Debating kids' movies with Ross Douthat
This is terrific, Noah--much more thoughtful than the original Douthat column. I don't think Crazy Rich Asians is the right model to use for "a romance plot that sweeps you along with the power of falling in love, embeds that in a larger life narrative, and appealing both to today’s kids and their parents" though; CRA is essentially just the same Cinderella/Pretty Woman rom-com that (I think, anyway) most kids have tired of. Making The Fault of our Stars appealing to parents as well as their tweens, however? And animated with a soundtrack? That would be like printing money.
I think you're right that some of the shift in kids' animated films' sensibility is earlier and independent from the "woke" vibe shift Douthat is looking at.
I read an article a while ago about market research Disney did around the time when they were rebuilding and expanding the "Disney Princess" brand. They did open-ended interview with fans, mainly young girls, and they learned that the romance was one of the least exciting elements for fans, who were more moved by the trappings, aesthetics and persona of princesses, their confidence and kindness, and by the theme of friendship. That clearly informed storytelling going forward.