Life Lessons From Animals and Disney


I waited until the age of sixteen for a Disney princess to be called Giselle, only for princess Giselle in Disney’s Enchanted to not actually be an official princess. Which feels incredibly close to home as I believe Disney has a whole lot to answer for when it comes to cultural norms around gender, beauty and relationships; so y’all can keep your princesses. Nevertheless, I was ridiculously excited when the film first came out, so people would actually know how to spell my name correctly. 

Social conditioning aside, Enchanted is one of my favourite films for more reasons than the Giselle, New York City and killer soundtrack of it all. I have been known to sing So Close by Jon McLaughlin throughout my house. Despite my sceptical heart which doesn’t believe in fairy-tale endings that require a supposed soulmate. Alas, two things can be true. For me, the film is an absolute wonder because of Amy Adam’s character’s relationship with animals. 

Fresh from her animated world of Andalasia, where life is in technicolour with talking animals and princes rescuing you from evil queens, Giselle finds herself in New York City. Which, my friends, is the opposite of real life as Mayor Eric Adams has just appointed a rat czar whose sole purpose is rat mitigation. In other words, the city ain’t animal-loving Andalasia. 

Giselle brings her childlike wonder to the city and sings songs to pigeons, rats and squirrels, inviting them into her apartment to help her clean. Her energy is a delight and while I’m not enlisting London’s urban wildlife into my home, this is how I go about my day. With the spirit of enchantment, being present to life and savouring the beauty in everyday experiences. 

We’re so accustomed to treating animals like an inconvenience unless they’re domesticated dogs or cats, and even more so if you live in a city. Pigeons are shooed away in case they ruin your lunch in a park they call home. Foxes are reported for rummaging in public bins. Rats are well, we know rats have a severe PR problem and squirrels are only cute if they stay up in the trees. Yet, when we see our cities and towns as shared spaces for us all to exist in, we can really learn so much from our animal friends. 

The Lessons

We don’t have to go very far for anything, especially when we have Deliveroo and Uber Eats. We can eat within minutes and get clothes delivered to our front doors the same day. We don’t have to ask someone for wisdom or go to libraries when we can Google information or ask Siri within seconds. When I’m watching squirrels climb an entire tree for something to munch on or ducks bobbing up and down in the water trying to catch something, it reminds me to be patient. When I’m up at midnight watching the foxes rummage through disappointing bins, it reminds me to be patient. 

When I see a flock of birds migrating from one place to another, it reminds me to be patient. Their lives aren’t as urgent as ours, they might have to work a little harder to eat or find a space to rest and that’s a great reminder for us to slow down. 

When we’ve been taught to believe that humans are the most important species on this planet, it gives us a very inflated ego. That this land is ours and everything here is only actually for our benefit and survival. Animals are only here for us to say how cute they are, the sun is only shining for us humans to get tans and the moon is only here for us to take shocking phone photographs of (I’ll still keep trying to take a photo though). When we see our place here like that, we keep taking from what we have. 

A pigeon landed on my balcony once and thanks to us (humans), a plastic bag got stuck in their wings. It was awful to see and a painful reminder of how interconnected we are, and every-time we forget it, this is often how we’re reminded. I called out to my neighbours downstairs and people crossing the street and we all came together to help the bird, as they were unable to fly because of the weight of the bag. Someone got the bag off and the bird flew away. Something that will stay with me was the look the pigeon gave me, one that maybe I’m overthinking it, but really felt like a call to help but a look that was also scared because humans aren’t exactly the friendliest to pigeons. A look that said we need each other, I mean, we share a global address. 

Us all being in make-believe world like Giselle (Disney character and on most days, myself) isn’t always easy when we’re going through it, but being able to see life in full colour, to treat animals like friends and learn from them instead of seeing them like a nuisance, is a pretty amazing world to choose to be in.