In this scene from Toy Story 3, all the characters resign themselves to a fiery death at the hands of an evil Teddy Bear.
Pass the popcorn!
image courtesy of Disney.
When I was a kid, my mom made the terrible mistake of leaving her children alone with her husband. My dad, a great and loving man, showed us Old Yeller and, thus, ruined our lives. He thought we would like it because it had a dog in it. Well, let’s be honest, it only has a dog in it until the end of the movie when a little boy shoots and kills him. Real heart-warming stuff there. My dad, again a seemingly rational adult person, undid years of my mom’s careful sheltering and screening of all movies and has yet (will never) live it down. It just goes to show how powerful such media can be. Like I said, lives ruined.
So obviously I will never let my son watch something that would upset him to such a degree. Oh except that one time… Last Thanksgiving, we were cooking and prepping and wanted to keep Calvin entertained and out of our way so I had pre-planned and recorded a movie for him to watch.
Well his favorite TV show is Curious George so I, like an idiot, assumed the Curious George movie would be approximately the same content. We wandered in and out of the living room in between cooking to check on him. Then as we are frantically getting dressed and packing up the potatoes we hear him crying in the living room. We go in to find him miserable, watching a scene in the movie where the Man with the Yellow Hat is yelling at George to go away and they lock him in a cage on a dark ship and send him back to Africa. I don’t know the plot points for this but I know it made Calvin really, REALLY sad. And it made me feel like the biggest jerk of all time. Well until we recounted the story on the drive over to dinner and he started crying again. Then I felt like the biggest jerk of all time. My son is 2 but the emotional manipulation of movies and TV shows is certainly not lost on him. In my opinion, he will have enough emotional manipulation, sadness, and character-building opportunities in his real life and I don’t need the TV to handle that. I want shows that are purely built for entertainment or even education.
Ok actually I have two important criteria for kid’s movies. 1) Don’t ruin my kid’s life and 2) Throw some jokes at the big folks. I prefer to use his allotted TV time watching a movie together but, so help me, I cannot watch more than 30 seconds of Thomas the Train. No one talks like that! Why does your creepy-faced train talk like English is his second language? Ugh! I usually check new movies now on http://www.commonsensemedia.org (they also review apps and video games) to see if they are age-appropriate and read what other parents say.
I have compiled a list of movies that I like and ones that I dislike. I’ve also identified the parts that we skip over.
The banned list:
Toy Story 3: This movie is too mature for most 30 year-olds. All kinds of great issues like abandonment, dictatorship, near-death experiences, etc. This movie isn’t even fast-forwardable there are so many parts I need to skip over. Even the old dog makes me sad. I have no idea why they took the franchise so off course.
Curious George: I didn’t watch the whole thing, just saw the one tramautic scene. Maybe it would be ok if we fast-forwarded through that part but I’m not going to risk that movie again.
Cars 2: So much violence and gun play it is unreal. The bad guys torture and kill a car (no room for imagination, they say “kill him” and spell out how he can’t, in fact, just replace his engine block instead it is death for him. Wow. Thanks.) Other cars blow engines and are “hurt”. Mater shoots guns. Why on earth is that necessary? They kill off Doc Hudson (he could have been “on vacation”). It is just all so unnecessary for a children’s movie. It’s a movie about race cars, just let them have a race. That would suffice.
Bambi, Old Yeller, Little Mermaid (Anything Disney pre-90s): Lots of dead parents and/or animals. Also, no catering to the adults forced to watch the movies. Up: I don’t even know if people consider this a kid’s movie but since it’s animated I will mention that this is not appropriate my kid. Mainly because he would wonder why Mom is bawling like a freak of nature.
Toy Story: Sid is a jerk but otherwise pretty good.
Toy Story 2: My favorite of the series. We fast forward through Jessie’s flashback song.
Finding Nemo: We fast forward through the opening sequence.
Cars: Other than the very confusing question of why the cars have seats, this one is good, quality fun
Shrek: My son’s favorite
The Lorax: We took him to see this as his first movie in the theater because it is his favorite book and it was great. Lots of music. He sort of got excited when they were all fighting over the seed. He seemed really concerned about where it was but not upset.
Curious George (TV Show): I personally hate this show but it’s too late to ban it. Calvin loves it. I just find the monkey to be infuriating.
Dinosaur Train: They learn about a new dinosaur in every episode and they use a time-travel train to visit dinosaur from different eras. Any good nerd would appreciate that detail. Calvin likes it because there are dinosaurs and a train. Pretty good combo for my kid.
How To Train Your Dragon: I know this is meant for older kids but most of it is really good and funny. We fast-forward through the final fight scene where Toothless gets captured and chained to a boat. That’s not nice.
Monsters, Inc: Love it. We fast-forward through the part where Scully yells at the test dummy and scares Boo.
Oceans: He really loves this documentary about the oceans. It is really beautifully filmed and super interesting. There are lots of animals being eaten but it doesn’t seem to bother him.
Ice Age 2: I bought him this movie as his dinosaur fascination was growing. He scratched the dvd so it has been a while since we watched it. I can’t remember if there are any parts that I didn’t like. Well I don’t like that little rodent chasing the nut plot but maybe that is just a personal preference.
Madagascar: Man I love those penquins.
And that’s my take on kid’s movies. I know kids aren’t even supposed to watch TV and they should just be outside playing in their organic herb garden but that’s not my life every day. We love to have family movie night and eat a picnic dinner in the living room. Let me know if you have any suggestions to add (or avoid) to our rotation. And, remember, it’s more about me than the kid.
~ Leslie Foss of Ipso Momso