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2000 Releases

Violence in G-rated Animated Feature Films

For immediate release: May 23, 2000 

Boston, MA--G-rated animated feature films are not as violence free as their rating suggests. A study of G-rated animated feature films available for rental finds that acts of violence in these movies are common, and that the amount of violence in this popular form of children's entertainment has risen dramatically over the years. The study, done by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, will be published May 24 in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Authors Fumie Yokota and Kimberly Thompson reviewed 74 films, from Snow White (1937) to The King and I (1999). They found that the average children's animated feature film, 81 minutes long, contains 9.5 minutes of violence, 11.8% of the average film's length.

Though violent content in such films has always varied widely, the average amount of time depicting acts of violence in children's animated films has gone from approximately 6 minutes in 1940 (Snow White introduced the genre in 1937) to 9 and a half minutes in 1999.

The study categorized acts of violence as light (funny), neutral, or dark (sinister). They ranged from Dumbo shooting peanuts from his trunk at the ringmaster in Dumbo (1941) to a hunter killing the mother deer in Bambi (1942).

Films that contain an above-average amount of violence include Quest for Camelot (28%), Happily Ever After (24.1%), The Sword in The Stone (21.4%), A Bug's Life (19.3%), and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (18.6%). Films with below-average time devoted to violence include A Goofy Movie (2.7%), Dumbo (2.0%), The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1.3%), Kiki's Delivery Service (0.6%), and My Neighbor Totoro (0.1%).

The study found 125 injuries in the films, 62 of which resulted in death. Bad characters were 23 times more likely to die from an injury than good characters. Violent acts by good characters were most often portrayed as light or funny, while violent acts by bad characters were most often portrayed as dark or sinister.

The authors acknowledge the limitation of a study based on "a broad definition of violence (that) may influence attitudes and behavior of children in very different ways."

Noting another study that finds that American children watch 1.5 hours of videotape a day, the authors write "Physicians and parents should not overlook videocassettes as a source of exposure to violence for children. A G rating does not automatically signify a level of violence acceptable for young viewers. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) should consider changing the current age-based rating system to one based on content, which is what an overwhelming number of parents prefer (Strasburger and Donnerstein, Pediatrics. 1999; 103;129-139). In addition, parents need to preview films themselves or use online resources to judge the appropriateness of individual films for their children."

For full text of the JAMA article, please visit the JAMA web site.

See also: frequently asked questions about study prepared by the study's authors.

For further information, please contact:

David Ropeik
Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
718 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-6011
Email: dropeik@hsph.harvard.edu

Robin Herman
Director of Communications
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu