As many parents believe that watching cartoons is either harmful or not of much use, nowadays, it has become fashionable not to show them to children. This opinion, however, does not hold true; good animation can contribute to the formation of a child’s personality, because high-quality cartoons, as with books and movies, help to develop emotional intelligence.
What do we mean by this phrase? Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to perceive their own emotions and manage their feelings for effective problem-solving. A high level of emotional intelligence is one of the indicators of leaders and successful people. Emotional intelligence helps in many areas of life: from studying and building a career to friendship and good familial relations.
The process of learning through animation is often faster than through books, because the child can immediately see and hear what the hero feels and experiences. With the mood transmitted through music, sounds and images, the child can quickly empathise with the hero when watching quality animation. They can see the consequences of negative actions and reflect on what constitutes fitting behaviour. The child learns what is socially seen as good and bad from the examples before them.
A great example of how an animated series can help develop emotional intelligence is the British series, Peppa Pig, which is ideally suited to younger viewers. The main characters laugh, cry, become angry, offended and upset. When they’re happy, they jump in puddles gleefully, and when they’re sad, they cry. The voiceover and other characters give voice to the feelings and emotional state of the hero. For example, in the episode “George catches a cold,” George is afraid of the doctor and the viewer can see how scared he is as he hides under a blanket. The voiceover further emphasises the emotion of the character, and the doctor finds a way to cheer up George and reduce his fear. Watching this cartoon, a young viewer can easily become acquainted with basic feelings and emotions.
If we compare American and Russian animation, the biggest difference at the moment is that animation in America is a huge, profitable industry with well-established processes. Cartoons for both children and adults are shown in prime-time. In Russia, state regulation has led to a position where it is not profitable for channels to broadcast animated films. In Russia, there are almost no cartoons made for adult audiences, whilst in America, there are numerous examples, such as The Simpsons and Family Guy.
In other ways, Russian and American cartoons have become very similar in the last five years, with Russian animators adopting styles used by their American colleagues. This has made the characters in Russian animation more understandable and recognisable for viewers around the world. The differences between modern American and Russian animation are not so great. Both aim to tell expressive stories using both digital and traditional methods. Both use exaggeration, various tricks and modern music, whilst adhering to the basic principles of the art form. Most importantly, both Russian and American cartoons can serve as an excellent methodological tool for the development of emotional intelligence in children.
In the episode, ‘The Frying Pan” from the Russian animated series The Fixies – its script written by children’s author and member of the Eurasian Creative Guild, Arina Chunaeva – the main characters, Nolik and Simka argue as to who is better at skating. They decide to arrange a contest in which their friend Tom Thomas will act as the judge. He turns out to be a dishonest judge, however. Watching this cartoon, a younger viewer learns that you should never deceive your friends for the sake of victory, even if you really want to win. Thanks to this cartoon, the viewer begins to better recognise the causes of lies and boasting and the negative consequences of such actions.
In an episode entitled “Recipe for Disaster” from the world-famous Russian cartoon, Masha and The Bear – an episode which entered the Guinness Book of world records as the most-viewed animated video on social networks – the main character, Masha cooks all the oatmeal in the kitchen, and all the animals in the forest are forced to eat this porridge. The viewer can empathise with Masha, whose prank has gone too far, as well as with the forest dwellers and the Bear, who, as always, only wanted to rest. The situation is portrayed with humour and without any moralising overtones. The child can easily understand from the reactions and facial expressions of the characters what is good and what is not.
In the movie made by the Walt Disney Animation Studio, Moana, the main character teaches the viewer how to inspire others and understand their needs and the motivation behind their behaviour. The eponymous main character helps the demigod Maui to believe in himself again, and in the process teaches viewers how to cope with their fears and doubts and achieve their goals.
In order to facilitate the most rapid and effective development of emotional intelligence, parents should watch cartoons with their children, especially with those under the age of seven. Parents can then comment on events that occur and answer any questions the child may raise, such as why the hero cried, what upset them, and what should be done in this or that case. It is important to focus on the feelings and experiences of the hero, as well as on the motives of their actions.
By following this simple advice, cartoons can be elevated from a pleasurable pastime into great learning material. Sharing a good cartoon is not only an effective way to develop emotional intelligence, but a great opportunity to immerse oneself in the wonderful world of the child. This aids not only in understanding children, but in remembering how you looked at the world when you were young.
Text by Victoria Bukharova
and Arina Chunaeva