Princess Poppy’s Purpose: How movies can teach kids intrinsic motivation exists.

***Disclaimer: When your two and a half year old is sick the urge to give in to their every want is stronger than on any other day. This can lead to an understanding like no other of a children’s movie after an unbelievable amount of viewings.

Princess Poppy is a troll. Not in the ugly creature who lives under a bridge way, but in the extremely happy, dancing, singing and hugging fanatic kind of way. The community of trolls had been protected by her father many years ago from the dreaded Bergens, or so they thought. Bergens are miserable creatures who can only experience happiness when they devour an unsuspecting troll. One night after an extremely loud party to celebrate being freed from the Bergens for a full twenty years, tragedy struck. A Bergen who was trying to get back into the King Bergen’s good graces crashed the party and snatched several of Princess Poppy’s friends from the party. Princess Poppy went after the Bergen to try and get her friends back. She knew nothing outside of their small community of Trolls, only that she had to save her friends.

Despite the obstacles she faced, the largest one being she had no clue what she was doing nor did she have a plan for getting to her friends safely, Poppy remained positive. Her sidekick, Branch, was less than impressed with her preparation and planning for her trip. He was a No-No penguin (Kotter, 2005). Everything was doom and gloom for Branch, he was Poppy’s complete opposite in every way possible. His negativity and skepticism was at times the only thing keeping the two of them alive.

I won’t ruin the whole movie for you but I will tell you the part that you’ve probably already surmised by now which is the heroine of the story prevails and gets her friends home safely. Poor Princess Poppy had no clue what she was doing, she hit obstacle after obstacle and still accomplished her goals. But why? She had a purpose. Pink tells us that having a purpose that is higher than our own can create a sense of urgency and motivation (Pink, 2009). Princess Poppy’s mission was to save her friend’s lives. As the leader of her people her purpose was to protect them. Pink suggests that working in service of a cause that is bigger than ourselves is a motivator. Poppy’s actions were dictated by the need to affect change in someone else’s life in a big way. There was no reward for Princess Poppy, no carrots and no sticks, other than knowing that she was going to make a difference in the lives of others (Pink, 2009). Now while it wasn’t always cupcakes and rainbows for Princess Poppy she not only manages to save her friends, but also changes the way Branch sees life. Her positivity and determination show Branch that life doesn’t have to be void of adventure and happiness.

What is your purpose?


Dreamworks: Trolls

Kotter, J. & Rathgeber, H. (2005). Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Condition. New York, New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

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