Land developers are evil.
At least according to popular kids’ movies. The most recent offender is “The Battle of Nessie,” a beautiful short film that features the work of award-winning directors Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters, and Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino. Set in Scotland, the film purports to explain how the sweet Loch Ness monster and her rubber duck came to live in the lake they call home. Apparently Nessie was so bereft over a land developer’s turning her bucolic surroundings into a miniature golf course that she wept a lake into existence.
Though the film is visually appealing (with its classic hand-drawn characters and settings), its plot and message struggle to keep up with its imagery. “It’s okay to cry” somehow turns into “Crying sometimes actually solves your problems.” While this may be true if you are an incredibly weepy monster who needs a lake, or if you have an irritating dust particle in your eye, crying alone rarely solves your problems. It seems a little too trite to build even a short film around.
Even if you overlook that treacly message, the evil-land-developer theme so popular these days remains to be endured. In fact, kids’ movies often portray businessmen who buy land and finance real-estate deals with the same sinister overtones used to characterize Communists during the Cold War.
Don’t believe me? Off the top of my head: In the Hannah Montana movie, Miley battles land developers who want to destroy the meadows of her hometown for a shopping mall. In Furry Vengeance, a land developer’s massive community-expansion project translates into the removal of all trees and animals from the area. In Hoot, middle-school children sabotage a construction site and take a land developer hostage. In Avatar, the main characters battle greedy corporate mining developers. In Up, Mr. Frederickson is pushed over the edge when skyscrapers tower above the small home he owned with his wife and the evil developer wants him to sell his lot for even more expansion.
As wonderful and poignant as some of these films are, one wonders how long a country facing over 9 percent unemployment will consider land developers evil. I propose a movie where long unemployed construction workers overcome the self-righteous, morally preening environmentalist to build a subdivision. The developer in “The Ballad of Nessie” is named MacFroogle, which he puts high above his mini-golf course. At the end of the film, some of the letters fall off his sign, turning it into “MacFool.” But we’re the ones who are fools, as we continue to let disdain for capitalism seep into our kids’ books, movies, and hearts.
— Nancy French is the co-author of Bristol Palin’s Not Afraid of Life and Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War.