The Incredible Journey (1963)

The Incredible Journey (film)

The Incredible Journey

Released: 1963

Rated: G

Length: 80 min

Age: 3+

Scary Factor: various dangerous situations for animals are rather tamely presented, not disturbing at all, and no notable injuries are sustained; cat is swept away in river but later rescued; a man shoots at dog rummaging in garbage can, but mainly to scare him away; cat is chased by a lynx but escapes

Interests: pets, cats, dogs, wilderness, nature, Canada, adventure

Next: read the book The Incredible Journey


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

Martin Scorsese on Visual Literacy

Here’s a great 2006 interview with the director, in which he makes the case for teaching young people visual literacy by watching and making movies. (courtesy of Edutopia)

With the increasing dominance of media imagery in our daily landscape, it’s important that our children learn how messages are put together, how their eyes are being directed, how their emotions are being played, and maybe even how to craft images themselves. After all, the rise of digital media has made image collection and manipulation available and affordable for everyone. The next generations are increasingly going to be confronted, pummelled, swayed and played by the media-makers, and basic visual literacy will help them negotiate this new landscape.

Family Christmas Movies – a List

Commonsense Media is my go-to source for checking out the age appropriateness of movies, and here is their list of the most well-known holiday movies, and some not so well known.

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 6 1/2 yr old and I are definitely going to watch A Christmas Carol, but a different version – I’ve got the Alastair Sim version from 1951 on VHS. I think the Dickens classic is a terrific choice, not just for the Christmas theme but also as an introduction to other Dickens works, and a great period piece drama as well… nice for the young ones to see something from another time period. (Unbeknownst to my daughter, this is early training for watching the 6 vol. version of Pride and Prejudice with me some day!)

NB. Commonsense rates my 1951 version a little older (age 7), and says it’s darker than the 1938 film.

One thing I particularly like about A Christmas Carol is that it’s kind of a conceptual bridge for kids. They see so many black-and-white bad guy-good guy stories that it’s interesting to see what they think about a bad guy who is not only the main character, but becomes a sympathetic figure and eventually turns good. Very good. And the triumphant, warm ending is a great payoff for viewers of any age.

Related Posts:

On Dickens and school reading

What Age is Right for Harry Potter?

My six-year-old is loving stories about magic and strange creatures, and it occurred to me that we might be ready to wade into Potter-mania. Maybe. I think. Or maybe I should wait. Isn’t it too scary? Too violent? Too intense?

Fortunately I’ve come across this succinct bit of advice on Commonsense Media re. what ages are best for all the Harry Potter books, movies and games.

Here’s the gist of it… At age 6 or 7 it’s fine to read first book to them aloud (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), and maybe watch the first movie.

After that the books and movies ramp up pretty quickly, agewise. You should check out the link for greater detail, but the last book, and the movies from Goblet of Fire onward are more appropriate for age 11 or 12.

Also included in the article are recommended ages for the various Harry Potter video games.

There really shouldn’t be any rush to put HP into your child’s hands, after all there are many, many fantasy books and movies out there more suitable for ages 5, 6, or 7, titles that are tamer, less violent and scary, and just not so grim. I’m working on a list of these right now, to be posted soon, I hope!

Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Bambi (1942)


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


Free Chaplin films online

Man oh man I wish I had more time to explore free movies online! Here’s a terrific source of Charlie Chaplin films, thanks to the good people at

Many shorts listed, as well as feature-length films. On this blog I have reviewed City Lights (1931, good for 6+), and The Gold Rush(1925, good for 5+).

Introduce your child to a genius of the silent screen!

Oscar-Winning Animated Short

Here’s a link to watch the animated short film which won the Oscar this year – The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. A wordless hymn to the romance of books, with a distinct nod to Buster Keaton.

Composer Robert Sherman dies

The elder of the two Sherman brothers, famous composers of countless memorable Disney songs, has passed away in London at the age of 86. (Here is a full obituary from NPR.)

There’s a phrase in children’s animation production circles, “timeless and classic”, which simply means “make it look and sound generic enough that it won’t become dated and we can keep selling the thing for the next 100 years”. The songs of Robert and Richard Sherman, however, are bona fide examples of “timeless and classic” in the good sense. Consider Mary Poppins – “Chim Chim Cheree”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Feed the Birds”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”… or The Jungle Book – “The Bare Necessities”, “I Wan’na Be Like You”… or “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, or “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” from The Aristocats, or “Winnie the Pooh”, or even the theme park classic “It’s a Small World (After All)”. (Okay, that last one is a real ear-worm, guaranteed to drive you crazy if it gets into your brain, but that’s just further testament to the Shermans’ skill!)

I find the music in current kids’ movies to be sheer treacly pop – trendy and instantly-dated, but also amazingly forgettable. Not to mention seriously lacking in charm. The Sherman brothers’ songs were the opposite, featuring such warmth, sincerity, clarity, wit, and, yes, timelessness that they never seem to fade from the memory. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen Mary Poppins, and we had it on heavy rotation for nearly a year, every time Julie Andrews sings “Feed the Birds” it still makes me cry. What a wonderful legacy.

Robert (right), with Richard, Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke

Okay, this sounds like a real nightmare…

Before a screening of “Puss in Boots” in the UK, the trailers for two horror films were shown by accident. (from the Huffington Post)

Another reason to save the big movie theatre experience until they’re older! (Other reasons include cost, loudness and tiny bladders.)

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