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What is Meant by Personification in Film?

Personification is a literary device that is frequently used in storytelling to create lifelike connections to otherwise lifeless objects. In film, personification has been used for a variety of different purposes and intents and this storytelling device is equally popular in various forms of literature, too. To help you understand what is meant by personification in film, we’re breaking down the details and key impacts of personification which are used in filmmaking.

camera crew filming on red camera

What is Personification?

Personification is a powerful literary device that represents the allocation of human characteristics to nonhuman or inanimate objects. The nonhuman elements that are personified in film can be anything from an animal or plant to any other type of object such as furniture, a home, or something entirely different. Through personification, human like characteristics are given to these objects. 

The human characteristics that are given to objects through personification in film may include emotions, feelings, behaviors, or actions. That said, personification is frequently used in everyday storytelling as well as in our own personal interactions and engagements as a way of describing emotions, or personalizing concepts for more direct understanding.

What is Meant by Personification in Film?

Personification in film is used to create easier to understand concepts on otherwise complex topics and to add life to otherwise lifeless objects. Personification represents the non-literal use of language which can be used to convey unique thoughts and ideas through a technique in which the filmmaker creates a clearer understanding by adding human characteristics to objects to create connections among the audience.

Personification is used in filmmaking as an animation technique to demonstrate benefits and create connections that help the audience to understand complex or otherwise difficult to understand topics. The use of personification to relate better with an audience or to explain an idea has long been a common practice among filmmakers, particular when it comes to teaching children. This is perhaps why we see personification used most frequently in animated films such as Disney and Pixar animations but we also see it in a variety of adult, fiction films too.

How is Personification used in Film?

Personification is used in film to establish connections and formulate connections among the audience for a variety of purposes. Most often used to teach subjects or create a sense of clarity that could not otherwise be afforded if personification were not employed, the filmmaker frequently employs the use of human characteristics among the inanimate or inhuman objects in order to create a more lively and relatable film.

It’s very common for the filmmaker to employ personification in film in order to explain concepts more directly. The personified objects can help to make ideas that are otherwise difficult to describe or to directly display easier for the audience to understand and connect with. For example, think about the conversation, “The birds and the bees.” Now we all know that the birds and the bees is not technical the focus of any story that mentions this metaphor, but personification of both the birds and the bees in the story can give way to making the concept easier for younger minds to follow.

Some filmmakers will incorporate personification in order to bring life to otherwise dull or less than interesting topics. For instance, personification might be used to add life to trees or animals in order to help the audience understand the interaction among characters and engage. 

Personification in film can also be used to set the scene for the audience. In this sense, personifying objects can make the story easier to follow or more exciting. Personifying objects that make the world appear more vivid in the story represents one of the most powerful means of personification in films, particular those that are not technically considered animations.

Examples of Personification in Film

Many past films have incorporated personification to bring life, excitement, adventure and understanding to otherwise complex, hard to follow, or dull topics. In fact, some of the most popular films of our time have actually incorporated personification to create engagement. Take the following examples of personification in film that have been incredibly popular over the years:

  • Beauty and the Beast – personifies the furniture and other inanimate objects to reveal emotions and create connections among kids while teaching about complex topics on love and understanding.
  • Frozen – Think about Olaf, the snowman that was personified to have deep feelings and emotions that kids worldwide have grown fond of. Where would this film be without personification?
  • Inside Out – this film personified the emotions felt within the character creating an easier to understand grasp of otherwise complex topics around mental health.

Personification is not only popular in animated films, though. In fact, we see personification used in a variety of fiction films such as horror stories. Have you ever watched a horror film that seemingly made the haunted house come alive and talk to the characters? The use of personification in films such as horror films in this example give life to otherwise inanimate objects (the house) while building a sense of fear and creating stronger connection among the audience. 

So what is meant by personification in film? Personification in film is represented by the addition of humanlike emotions and characteristics to nonhuman or inanimate objects to deliver engaging concepts that the audience can easily connect with.