Luke Epplin writes convincingly in The Atlantic about the supremacy of the ‘magic-feather syndrome’ in kids’ animated features, which is the idea stemming from Dumbo that a character can do anything as long as they build up their self-esteem. The concept stretches back further, too. For example, The Little Engine That Could. Recent film like Planes and Turbo are both guilty of this phenomenon, according to Epplin:
Following one’s dreams necessarily entails the pursuit of the extraordinary in these films. The protagonists sneer at the mundane, repetitive work performed by their unimaginative peers. Dusty abhors the smell of fertilizer and whines to his flying coach that he’s “been flying day after day over these same fields for years.” Similarly, Turbo performs his duties in the garden poorly, and his insubordination eventually gets him and Chet fired. Their attitudes are all part of an ethos that privileges self-fulfillment over the communal good.
In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don’t need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It’s enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world’s most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification.