A bit ago I deconstructed a fairytale and, as you can imagine, I see a lot of children's programming and read a lot of children's books. Today this has me thinking...how are these stories so different from adult books or shows?
But death is not off limits for children. This is a reality parents seem okay with their kids learning on TV. Ray the firefly dies in The Princes and the Frog. Gaston plummets to his death in Beauty and the Beast, as does the Queen/Witch in Snow White. The dragon/Maleficent is stabbed through the heart with a sword in Sleeping Beauty and war is the theme in Mulan. (According to this article, The Princess and the Frog had to be rewritten for content problems.)
Moral: guns and boobs out, death in.
There doesn't have to be one. At least, one would believe that if you watched 'Mickey Mouse Clubhouse' or 'Dora.' Okay, so there is a small plot--seeking coconuts and using Mousekatools to find them or following Map to get to the fiesta. But there is no dark antagonist (unless you count big, sad Pete or just-wanting-to-fit-in Swiper) or major turning point in these stories.
They can't be too multi-faceted. With the other elements being limited, deep characterization is just inappropriate. But there's always a lesson in each character (excepting user-friendly Mickey Mouse and the like): Tiana must learn that hard work is fine, but balance is necessary, etc.
So...how do children's writers do it? Have you ever tried to write children's books? Do you take an adult plot and simplify and clean? Or do you start basic and build from there with color and fantasy?
I could see writing for children being completely freeing (of the imagination) and totally binding (of the darker instincts). What is the reality?