25 Career and Life Lessons You Can Learn from Disney Movies

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of a family of four sitting together on a couch and watching a TV with a speech bubble over that says 'Disney'

Disney movies can be the perfect inspiration for your life and career. While you are watching them and feeling nostalgic for your childhood, you may come to realise that there’s a great lesson behind each storyline.

So, if you’re having a bad day and need a little pick-me-up, select some of your favourite Disney films to cheer yourself up. 

To help you appreciate these movies even more, here are 25 lessons from Disney movies that will inspire you in your life and career.

1. A Bug’s Life: Speak up

Flik was the most innovative of all but was ignored by the rest of the ants in his community because they thought he was unfocused and disruptive. If you have an idea like Flik, don’t shy away in meetings. Do all you can to get noticed and respected as a valued employee.

2. Alice in Wonderland: Be curious

Like Alice, you should be curious enough to explore your own Wonderland! Don’t feel trapped in your current circumstances, whether it’s your job, relationship or even a friendship. If you’ve wondered what it’s like to quit your job and take on a freelance role – take a leap, and follow your dream.

3. Mulan: Take chances

Mulan took a chance posing as a man to become a warrior; she went against the wishes of her family and the rules of society to gain their honour and respect. It’s never too late to start a new profession or take up a healthier lifestyle; you have to have the will to find your inner warrior!

4. Hercules: Keep working on your goals

At the end of the film, Hercules is a hero but remember how he got there? Through training and development, he managed to grow from a boy to a man. This moral can be applied to all parts of your life. If you dedicate yourself to learning and development, you will be one step closer to achieving your goals.

5. The Lion King: Find a mentor

If you think about it, you probably have a mentor in your life guiding you to the right path, whether it’s a family member, an old teacher or your manager. In the Lion King, Rafiki is a mentor to Simba, especially when he feels lost and needs direction. It’s great to have someone to look up to when you’re struggling in your career, and a lot of people are only more than willing to help out, so it’s definitely worth asking.

6. Ratatouille: Don’t take credit for what you didn’t do

Touching on ethics, it should be obvious that you shouldn’t accept praise if you’re not deserving of it. When the fighting gloves come on in a work situation, that is easily forgotten. If you take the spotlight for work you didn’t do, at some point, the rug will be pulled out from under you; Alfredo was naive to think nobody would discover that Remy was the master chef.

7. The Princess and the Frog: Hard work pays off

Tiana is someone with a vision and a career path in sight. She slaved away working two jobs until she had enough money to open up her dream business. Take a cue from her; stay focused on what you want to achieve, and make sure you’re taking steps towards accomplishing whatever that is.

8. Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming

‘When life gets you down, you just keep swimming.’ This encouraging quote from Dory helped lift up Marlin’s spirits. We all have days when we are feeling down and are faced with situations that we think we can’t overcome. But that’s life, and this film teaches us to push through and come out stronger on the other end.

9. Tangled: Get out of your comfort zone

After being held captive for her entire life, Rapunzel had no idea what the outside world was like. She took a leap of faith and was willing to explore the unknown. She teaches us to come out of our comfort zone and jump to new adventures. Don’t limit yourself to what you already know and miss out on professional opportunities, life experiences, and personal growth.

10. Cinderella: Don’t waste any time

The girl with the glass slipper is proof that we shouldn’t take the time we have for granted. When she was given the impossible task of completing all her chores to go to the ball, she achieved it. Quit putting things off for tomorrow or next week and get stuck in to do them.

11. Snow White: Be kind

It’s good to have faith in life and try and see the best in everyone, just like Snow White did with the evil queen. If you’re kind to others, they are likely to imitate your behaviour.

12. Beauty and the Beast: Don’t judge a book by its cover

In today’s society, we are all guilty of judging too quickly! Whether it’s due to social media influences or general behaviour, we must all take a leap out of Belle’s book and not be too quick to base an opinion on someone or something. She took the time to get to know the beast and ended up falling in love with his soul!

13. The Little Mermaid: Live your dream

Like the previous life lesson, too many people in this world are opinionated and like to lay their strong feelings on you. Whether your partner or your parents are telling you what job to take, don’t listen to them and live your own dream, like Ariel.

14. Sleeping Beauty: Don’t lose hope

Although Princess Aurora wasn’t living her true life, she was always filled with a sense of contentment. Her incline to wander led her to the spinning wheel and placed her into a deep sleep. The fairies never lost hope in Aurora’s true love returning to wake her. The moral of the story is that you should always look at the glass as half full rather than half empty.

15. Aladdin: Don’t settle

Jasmine could have had any man she wanted, but she was tired of snobby princes coming along asking for her hand in marriage; she wasn’t willing to settle down unless it was true love. This also taught us not to settle for anything other than what we truly deserve. Don’t rush into ‘just any’ career; you need to have your heart set on it; otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to progress and climb up the career ladder.

16. Pocahontas: Fight for what you care about

This is one of the best lessons from a Disney film; if you believe in something that much, it’s worth fighting for. Pocahontas fought for her people, her homeland and John Smith, all things she cared deeply about.

17. Brave: Family is forever

The characters in this film remind us that ‘friends come and go, but family is forever’. Merida’s story teaches us the true importance of family. She shows us that while you might disagree with them, you shouldn’t try to change them.

18. Frozen: Embrace who you are

Elsa hid from the world, even her own sister, who she loved dearly, to hide who she truly was. Eventually, she embraced her uniqueness, turning it into a strength. This heart-clenching story teaches us that we should embrace our differences and stay true to who we really are.

19. Pinocchio: Lying gets you nowhere

Pinocchio’s tale teaches us that lying gets you nowhere and always comes back to haunt you. One lie leads to another, and then you’re stuck in a real big mess. If you want an easy life, quit the fibbing!

20. Toy Story: To infinity and beyond

As Buzz and Woody learn, you can never set your sights too high. Set career goals and make them happen; once you’ve achieved them, move onto your next accomplishment. Woody didn’t understand Buzz’s slogan when they first met. In the end, he learnt about the power of believing.

21. Up: It’s never too late 

This heart-warming movie reminds us that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Like 78-year-old Carl, you can still follow your passion if you have the will and dedication to do it. No matter your age, it’s just a small reminder that you can change careers or go to university at 40 and follow the path that you’ve always dreamt of. Don’t put anything in life on hold because you feel it’s too late for you to learn something new.

22. Peter Pan: Learn to be independent 

Peter Pan offers to take Wendy to Neverland when he discovers that she must grow up. Despite the fun they had in Neverland, Peter and his friends knew that they had to return to the real world and grow up. You can incorporate this into your daily life to become more independent with your studies, career and life goals. Don’t rely on other people to handhold you through life – you must learn to do things for yourself.

23. Lady and the Tramp: Embrace new perspectives

In this cute movie, Tramp shows Lady a new side of life and encourages her to explore the world. This is an important lesson when it comes to career development – don’t settle once you get comfortable, and always push yourself to achieve more. If you’ve been in the same role for a while and your career feels stagnant, start job searching and find something that will teach you new skills.

24. Bambi: Speak with kindness

This classic Disney film reminds us to be nice! ‘If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothin’ at all.’ So, next time think twice about what you’re going to say. You never know who is listening and how your words could impact them.

25. Monsters, Inc.: Don’t be too competitive 

Randall’s competitive spirit gets him into a lot of trouble in the movie, teaching us that we don’t have to be the best at everything! Although he achieves first place, it comes at a price. It’s a good lesson to not let your competitive behaviour get the best of you and overtake your ethics. While a competitive spirit is good, you must also be a team player.

With these career and life lessons in mind, you can keep watching your favourite Disney films and learn valuable lessons while you’re at it. 

So what’s stopping you? Put your feet up, get a notebook out and make a list of career goals while watching your favourite Disney flick!

What other valuable lessons, messages, and themes have you learnt from Disney characters? Let us know in the comment section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 20 December 2017.