Foreshadowing is a literary tool filmmakers adapt to provide early clues about where the plot is headed. It is a storytelling technique that, when used skillfully, gets viewers involved and thinking about the plot unfolding before them because they are picking up hints about what may soon happen. Foreshadowing in kids' movies is designed to make it easier for children to follow the plot and understand themes.
Foreshadowing in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
In this classic film, a tornado transports Dorothy Gale into the fantastical land of Oz, where she must contend with witches, odd creatures and supernatural happenings. The real message of the film is the value of self-reliance; the film helps children learn that they can succeed in life and survive great hardship through their own resourcefulness and determination.
Examples of foreshadowing can be seen in the early black-and-white sequence. Every major character who will appear in Oz--the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard himself and, most famously, the Wicked Witch of the West--is introduced at the beginning of the film as a normal, readily identifiable character. Ms. Gulch is a hateful crone who attempts to take away Dorothy's dog, Toto, representing a threat to the main character. Later, the same actress (Margaret Hamilton) will appear in Oz as the Wicked Witch, threatening Dorothy once again. A sham carnival worker who predicts phony fortunes will appear later in the film as the tricky Wizard of Oz, who is much less than he appears to be.
The Wizard of Oz uses foreshadowing to encourage children to rely as much on their own wits and resources as they would depend on the kindness of strangers.
Foreshadowing in "Charlotte's Web" (1973 and 2006)
Charlotte is a spider who lives in the rafters of a barn in this classic story by E.B. White. In the two film adaptations, Charlotte resolves to save the life of a runt pig named Wilbur, who is destined for the dinner table.
Early in the film, Charlotte explains to Wilbur that all living things eventually die. This foreshadowing sets the stage for the main plot struggle, which is saving Wilbur from the slaughterhouse. To do this, Charlotte weaves a web over the barn door with a message that startles the humans and spares Wilbur's life. In the process of spinning her web, Charlotte expends all her energy and dies, just as she had hinted to Wilbur at the beginning of the story.
Foreshadowing in "Bambi" (1942)
Bambi is a classic animated film produced by the Walt Disney Studios. The picture highlights the life of a young deer that grows to maturity in a deep forest while transcending tragedy. Early in the film, Bambi's mother warns him of the dangers in the forest, none greater than Man with his gun.
The death of Bambi's mother is foreshadowed by her conversation about the threat of Man encroaching upon the forest. Her death is the catalyst that propels the story forward and drives Bambi, determined and self-confident, to survive into adulthood.