Examples of great world building in children’s films, inspiration for your roleplaying game
In my last article about taking inspiration for worldbuilding from films, I said it was best to have a look at some examples, demonstrated brilliantly on the big screen. It’s also a great idea to look at some of the most creative films there are, which are children’s films. Even if your audience might be older, you can appreciate the effort and creativity gone into creating believable worlds for children.
There’s a lot of possibility for world building under the sea, as it’s so very different to what we’re used to. Using Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid as examples, we can easily imagine how a society under the sea would work. Your characters could be different types of fish or other underwater creatures like crabs, seals, or even whales, and move around the ocean exploring all different areas.
Certain areas could be the territory of different creatures, for example sharks around the wreck of an old ship, and deep sea anglerfish in the dark deep waters.
Shrek takes inspiration from all children’s fairy tales, and merges them all together into one fantasy world. All the fairy tales that it does tell aren’t necessarily supposed to all be set in the same world, so there’s some creative licence allowed, as well as throwing in some real-world humour which helps to make the fantasy world more relevant and believable. For example the land of Far Far Away is a very modern celebrity town, and fantasy items and gadgets they use are a parody of what we have today, for example instead of using pepper spray they used a pepper grinder.
The Shrek franchise has laboriously covered a lot of ideas in the sequels, so it’s dubious if there’s any original ideas in there, but effectively if you can think of a fairy tale with interesting character,s situations, magic or monsters, then you could incorporate it into the Shrek world. Also there’s a lot of locations already mentioned where you characters can visit, like Shrek’s swamp, Far far away, Duloc Castle and Worcestershire Academy.
The film Antz shows live living in an Ant colony. The workers and the soldiers do their separate duties for the good of the colony. The colony is conformist and nobody ever puts a foot out of place. The film shows a neurotic ant called “Z” trying to break free of the totalitarian society of the colony, while trying to win the affection of the princess ant.
There’s a lot of source material you could use to find out about real ants and how their colonies are structured. This can be quite inspirational as it’s like a textbook on how your world could work. If you create a game set about a colony of ants, your characters could be workers or soldiers, and have missions outside to collect food, or to fight creatures that come too close to the colony. Also if you want to have a game based on insects, you could look at the film A Bug’s Life, and Bee Movie which both shows more types of insects that your character could be.
In this world, every character is a very different type of monster. The main job in the world is to scare small children in the real world. The monsters can travel to the real world through doorways which lead straight to a child’s bedroom. They collect the fear from the children, as this is a valuable resource to the monsters.
You could use this world as the setting of your game and allow your members to choose what their monster looks like. The game could be set in the same company as the film, or somewhere else, where you could explore the monster world, and show how it differs from the real world.
The world in Toy Story is the same as the real world, but toys can talk and move around on their own (maybe they can in real life too?).
You could use this idea exactly, and your characters could each be a type of toy. This would be great fin for your characters as they remember their favourite childhood toy. They might live in a child’s bedroom, and have adventures when they get lost, left outside, or have to rescue their friends from the mean kid next door. Everything would be an extra challenge for the characters as they are small, and a simple task of opening a door would be difficult. Also remember that your characters should always drop down and appear inanimate whenever there’s a chance that a Human will see them.
If the game goes on for a long time (several years), you could have to have the characters deal with their child growing up and not wanting to play with them any more (like Toy Story 3 when Andy goes to college), and be either thrown away or given to another child. This would give your characters a different setting to get used to.
Now go and do your own worldbuilding!
There’s many more examples, children’s films are definitely the most creative, and you could definitely get some great ideas by watching and taking notes. It’s not just childrens films too, there’s plenty of films for adults that have some great worldbuilding ideas, and I’ve written an article with some examples here. It’s also not just the setting that creates a good game, it’s what you do with that setting. I’ve written an article with some examples of great story scenarios taken from films which might be useful ideas for stories in your roleplaying game.