Communitarian Feature Writer
It can be difficult to portray mental illness, especially in children’s movies. With understanding mental health more important today, the movie Puss in Boots: The Last Wish offers a depiction of anxiety and panic that is understandable to all ages.
The film made $440 million at the box office and earned an Oscar for the Best Animated Picture. To create its storybook appearance, the animators used 2.5-D animation that creates a pop-up book feel of ‘fairytalism’ in the Shrek and Puss in Boots universe.
The perfect villain is the big bad wolf. His staple whistle swiftly becomes a memorable, creepy, and yet incredible warning sign. He appears as Puss struggles to keep the last of his nine lives, introducing fear into a previously fearless cat’s life.
As Puss attempts to escape, he panics. This movie, aimed primarily at children, has one of the most effective displays of anxiety that I have seen. When the wolf appears in the distance, his whistle causing Puss’ heart to palpitate. As the scene proceeds, the music builds alongside the fear in Puss. The animation shows the prickling of Puss’ fur. Puss leans against a tree, panting heavily, his heart pounding in his chest.
Puss, played by Antonio Banderas is brilliant, especially in his relationship with Kitty Softpaws, played by Selma Hayek. The banter between the two counterbalances the darker themes of the film. Comic relief is provided by Perrito, a small dog who eventually functions as Puss’ theory animal.
Although on the surface, this film is another in a long line of animated features that seem to aim at both children and adults. As the director, Joel Crawford, noted, “It’s a comedy, it’s an adventure but it’s also a big meaningful story.” And a way to begin a conversation on mental health.