12 Most Important Business Lessons We Learn from Kid Shows and Movies

12 Most Important Business Lessons We Learn from Kid Shows and Movies

When we are kids, few things are more enjoyable than sitting down to watch cartoons. I remember waking up at some ridiculously early time on Saturday mornings so that I could catch the Smurfs, which at various times was followed by the Wuzzles, the Snorkels, the Shirt Tails (or was that Sunday?) and many other fine fictional foondangles.

As we grow older and more cynical (I meant more wise) we realize that we were brainwashed into smartness while watching these cartoons. From our very earliest memories, we were subtly encouraged to be good people, and more than that, good business people. You want proof? Well here you go!

1. Bugs Bunny’s “What’s up, Doc?”

When we’re kids, we assume that Bugs Bunny always asks Elmer Fudd “what’s up” as a means of taunting, but as we get older we understand that Bugs is teaching us the importance of checking in with our clients and/or customers on a regular basis. Asking “what’s up” is a simple yet effective way to show that you’re interested in your customer’s well-being. Of course, one hopes they respond in a far more benevolent manner than Elmer did, but one can assume they will, most of the time.

2. The Smurfs – use your talents

I recently watched a story about the Smurfs on CBS Sunday Morning and something interesting was pointed out during the story. The Smurf village was organized so that everyone could work based on their talents and abilities. Brainy Smurf did all of the smart people stuff. Smurfette uh…well, you get the idea.

3. Finding Nemo – lessons from Nemo, Nemo’s dad, and Dory

I could have counted this one item as three different characters so I’d like to pat myself on the back. Ehem, now then. We can learn a lot of important business lessons from Finding Nemo. Nemo teaches us that even though we think we know everything, especially when we’re new to a business, it can really benefit us to take a moment to learn from the more experienced. There are a lot of sharks and crazy kids out there!

From Nemo’s dad, we learn that appearances aren’t everything. Nemo’s dad, you might recall, is a clown fish who can’t tell a single funny joke. Take time to get to know people.

Finally, there’s Dory, whose complete inability to remember anything important causes a lot of problems. There’s no harm in writing stuff down, sending yourself an email, or even leaving yourself a voicemail. Forgetting big stuff in a business setting can be awfully dastardly.

4. Jimney Cricket and Charlotte the Spider – the importance of a brain trust

One might argue that the main characters in Pinocchio and Charlotte’s Web are, well, Pinocchio and then Wilbur the pig. However, neither character would have gotten very far without the wise advice of Jimney Cricket and Charlotte. One might also note that both wise mentors were bugs. Kind of interesting, huh? Always listen for wisdom even from those who at first glance may seem insignificant to your plot. I meant, business goals.

5. Sully and Mike – look for new ways to do business

If you have ever watched Monsters Inc., you know that it is rife with business ideas. The biggest lesson, though, is that you need to be willing to try entirely new ways of doing things. Monsters Inc originally thrived on scaring children, but when Sully and Mike realized that laughter was much more powerful, the whole business changed, and for the better!

6. Ginger the Chicken – all for the team

Sometimes, just like Ginger and her chicken friends, businesses find themselves in what seems to be a no-win situation. It’s perfectly easy for one person or even two to up and quit, but the best business people will look for ways to bring the entire business out from under the shadows. And remember, don’t lose your heads.

7. Tweety Bird and Roadrunner – think fast on your feet

Obviously, and I hope I don’t offend anyone by pointing this out because it is so clear, the Tweety Bird/Sylvester cartoons and the Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons were intended to teach us how to think quickly on our feet. Businesses that are thriving today are flexible, are able to react quickly, and can come up with brilliant situations on the fly. Or on the run. Forces much more scary than that coyote are out there in the world of business, right?

8. Scooby Doo – don’t be afraid to be afraid

Comedian Eddie Izzard notes that Scooby Doo and Shaggy are two of the strangest heroes in the history of the world’s storytelling. They are essentially completely goofy and what one might call scaredy cats, and yet we’re always rooting for them because they keep plowing ahead no matter how scared they are. When you’re running a business, it’s okay to let your employees or co-workers know that tough times are coming, but so long as you keep moving and serve up the Scooby Snacks, your team will continue to follow and respect you. You may even solve a mystery or two.

9. Inspector Gadget – the best technology doesn’t outweigh the best people

Even though the show was called Inspector Gadget, the real heroes of the show were Gadget’s niece, Penny, and her dog, the aptly named Brain. While Gadget always had all sorts of new gizmos to play with, and while he thought he was using them to the utmost of his abilities, it was Penny and Brain who always saved the day. Interestingly, one might note that it was Gadget who got all of the accolades and who also earned all of the wrath of Dr. Claw.

10. Tom and Jerry – endless chasing gets you nowhere

It’s quite plain to see that Tom and Jerry was built around one simple business principle – if all you do is chase your competition, that will end up being ALL you do. At some point, separating yourself from the competition needs to be prioritized over chasing after your competition. Don’t always try to eat your competition either. Try something entirely new that gets you out of the never-ending cycle!

11. The Secret of Nimh – don’t be afraid to ask for help

The Secret of Nimh was one of my favorite books and movies when I was a kid. How surprising it was to realize that it’s really all about the idea of asking for help from unexpected sources when you’re running a business. Mrs. Frisbee asks for help from the great scary owl and from the equally scary rats. In her courageous bid to get help from those who have skills and knowledge she does not, Mrs. Frisbee is able to save her family. What resources are out there that you could call on if you just got the courage to ask?

12. Shrek – going by the book is just a starting point

There are actually a lot of business lessons from Shrek, but the main one I get out of it is that while “going by the book” is a good place to get started, you don’t need to be orthodox about all of the rules and guidelines you may have learned in business school. Color out of the lines a bit. Experiment. Look for new and unexpected ways to make your business work. Really really.

What other business lessons have you learned from the shows and movies of your childhood? I’d love to hear about them!

Margie Clayman


Marjorie Clayman (@margieclayman) is the Director of Client Development at her family's 58-year-old marketing firm, Clayman Advertising, Inc. Margie is the resident blogger at www.margieclayman.com and is the resident librarian at www.thebloglibrary.com. Margie's writing has been featured on pushingsocial.com, problogger.net, convinceandconvert.com, and dannybrown.me. Margie has recently published an e-book called The ABC’s of Marketing Myths. Margie is still not used to talking about herself in the third person but is working on it.

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My favorite one was from Tom and Jerry! It gets old to chase your competition. Everyone needs to try something new once in a while. I think it's good to have competition but not always the same one. Be innovative and it will benefit you in the end. I think this applies to businesses and to PR people.


Love love love this. I can now proudly say I watch all of these not because they are funny and lighthearted ways to end a difficult day, but I am LEARNING while watching. Smile. Great post.

@leaderchat - what would my days be without your lessons??


Some great examples here Margie. It's amazing what you can learn from children's entertainment, and many of the lessons are worth reminding ourselves as adults. I blog about leadership in the movies at movieleadership.com and have found some great lessons in Chicken Run and A Bug's Life in particular.


Jonny Quest - go on adventures... learn something new, see something different, but bring some adult supervision! Fun angle to look at things! Thanks!


I loved the analogies throughout, and man did I watch my share of Looney Tunes! My favorite line from above: Of course, one hopes they respond in a far more benevolent manner than Elmer did.

I also really appreciated: the best technology doesn’t outweigh the best people. Excellent point!


Is it bad that I sometimes watch cartoons without my son?

PegFitzpatrick moderator

Such a fun topic! I will say lessons learned from Batman! It is important to have a great partner for teamwork and backup! POW! Great branding gets your message across. If you are a millionaire you get all the best tech tools, a butler and a secret batcave. And a secret hotline to the mayor, Batman could have called in those chips anytime he needed them.Fun! I think I could write another 12 in the comments. Love this topic. :D


I love watch kids stuff, always has messages for both kids and us big kids! Willy alway try and try again - didn't give up, tried different ways! Think I will blug in one my kid movies tonight! Thanks Margie, another great post!


LOVE this, Margie. So many times I find myself getting a message from watching things with my kids, and sometimes the best part is hearing their reactions. After Nemo, my then 3 year-old said it's important to "hold hands, even underwater, so you don't get lost." I love that.


Excellent idea, great list MC! For me, it's always been the "Wizard of Oz" that had the best takeaways for kids and adults. There truly is no place like home and having a little courage, brains, and a heart ain't too bad either!


I miss parts of my childhood! Sometimes I wish I had MY kids childhood!!!


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