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Sunshiney Cinema

The sunshine? Non-existent. The seasonal depression? Rampant. Michigan has been experiencing a particularly dark winter this year, with only one day with even partial sunshine this January. The upcoming weeks look similarly glum, with the 10-day forecast having absolutely zero days of sunshine. So many gloomy days can lead to students feeling lethargic, moody, sad, and, for some, depressed. As someone who loves the sun, I’ve been struggling with the extreme lack of vitamin D and am currently trying to find the best ways to keep maintain a positive outlook on life. One of my favorite methods for this has been watching sunshiney children’s movies, where the sun is shining so brightly that you can practically feel the radiation. I’ve compiled my list of the top serotonin-boosting pieces of cinema to help you arise from that cloudy day rut!


Moana (2016)

If a movie has a soundtrack led by Lin Manuel Miranda, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be watching it. Moana became a cult classic as soon as it was released, with viewers of all ages enjoying the story of a brave teenage girl who is drawn to the ocean, despite her father’s wishes that she stay on their island of Motonui and take on the responsibility of chief. Not only does the movie feature beautiful (and sunny) island views, but the music itself is very uplifting and rhythmic, calling back to the Polynesian culture that Moana holds. The ocean, which is the main character in the film, is stunningly designed to create the feel of the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii. Not only does this movie have a great plot and soundtrack, not to mention Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson as Maui the demi-god, but it also is beautifully animated to really portray that island feel. Overall, an excellent film to watch when the Michigan blues are getting you down.


Luca (2022)

Another recent Disney release, Luca, much like Moana, also demonstrates a sunshiney lifestyle. Rather than being based on island life, Luca is set in the small Italian town of Portorosso, which is based on the oceanside towns making up the Italian Riviera. Full of bright houses and a wonderful blue ocean, the story centers around two boys, Luca and Alberto, who are “sea monsters” that have come to the surface, despite everyone in town fearing them. The story has more ups and downs than the cobbled streets of Portorosso, but this movie is ultimately about two kids just vibing in Italy, which is the ultimate dream. There’s sunshine and an extremely uplifting story with a hidden message about not making assumptions, so it’s an elite movie. It also is chock full of Italian culture, including the illustrious Vespa and many bowls of pasta with pesto. Get comfy and watch this movie to feel the Italians’ sunny spirit!


Rio (2011)

Rio has an incredible cast, with Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway playing the last two Spix (aka blue) macaws on Earth, Blu and Jewel. Blu and his owner live in Minnesota, where he undoubtedly felt the effects of dreaded winters until the duo learns of another blue macaw living in Rio de Janeiro and decides to travel to meet her. This movie captures the essence of South America, from its vibrant colors and beaches to its rapidly spoken language. While this film is a little bit scarier than Luca (you’re really on the edge of your seat when the birds get in trouble), it ultimately makes you feel like you’re hang-gliding with exotic birds above the crystal blue ocean, which is all I’m really looking for right now. It also features the blessed song “Let Me Take You To Rio,” which will forever be catchy. Another 10/10 sunshine movie, despite the fact that it’s a Blue Sky Studios film rather than an actual Disney movie.


Honorable Mention: Bluey (2018-present)

Although not a movie, Bluey is a consistently sunshine-filled show that will automatically transport the watcher to Brisbane, Australia, where the Heeler family resides. The accents, the sibling love, and the humor all help give the show a positive, yet very real, feel. Not to mention how adorable the entire family is. The show has many episodes centering around the beautiful nature of Australia, which is bound to bring a smile to your face. The episodes are also super short, so they’re great for when you need a little pick-me-up, but don’t have time to watch a full-on movie.


When the winter blues are getting you down, remember that there will always be a sunny children’s movie to lift you right back up!

One Comment

  1. Jonah Howell + Moosolini Narduccowell Jonah Howell + Moosolini Narduccowell

    WOAH! I really needed this especially because it seems that all hopes for a snow day happen on weekends, not weekdays! I agree that Bluey is one of the best quick pick-me-ups on the market these days! What a great article! I will definitely be watching these instead of doing my APUSH! Just Kidding! (maybe)

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