Fantasia (1940)

Fantasia (film)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Released: 1940

Rated: G

Length: 120 – 124 min. (varies depending on what version you have)

Age: some parts 3+, others 5+ (see below)  Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: Mickey attacks renegade broom with an axe and savagely chops it to bits; battle to the death between two dinosaurs; a gigantic devil rises over a mountain commanding a host of demons, the dead rise from their graves

Also: some modest (dare I say artful) nudity among fairies and mythological creatures; much wine drunk by very tipsy god Bacchus

Interests: classical music, fairies, mythology, dinosaurs, ballet

Next: the movie Fantasia 2000; live symphony concerts for children; Nutcracker ballet live or movie version
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Bambi (1942)

Bambi

Released: 1942

Rated: G

Length: 70 min.

Age: 5+         (commonsense media says 5+ too)

Scary Factor/Violence: one antler-slamming battle between Bambi and another stag; terror-stricken animals flee a large forest fire; a scary fight with vicious hunting dogs; gunshots are heard but deaths occur offscreen

Intense Scenes: death of Bambi’s mother (see full review for description)

Interests: animals, forest, nature, seasons, deer

Next: book Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

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The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush  (1925)

Written, directed by, starring: Charlie Chaplin

Rated:  — (unrated)

Length:  95 min. 1925 release / 72 min. 1942 re-release

Age: 5 and up          Commonsense Media sez: 8 +

Scary Factor: Little Tramp menaced periodically for comedic effect; two men struggle over a shotgun which is always pointing at the Tramp; he is also chased by starving, hallucinating miner with a gun and then an axe; cabin tipped precariously on edge of precipice; all threats are treated comically and violence is bloodless and kept at a distance

Intense Scenes: a wanted criminal shoots and kills two police officers before perishing in an avalanche

Other: a bear is shot offscreen for food; some smoking and drinking

Interests: old movies, silent movies, arctic adventure, history

Versions: restored 1925 print is 95 minutes long, with piano music and title cards; 1942 sound release is 69 minutes long, has an orchestral score, no title cards, narration written and performed by Charlie Chaplin

Next: other Chaplin – Modern Times, City Lights

See also: Top 5 Silent Movies for Preschoolers
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The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Released: 1949

Rated: G

Length: 68 min.

Age: 5 +

Scary Factor: lots of shooting guns; battle for Toad Hall extremely violent, flying knives and axes; much slapstick humour

Bad Behaviour: weasels depicted as dead drunk in Toad Hall sequence

Dangerous Behaviour: at one point Toad is blissfully inhaling car exhaust (!?!), to show how much he loves automobiles

Interests: animal stories, automobiles, ghosts, ghost stories

Next: read the originals- The Wind in the Willows  by Kenneth Graham, and the short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving More

Tangled (2010)


Tangled

Rated: PG for brief mild violence

Length:  100 min.

Age: 5 and up.        Commonsense Media sez: 5 +

Scary Factor: not overly scary, mostly just suspenseful chase scenes; scary-looking thugs in tavern are revealed to be sweethearts; Rapunzel is briefly menaced near the end by villains

Violence: Rapunzel repeatedly knocks Flynn unconscious with a frying pan for comedic effect; Mother Gothel stabs Flynn at the end; Mother Gothel falls to her death – though she disappears before she hits the ground, aged right out of existence

Intense: it appears as though Flynn dies in a very sad scene at the end, but he revives; psychological abuse Mother Gothel inflicts on Rapunzel may trouble some

Bad Behaviour: no bad language; there is beer in the tavern, but this is underplayed

Interests: princesses, fairy tales, magic, romance, horses, action, chases
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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!

Stuart Little (1999)


Stuart Little (1999)

Rated: Rated PG for brief language

Length:  84 min.

Age: 5 and up.    Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: Stuart in the washing machine as water is filling up; chased by cat several times; two major chases from alley cats in park

Intense: concept of getting mafia-like cats to rub him out (“scratch him out”); police station conversation about killing sprees and grisly crime photos; alley cats menace a lot but don’t get very close; alley cats dispatched in end by dumping them in pond (aren’t hurt, are seen climbing out and running off)

Bad Behaviour: George pushes another boy down, fists flying, etc. and doesn’t get in any trouble for it (the impression we’re left with is that it’s all right because the other boy was so unpleasant)

Language: swearing! “damn”s, “hell”; presumably included for sole purpose of winning a PG rating; also rude language, “shut up”, “moron”, “loser”, “speak to the butt”

Interests: mice, cats, New York, adoption, family

Next: read the book! More

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.

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