Remember when Disney Animation was in the Lost Age of “Home on the Range” and “Chicken Little”? That was a dark time, when finding good entertainment to shut the kids up was harder to find. Then came John Lasseter, ushering in “Meet the Robinsons” and “Bolt,” giving Disney Animation a Most Improved award to add to their wall.

It’s been a while since I saw Bolt, and I remembered it as a fun flick. So the day after Christmas, when the noise became too much to bear, I rounded up Finley and Kella and glued them to the couch for a couple hours to watch the movie. And, despite Miley Cyrus’s voice used as a bald-faced attempt to get the then-Hannah Montana tween fans to the theaters, it still holds up as a pretty good movie.

But what lessons does it sear into my pre-schoolers’ minds?

I’m bothered by Bolt’s size. He’s a full grown dog, but looks like a puppy. Did they stunt his growth?

What I Think It Teaches My Kids

Lesson 1: Pets are awesome

Growing up, I had Homeward Bound and Milo and Otis to indoctrinate me to love cats and dogs. Bolt is a modern attempt to convince kids they need to beg their parents for a pet. Fortunately, we already have an old, gross dog, so my kids know better. So suck it, Disney.

Lesson 2: Fires are dangerous

I’ve never noticed this before I had kids, but fires are the go-to disaster of kids movies. Big Hero 6, Walking with Dinosaurs, Bambi, etc. Jungle Book has fire, too, but it’s a ‘cool’ thing in that one. Ingraining our children with the “fire, bad,” lesson is good and all, and considering we’re so afraid of our son’s obsession with fire that we’ve disabled our gas fireplace, I really shouldn’t complain that children’s movies pound the lesson in their malleable little brains. Yet it seems a bit lazy artistically.

Or whatever. It’s a friggin’ kid’s movie.

Bolt will eat my soul if I accuse him of laziness

Lesson 3: You aren’t nearly as cool as adults tell you

If I had a dime for every time some adult told me, “You can do anything you want,” I’d certainly have more money than I’ll ever make as a writer.

I’m not sure if this is something that started with my generation, but we’re definitely in the time of The Great Coddling. That whole “everyone is awesome, you’re great no matter what, medal for participation” phase has been going on for a while now, and I’m sure I’m at least a little guilty of it with my kids. Yet no matter how much we’re told that we can do something, the fact is there will come a time where we can’t do something.

Bolt is about not being able to do something. He’s been lied to all his life about having super powers, so he thinks he actually has super powers. That’s a dangerous place to put someone once they fall out of the nest (or the rotor on a Helicopter Parent has a short).

The message in Bolt is to realize that you’re not as cool, successful, powerful, etc., as your parents and teachers says you are. But the real you can still make a difference.

Now that’s a great message, and, as far as I’ve seen, unique among children’s movies.

What My Kids Say They Learned From The Movie

Finley (son, 4 yrs old): “Bolt can save the girl from the fire.” Yes, indeed, Finley. Just don’t expect our old dog Chloe to do the same for you.

Kella (daughter, 3 yrs old): “Um, the cat.” I never got exactly what she meant from that. Cats are better than dogs, maybe?

(Don’t miss the other Disney Lessons, which will be posted on the intro page as they’re written)