiddie movies–Bambi, Finding Nemo, Fox and the Hound, and now Chimpanzee. And then there are the “bad” mother figures like the wicked stepmothers in Cinderella and Snow White, and Mother Gothel in Rapunzel. Yeesh.

    • Mo says:

      You do realize most of these stories are not Disney’s originals, but based on much older versions, don’t you? Which, for the sake of honesty, have been watered down through centuries.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      They do, huh? You’re totally right! WTF? Why do they insist on killing us off?

  3. Adam says:

    Sorry, but I have to disagree on this one.

    Mortality is something that we all have to deal with. I think the idea of children learning about it through a movie that they’re not personally attached to is a good transition from having to explain it all yourself to them. Otherwise the first death your child is affected by is bound to be seriously traumatic.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      You bring up a good point about mortality. We’ve had plenty of discussions about death lately(the neighbor just died). I just don’t want Gus to know it could happen to me. Not yet anyway…

  4. Kat says:

    Our daughter had no interest in seeing the movie and our son too young BUT my mother was going to take my niece and nephew and was concerned about the content of the movie. I agree to always check first the content of the movie. I’ve been known to read The Movie Spoiler website when I have questions about a movie instead of seeing it right away. Check it out….

    If I have concerns we wait until the second week a movie is out and I’ve read the whole movie. K doesn’t know we are delaying for that reason. I just say “I’d like to wait until there’s less seeing the movie so we get a good seat” and even at 11 that still works!

    I hope Gus enjoyed the movie and great saves to not have to deal with questions (:

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks for the website, Kat! I’m totally stealing the “waiting for a good seat.”

  5. Rach says:

    We’ll be taking Lil. At six, she’s more equipped to deal with death and dying than younger kiddos. Too, she has dealt with it every day of her life since she was 19 months old. It’s funny (not haha funny, mind you) how losing a child impacts everything around you and all you do. Lil (and soon El) has a very different understanding of death and dying than most children her age and it makes me very very sad.

    If I were able to protect her from it, for just a bit longer, I would, as you have done with Gus. Yes, people die, yes, animals die, and yes, we have to face it. But, at three, Gus doesn’t need to know YOU could die.

    As for Disney and the dying mamas and whatnot, WTF? I’m trying to think of a Disney movie with a decent mama and I’m stumped. Ariel and Belle had no mamas…oh, wait Princess Aurora did, but then, that mom was barely there, Mulan’s mom too. Hm. How about a POSITIVE mama figure, Disney?

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I know your story:( I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for your entire family. And having to answer Lil’s questions about it…How do you talk to El about Hannah?

      • Rach says:

        Hannah IS a part of our family even if she’s not here with us now. We talk about her everyday in some capacity. We have pictures of her up on the walls and on my blog. Ellie will sit in my lap and look at the pictures and she hears stories and we tell her Han is her oldest sister but she’s not here now. She’s still little and I’m sure doesn’t understand, but, if it’s not a daily conversation, it’s a conversation that is had nearly every day.

        For us, it’s important to keep that line of communication open. There’s no hiding anything. Grief sucks. Losing a child is excruciating. We’re very open about that but are also quick to remember the fun and happy times as well. (I saw a therapist all of two times–my mom wanted me to go–and she said, “You’re very proactive in your grief. I’ve never met someone like you before.” I suppose that’s a good thing…;))

        I think the thing about grief is everyone does it their own way. I know families who don’t mention the child they lost. That simply wouldn’t fly with our family (our little nuclear family as well as our extended family). Han was such a *presence* we couldn’t do otherwise.

        • Mommy Psychologist says:

          Thanks for sharing your story. I would love for you to guest post sometime about helping little ones work through and understand grief if you would be interested.

    • K'sMom says:

      Jungle Book: the mama wolf who takes care of Mogli :) :)
      Lion King had a good mama figure… but Daddy dies… and Simba gets lost for years and years….
      Mostly the kids in Disney have to make do in the big bad world by themselves….with help of their various animal friends…
      Thanks for the tips on the movie— my little one is only two and I may step out of the movie for the parts you warned about! :) Or wait for the DVD…

  6. Oh my gosh, I am laughing and horrified and also impressed. I am so glad for the words of wisdom because I did briefly think about taking Q to see it (his first movie). Why do the mom’s always die in Disney movies, jeez! Anyway, good for you for figuring out how to explain it in a way that worked for you and thanks for the heads up on the El Captain as I would have probably thought there was “live animal show” pre movie as well! Glad you all survived the experience and you are still perfect in your mini’s eyes:) Thanks for always being so supportive of my blog and coming by my SITS Day!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      You’re welcome! Your blog was one of the first blogs I found when I first started this blogging journey and I’ve been coming back ever since. I appreciate you showing up here.

  7. Saundra says:

    We took our 3 year old and made the same mistake. She is way too observant to get fooled so we just laid it out. We recently found a dead bird so she knew about death and circle of life. She was most worried about the fighting. So we explained that if we can save the forrest then there will be enough food for all of the Chimps to have enough food and they won’t have to fight. We saw the movie on Saturday and today she asked if I would die. I told her I probably wouldn’t die until I am very old. She asked what old meant. I told her I wouldn’t be old until after she had a baby and her baby was big. I thought it wasn’t the best explanation but couldn’t figure out how to tell her what old meant. Tonight we were cuddled in bed and she said, “Mommy, I want to grow up and be just like you.” I smiled and asked her what that meant. She said “I will be a nice mommy. When I am a mommy will you be old and get dead?” I tried to explain to her that I won’t die when she has a baby. I said most people die after they are 80 and then counted from 29 to 80 to show her how far away that number was. She doesn’t seemed worried- just curious. I am looking online to get tips on answering her questions more clearly. I don’t want her to think the day she has a baby that I will die!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      This is exactly what would have happened with Gus. We would have been talking about my death for weeks! Counting to 80 was a great idea. I’ll have to remember that one.

  8. Saundra says:

    I am actually more worried about her making the connection that her grandma and grandpa are “old” They are super healthy so hopefully we have a few more decades . . . but not sure how I’ll explain that!

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