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Adoption Blog: Talk to AF

Summer Movies with Adoption Themes
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What adoption-related flicks are on your family's must-see list right now? Have you seen Kung Fu Panda 2, Rio, or another recent film with an adoption storyline? Share your review with fellow readers! Was adoption portrayed accurately? Did any scenes spark a conversation with your kids? Are there any movies you'd advise other adoptive families against seeing?

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


Saw Kung Fu Panda 2 with my son, age 9, and cringed at some of the lines from the movie (ie, panda returns to his friends after visiting his father, the goose, and says “I just learned that my dad is not my dad”), then later in the movie his friends say something to him about his parents not loving him as the reason that he was put up for adoption. The end of the movie is wonderful, in that the main message is that it is not where you come from but rather what you become that is important. I looked over at my son as the credits rolled, and saw him wiping his eyes. I asked if he was okay, and he claimed that he had stared at the screen for too long. Just wish that I had known more info about the movie before having seen it. I suggest that Dreamworks consult with an adoption expert on topics such as this. And Angelina Jolie has her voice in the movie! How does she handle this with her kids???

By outofbounds on Sunday, July 03, 2011 at 1:25 pm.

I think that these movies are also very stereotypical and rather racist. Not sure if I would show them to my daughter- they also seem insensitive to adoption….I wish that there were movies that took both racial and adoption sensitivity into account…

By mel123 on Monday, July 04, 2011 at 5:28 pm.

After seeing the movie, Tangled, my children said it was terrible that the mean woman took the baby from her mom and pretended to be her mom. They said “no one should ever take a baby from the mom, that is just mean” I have to admit, their comment choked me up.  Tangled was not about legitimate adoption, but it did open a window to looking at this topic through the eyes of children.  We did not discuss adoption after this movie, but agreed that the mean lady tricked people and kept the baby from her parents.

By Chosen Family on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 at 5:11 pm.

We liked Rio.  All the comments may not be right on, but the idea that you would go to the ends of the earth for your family (bird or person) is exactly the message I want my daughter to hear.

By JewelryMama on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 at 5:37 pm.

I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 was very sensitive to the feelings of both the adoptee as well as the adoptive parent. To me it detailed an internal struggle that seemed very natural when the son discovered that he was adopted, but it comes full-circle back to the adoptive dad, and the son’s new-found appreciation how he cared for and raised him.

I didn’t pick up on any overt adoption themes in Rio, but as the father of an internationally adopted son, I did cringe at how awkward Blu seemed when he was reintroduced to his native land; something I think about often.

By Jeff on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 at 5:51 pm.

I think a lot about these movies- often on the surface they seem like fun movies for kids- but many have other issues such as not having a multicultural casting of the human characters (the cartoon humans tend to be white) or having the heroes and heroines all be white characters with the villians being persons of color. Love Isn’t Enough had a very interesting discussion about Rio….  I wish there were more kid movies with a more diverse outlook…

By mel123 on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 at 6:30 pm.

This question was posted on our Adoptive Families Facebook page and here are the most recent replies… 

Ellen Kessie Moeller  I was FURIOUS about KungFu Panda 2. So the only way my adopted daughter will ever be truly happy is by finding her “real parents”?! (their language, not mine). I was so disappointed. I haven’t taken my children to see the movie.

Julie Newton Anderson  My teens and I watched Juno when we were in the process of adopting our third son. It was a great resource for talking about what was going on, and they loved the soundtrack, too. We even talked about it with our baby’s (then-potential) birthparents.
Emmy Mason  ‎“Meet the Robinson’s” also has an adoption story line. And also the Lifetime TV series “Army Wives” were one of the main characters was a foster child, he legally adopts his wife’s 2 sons from previous relationships. Another main character just adopted an HIV positive child from foster care. It touched on a lot of issues, but seems the process was way too easy, as we know it it not (but definitely worth it!)
Jeff Yeast  Taken as a whole, I think Kung Fu Panda 2 delivers a positive adoption message that is sensitive to the feelings of both the adoptee as well as the adoptive parent. The story ends much as I hope our’s will one day.
Kathy Sims Martin  ‎“Despicable me” has an adoption story line as well. Very cute movie. I loved Juno. Ellen, thanks for your post. I was thinking about taking my son to see a KongFu Panda 2 today. Think I will go see Cars2 instead.

Janna Davis Haik  I think Kung Fu Panda 2 was more about finding peace when you don’t know where you came from. If you have some background on the adoption situation it’s important to share (in as much or as little detail depending on the situation) when your child is old enough to understand so they feel at peace with the situation. It’s only natural for them to wonder where they came from. I liked the movie!
Kait Hirt Kettmann  I think we could choose to be offended by any adoption related story line. We loved Despicable Me but heard a lot of criticism about how he gives the girls back temporarily. At the end of Rio, my daughter said “Look Mom, he has a family now!” (regarding the street kid) but we’ve heard criticism from people who have adopted former street kids about how that was handled. We love Meet The Robinsons but that was met with a bunch of criticism as well. The important thing to remember is it’s a story! It’s all made up! And it’s never going to be completely accurate or “right” but that’s fine.
Jeff Yeast  My biggest problem with Despicable Me wasn’t that he sent them back, which was out of his control, rather it was that lady at the orphanage and the “Box of Shame” that the girls were placed in.
Laura Ostrow Sanchez  I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 handled it well . . . a couple lines could have been edited to be more adoption friendly but overall I liked the storyline. Just the fact that son is a panda and the father is a duck has helped me explain to my 4 year old daughter about parents and children not necessarily resembling each other . . . for a variety of reasons. My 7 year old son saw Despicable Me with friends so I can’t speak as to how they handled the subject but my son was adamant that it had nothing to do with adoption. So I guess if it wasn’t portrayed well at least he recognizes it as not being at all like when his sister was adopted.
Laura Ostrow Sanchez  Forgot to mention that we did see Rio but I truly think the adoption component went over my son’s head . . . even with the criticism of the movie on adoption and other levels, I think it’s a good movie and worth seeing - although I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 2 even more.
The Adoption Advocate  I agree with Kait. I think we need to take the movies with adoption themes for what they are: movies. Instead of searching for a reason to be offended and banning our children from an enjoyable film we should search out the good to focus on. Then use the good AND the “bad” points of the film to spark discussion with our kids. IE: “Po sure was sad that he had never met his birth mommy. I’m so glad we have that beautiful picture of you with your birth mommy from when you were born so we never forget what she looks like. How do you feel when you think about your birth family?”
Cheyenne Rene O’Brien  me being a birth parent i think seeing kungfu panda with him having a father that was a duck but the duck treating him as nothing other then his son, isn’t that what adoption is about? is them being your children?

Tania Taylor  Kung Fu panda 2 was VERY well done. I have 5 kids from adoption and 2 biological (ages 21, 19, 16, 14, 13, 11, 5.) Having watched my adoptive children grow through the phases of age and adoption, this movie accurately portrays the emotional struggles that many adoptees go through. Phase 1, understanding what adoption means, phase 2 - wondering why adoption became their reality, phase 3 - dealing with the insecurities, phase 4 - bullies that feed into your insecurities, phase 5 - searching for answers, phase 6 - finding inner peace and ultimately accepting that who u are is based on more than who gave birth to you or who raised you. It even addresses the adoptive parents fears when their child suddenly needs to search for answers. This movie was wonderful for my children and opened healthy adoption questions an allowed my children to gain perspective of their own adoption stories. This movie was not about having to find birth family to be happy but rather finding answers to questions in order to have internal peace.
Tania Taylor  BTW Jeff Yeast, the box of shame is all too real. That is the one part of the movie that my daughter pointed out as realistic. Spent a little time in a mental hospital for children. That is where she was exposed to it.
Wendy King Nelson  I have to say that I cried at the end of Kung Fu Panda 2 when he hugs his dad. The thing that bugged me about Despicable Me was how he just walked into the orphanage off the street and adopted the girls. We all know that is NOT how that would go down!
Robin Pridgeon Stinnett  After seeing the movie Tamgled, my adopted children, ages 5 and 6, thought it was terrible that the mean woman took the baby from her parents. They said “you should never take babies from their mommies, that is just mean” Choked me up a bit. But I stuck to the topic….the mean woman did trick the parents and that was wrong.
Adoptive Family Wellness  In any kids’ movie with an adoption theme, whether done well or not, we try to have a conversation about it with our kids. If we didn’t like how parts were handled in the movie, it’s a perfect opportunity to discuss that with the kids and to help them to think critically about what they watch.

By Danielle Pennel on Thursday, July 07, 2011 at 2:55 am.

I thought Kung Fu Panda was ridiculous and full of adoption stereotypes. Panda didn’t know he was adopted? His adoptive dad was afraid to tell him he was adopted? Cringe-worthy, and made worse by the fact that we saw this movie with my son’s soccer team.

Rio seemed fine to me. I don’t think my kids caught on that Blu didn’t understand his “birth culture.” Afterward, we talked more about the fact that the boy in the film had been living on the street but was apparently adopted by the scientist and the woman who’d raised Blu. I saw that aspect of the story as positive. We also discussed the very real issue of street kids in Brazil and other countries.

By Sharon Van Epps on Thursday, July 07, 2011 at 9:08 pm.

I did not care for Kung Fu Panda 2 at all.  Even though the movie improved at the end, many of the adoption comments throughout the movie did make me cringe.  I wish I knew more about the movie before going to see it with my family, I will probably skip any future Kung Fu Panda movies.

By trodman123 on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 at 5:48 am.

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