Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

Annie Get Your Gun

Colour, Musical

Released: 1950

Rated: Approved (G)

Length: 107 min

Age: 4+  (5 or 6 for fuller comprehension)   (commonsense media sez 6+)

Scary Factor: nothing scary

Violence: a lot of guns, naturally, but all used for target shooting; only one re-enactment of an Indian attack, make sure kids understand it’s all a big circus act and nobody is really being shot; Frank gets mad at one point and punches somebody, but it’s a rather isolated event

Other: racial insensitivity, depicting Native Americans as uncivilized for comic purposes; lots of “ugh’ and “how”-type dialogue

Interests: famous women, history, cowboys, Wild West, circus/theatrical, musicals

Next: for girl cowboys see Annie Oakley (1935), Calamity Jane (1953); for Wild West musicals see Calamity Jane (1953), The Harvey Girls (1946), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954); or visit your library to find historical accounts of the real Annie Oakley and her times

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Fairy Wars: Barbie vs. Tinker Bell

Just a quick note on the Barbie Fairytopia series of movies, which we have just recently been watching. (Most recently, just today. PA day from school.) Barbie’s fairy movies are very different from the Disney Tinker Bell brand. In a nutshell:

Pixie Hollow (Tinker Bell): very preschool, everyone’s sweet and lovely (except for one snarky girl), no big villains, no evil plots to foil

Fairytopia (Barbie): characters look and sound like teenagers, default setting for fairies seems to be snide and mocking (“He-LLO!”), ongoing arch-villain with megalomaniac schemes

With the Disney brand comes the deep pockets and big production value, which really comes to the fore in this battle. Pixie Hollow is absolutely gorgeous – fully populated with fairies and critters, and bustling. Fairytopia is beautiful, but in a limited way – generally underpopulated… deserted really, in the two movies we’ve seen. So much for design, but the writing and characterizations are also superior in the Disney product. The Barbie movies rely far too much on teen slang and kind of nasty, gossipy girl relations. They seem to be betting on the premise that little kids want to watch films populated by their older sister and her friends. Odd. The characters too, are quite flat, personality-wise, and they all move like… Barbie dolls. Tinker Bell is a much more nuanced, flawed heroine and her friends are more distinct and fully-rounded characters.

Tink movies are definitely better for younger viewers. The Barbie movies have a more mature world-view and Quest vs. Evil Plot structure.

In conclusion: Barbie’s movies may have come out first, but Tinker Bell kind of kicks Barbie’s pert little behind in this match-up.

Barbie Fairytopia Movies

Barbie: Fairytopia (2005)

Barbie: Mermaidia (2006)

Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow (2007)

Barbie Mariposa (2008)

Disney Tinker Bell Movies

Tinker Bell (2008)

Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure (2009)

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (2010)

Top 10: Princess Movies

Yes, this week it’s a Top 5 x 2! The princess issue is a controversial one these days, but so many little girls love love love their princesses that it’s hard to avoid the whole genre. If you’re giving in to requests for the Disney Princess franchise, but unsure of which movie to start with, I list them here in order of age appropriateness. (And I include one non-Disney.) Generally the newer films are much scarier than the old ones, more violent and with ever more terrifying villains.

There is a raft of other, mostly live-action “princess-themed” movies out there (Princess Diaries, et al), but I’m sticking to the basic fairy tale and revised fairy tale versions here. (Click on the titles with links to go to full reviews.)

So dig out your tiaras, friends… here we go…

1. Disney Princess Enchanted Tales – Follow Your Dreams (2007) – age 3+

Real entry-level fare. A straight-to-video offering, includes two short stories about the everyday lives of Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Jasmine (Aladdin). Mediocre entertainment, but innocuous for even the youngest princesses.

2. Cinderella (1950) – age 4+

The villain here is just a very mean lady, no evil magic or mayhem involved, so this isn’t as scary as many other movies. At the same time, it’s got an overload of lovey dovey romance, which isn’t such a perfect fit for the very young.

3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – age 4+

This one started it all, in terms of princess movies, but also in terms of feature-length animation. Still lovely to look at after all these years, this movie has aged beautifully. Snow White predates the sexier Disney princesses, so she’s actually got a somewhat realistic shape for a young girl. And the dwarves are still pretty funny.

4. Thumbelina (1994) – age 4+

Aha, not a Disney movie, I know. This lesser-known Don Bluth film tells another classic princess tale, this time by Hans Christian Anderson, and stays pretty faithful to the original. Teeny tiny heroine is kidnapped by toads, menaced by bugs and almost married off to a mole, while the brave prince of the fairies searches for her.

5. Sleeping Beauty (1959) – age 4+

The reviews at the time were not kind, but I really like this one. It’s elegant and gorgeous, with some dignity and restraint. A fairly straight-ahead presentation of the traditional tale (with a few alterations). The music is sublime. Maleficent is truly spooky, and the dragon at the end is scary but the battle is quite short.

6. Tangled (2010) – age 5+

Even though this was rated PG for mild violence, and all others on this list are rated G, it is much less scary than the titles below. Some bonking with a frying pan, and a stabbing (he recovers).

7. Beauty and the Beast (1991) – age 5+

One of the modern-era Disney flicks, the violence is heightened in this one. The Beast is truly terrifying at the start, but soon becomes nearly cuddly. Lots of slapstick and fighting. Two terrific song sequences.

8. The Little Mermaid (1989) – age 5+

The first modern princess movie from Disney, and the one that revived the entire company. This set the pattern for the Broadway-style musical films that Disney still churns out. Music and characters are good, but villainess Ursula the Sea Witch is very, very scary. And they give the Anderson tale a happy ending.

9. The Princess and the Frog (2009) – age 5+

A total twist and remodelling which bears no real relation to the old Grimms tale. Characters are engaging, voodoo sequences quite frightening, one death near the end makes this more suitable for older preschoolers.

10. Aladdin (1992) – age 6+

Not one of my favourites. The songs zip along so fast I couldn’t keep up, the racial slurs are frequent, Jasmine is plucky but scantily clad at all times, Robin Williams  tells jokes no child will get, and the scary is very.

So which ones are actually great films? My short list…

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Magical and enchanting. Prince is stiff and Snow White’s voice is annoying, but that’s the worst of it.

2. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

I said it before, I’ll say it again: Elegant and gorgeous.

Hmm. Pretty short list. Both are absolutely beautiful, have just enough loyalty to the original tale to retain a little magic, and just enough of the dark side to have some bite… without beating us over the head with the awesome forces of the powers of evil, yadda yadda. And no A-list actors doing the voices, either – another irritating and distracting trend of late.

Top 5: Ocean Movies

 

 

 

 

 

In honour of my own upcoming weekend campout beside the ocean… five family movies about the mysterious and fascinating deep.

1. Fantasia 2000 (1999) – for age 3+  (just the “Pines of Rome”)

Okay, this is just a part of a movie, but the “Pines of Rome” sequence, featuring a pod of soaring whales, is stunning. (This sequence is totally suitable for the very young, though other sequences in the film are significantly scarier, more suited to 5 or 6 year olds.)

2. Ponyo (2009) – age 4+

An entirely different take on the basic “Little Mermaid” fairy tale. Magical forces out of balance cause the ocean to rise and submerge a coastal town… but no one is hurt in this adventure, which all hinges on a little fish striving to become a human girl.  Underwater scenes are breathtaking. (Read full review.)

3. Finding Nemo (2003) – age 4+

Wonderful fish adventure, highlighting many ocean species along the way. Funny and smart, scary moments but plot moves through them quickly. Sure to spark an interest in learning more about sea creatures. (Read full review.)

4. Pinocchio (1940) – age 5+

Underwater scenes only occur in last part of this movie, but Monstro the whale is unforgettable, if a bit scary. (Read full review.)

5. Blue Planet (2001) – age 5+

Okay, this is a BBC series, not a movie, but don’t forget to follow-up fantasy ocean stories with non-fiction and documentaries. And a trip to the aquarium!

Top 5: Silent Movies for Preschoolers

It’s often hard to find silent movies on DVD, but the classics are out there, as well as collections of short subjects. Be aware of how your child might react to real knock-down slapstick humour – some may find it a little upsetting. (I tried a few Chaplin shorts on my 3-year-old and they were a little too much for her!)

Of course you’ll have to read the title cards… though a version of The Gold Rush is available that’s narrated by Charlie Chaplin himself!

Here are five brilliant and funny silent movies for the whole family.

1. Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Buster Keaton – 4+

Meek projectionist dreams of being a world-famous detective. Visual effects and stunt tour de force. See full review.

2. Safety Last (1923) – Harold Lloyd – 4+

A department store clerk arranges for a stuntman to climb the building as a publicity stunt, but then finds he must make the daring climb himself. (You all know the famous clock-hanging shot!)

3. The Gold Rush (1925) – Charlie Chaplin – 5+

Charlie’s Tramp goes to the Klondike in search of gold, goes through hard times, falls in love. Some menacing with rifles, a bad guy shoots Mounties, then dies in avalanche. A bear is shot (offscreen) for food.

4. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) – Buster Keaton – 6+

Bill Jr., a puny and delicate lad, tries desperately to impress his burly steamboat captain dad.

5. Modern Times (1936) – Charlie Chaplin – 6+

The Tramp struggles to survive in the modern world, undergoes a stint in jail and another in a factory. Some gunplay, usual slapstick stuff, plus smoking, accidental drunkenness, and accidental ingestion of “nose powder”, resulting in crazy behaviour.

Top 5: Movies to Entertain (almost) Every Age

Nothing is harder than selecting one movie that will keep older kids and adults entertained, and yet not terrify or totally baffle the very young. Ever since Walt Disney practically invented the ‘family film’, covering both ends of the age spectrum has become a tightrope-walk for film producers dreaming of huge dividends. Unfortunately the youngest viewers often get the short end of this stick, as too many of these movies are overflowing with clever cultural references that only their parents will appreciate, and scenes of terror and violence aimed squarely at their teenage brothers.

In general, you will always do well with Pixar flicks, as they are all so intelligently done that they are sure to delight everyone. In fact Pixar occupies 3 spots out of my list of 5 below. Some of the Pixar films, however, are a little more violent and aimed a little older – I’ve picked the best titles for youngsters below.

Here are my picks for pleasing every age group. Click on titles to read full reviews.

1. Wall-E (2008) – age 4 to adult

Little ones will adore Wall-E himself; teens will guffaw at the dystopian vision; parents will appreciate the environmental message.

2. Finding Nemo (2003) – age (brave) 4 to adult

Little ones will love the characters and strange sea creatures; teens will like the scares and dentist humour; parents have a message aimed at them – let your child have adventures and don’t worry so much. Plan a trip to an aquarium afterward.

3. Yellow Submarine (1968) – age 5 to adult

Little ones will find it bizarre and funny; teens will pick out the deadpan puns delivered by the way too-cool Beatles and enjoy the music, which still holds up (in my opinion anyway); parents will love the nostalgia factor and 60s art design. Looks and sounds like no other movie.

4. Toy Story (1995) / Toy Story 2 (1999) – age 5 to adult

Little ones will love the walking talking toys; teens will enjoy the smartassed dialogue; parents will find the themes of abandonment and existential dilemmas strangely moving.

5. The Iron Giant (1999) – age 6 to adult

Little ones will love the friendship between boy and robot; teens will love the beatnik, the outsider angle, the bathroom humour, as well as the destruction and battle scenes; parents can ponder the paranoia of the Cold War era and and cry over the ending… no, everyone will cry over the ending and then get a happy surprise at the very, very end.

Top 5: First Movie Musicals for Preschoolers

I’m not including here the animated Disney ‘musicals’, first because they are pretty obvious choices, and secondly because, with some exceptions, the music is often forgettable. I’ve chosen to focus instead on glorious, old-school, Broadway-style live action movie musicals. (Mary Poppins being a borderline case, but it’s mostly live-action.)

The grand old MGM musicals should boggle your child’s mind with the brash, over-the-top craziness of it all. I showed That’s Entertainment to two four-year-old girls last summer, and during the Esther Williams swimming sequences, well, their jaws were on the floor. Remember, that which you and I find cheesy, they may regard as nothing short of miraculous.

5 MUSICALS

1. Mary Poppins (1964) – 2+          (This title on amazon.)

2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1945) – 4+          (This title on amazon.)

3. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – 4+          (This title on amazon.)

4. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – 5+          (This title on amazon.)

5. Annie (1982) – 5+          (This title on amazon.)

Singin’ in the Rain is the only one of the five with a plotline that isn’t immediately child-relateable – that is to say, it doesn’t have a child or teen protagonist with problems children can easily identify with and understand. However it should still grab young viewers with its humour, energy and verve.

If you’re not sure about the plotlines, and whether your child will find them interesting or even comprehensible, here’s my bonus suggestion:

6. That’s Entertainment, Vol. 1 (1974) , Vol. 2 (1976) – age ? (both rated G) : These DVDs are simply compilations of song and dance numbers plucked from many old musicals. An excellent introduction to the world of old movies and musicals, though you may have to fast forward through the ‘modern-day’ introductions from aging stars.

I’ve got a long list of runners-up, so keep tuned for “the next top 5 musicals”…

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)


Rated: G
Length:  99 min.
Age: 4 and up.           Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: usual pirate fight scenes, though no blood; pirate attack on tavern a little alarming (though interjected with funny business)

Also: human character dies at beginning of heart attack, after drinking excessively (no drunken muppets though)

Interests: pirates, ships, muppets, adventure

Next: The Muppet Show TV series, or movies: The Muppet Movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol, etc.
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Sleeping Beauty (1959)


Rated: G

Length: 75 min.

Age: 4 and up.                      Commonsense Media sez: iffy for ages 4/5

Scary Factor: no real danger until the climax, when Maleficent turns into a dragon to battle the prince (scene is relatively brief)

Intense Scenes: far more suspense and chills than outright scares – Maleficent is wonderfully threatening; scene in which Aurora pricks her finger on the spindle is eerie and enthralling.

Bad Behaviour: Boozing – the two kings drink endless toasts to each other and a minstrel gets quietly sloshed under the table.

Language:  “fools! idiots! imbeciles!” barked by Maleficent at her underlings; she also mentions the powers of “hell”

Interests: fairy tales, princesses, knights, castles, dragons, magic, fairies

Next: Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Thumbelina

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Finding Nemo (2003)


Finding Nemo

Rated: G
Length:  100 min.
Age: 4+ (but not an overly timid 4!)         Commonsense Media sez: 5 +

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Scary factor: Marlin’s wife disappears in opening scene, the (offscreen) victim of a barracuda; throughout: much peril, many close escapes, but the pace is good, nothing lasts for very long so you should be able to sail right through. In the fish tank Nemo has the threat of a  ‘fish-killer’ little girl hanging over him, and takes part in escape plans in which he risks being sucked into the filtration system rotating blades. No real violence or gore. (Dory is accidentally smacked in the nose once and a little blood drips out, that’s it.)

Most scary: a huge shark chases Marlin and Dory, chase ends with underwater mines exploding (The shark scene occurs right after Marlin meets Dory, if you want to skip it.)

Next most scary: a creepy anglerfish chases them: see picture at the end of this review.  Anglerfish scene occurs after they chase the sinking swim mask into the darkest deep, if you want to skip it. Be sure, though, to watch to the very end of the credits, when the anglerfish gets his comeuppance.

Intense scenes: my daughter was bugged by the jellyfish scene. The jellyfish are rather passive, they don’t even seem sentient, but it is really creepy how they float in and surround the fish. Big suspense. Another one which bothered her was the scene inside the whale, when Marlin loses all hope. There isn’t anything overtly scary, but the intense emotions troubled her a little.

Interests: sea creatures, fish, boats, the ocean, fish tanks, dentistry (just kidding)

Next: a museum of natural history visit, or a visit to the zoo or aquarium; documentary movies about amazing sea creatures, movie: Ponyo

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.