Alexs Stadermann’s animated Maya the Bee Movie — the awkward title of which seems one definite article short — is a thoroughly modern adaptation of a character first introduced in German children’s literature in the 1910s.
Maya (Coco Jack Gillies) is a young bee who feels stifled by hive society, a xenophobic life so oppressive that she causes a ruckus when she insists on being called Maya and not her original designation, “369.” Leaving the hive on her own, but eventually joined by her timid friend Willy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a hornet named Sting (Joel Franco), she learns that everything she was told about the rest of the meadow was wrong, especially with regard to the vilified hornets.
Maya the Bee Movie does what it does very well, moving along at a brisk pace and with a strong underlying message for its young audience. Perhaps because bees are a matriarchy, Maya being a girl is never a plot point; bees are supposed to follow orders regardless of gender, but Maya has no truck with that.
Nor is she a princess. She’s simply a brave girl determined to find her own path, which is borderline subversive for a movie whose target demographic is at an age when it’s expected to follow orders unquestioningly. There’s a whole world beyond the hive, kids.