Friday Five: 15 Favorite Children's Films
Friday, May 18, 2012
We've spent two weeks talking about the books we loved as children - today we take a step to the side and consider our favorite childhood (and children's) movies, instead. From the great to the awful, the films we watched (and rewatched, and rewatched again for the billionth time - sorry, mom!) had the potential to be as profoundly meaningful to our adult selves as the books we soaked up.
We're delighted to be joined for today's Friday Five by Lauren O'Farrell and Gary Northfield.
Lauren is a force of crafty nature: an author (Stitch London, Knit the City and Stitch New York), traveller, artist, graffiti knitting pioneer, photographer and giant squid wrestler. She's the founder of Stitch London and has been sneakily stitching graffiti knitting as Deadly Knitshade since 2007. She's also responsible for unleashing Plarchie upon the world - an 8-metre giant squid and our favorite predatory cephalopod.
Gary has been writing and drawing kids comics for nearly 10 years. Famous for his crazy (and creator-owned!) Beano character, Derek the Sheep, he has also worked for Horrible Histories, The DFC, The Phoenix, National Geographic Kids and The Magical World of Roald Dahl. Gary's illustrations can also be found in Stories of the Smoke. His graphic novel about little dinosaurs comes out in 2013 from Walker Children's Books.
Why not share your favorites in the comments?
ET - If you've never put on a hoodie and pedalled your bike at warp speed pretending you've got a giant cross between a hairless dog, a pair of binoculars, a packet of glowing Twiglets and a bag of potatoes in the front basket then you've never seen ET. And you ought to be ashamed of yourself.The film that first taught us that government men in hazard suits are the scariest thing ever, that frogs deserve freedom, and that no matter what Drew Barrymore did in later life she would always be our Gertie.
Watership Down - Independence, courage, brotherhood, trusting that funny feeling in your toe, and hideous death. What the long-eared heroes of Watership Down can't teach you isn't worth knowing. I still can't listen to Bright Eyes without welling up and checking the shadows for the Black Rabbit of Fu Inlé. Also taught me rabbit swearing. Hraka to you all.
Labyrinth - The film responsible for the ultimate movie song call and response (You remind me of the babe? What babe? etc) and the film that gave you Bowie in a Tina Turner wig and those tights. Add the magic furry thumbprint of Jim Henson and you have muppet-flavoured fantasy fabulousness. Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, we fought our way to the castle beyond the Goblin City, ended up in an oubliette, made more than a few heroic hairy friends, and got delightfully lost on the way. Never did get to come inside and meet the Mrs, though.
My Neighbour Totoro - A giant rabbit with a mouth bigger than its whole body takes two defiant little girls for a ride on the finest furry feline transport the ever to scamper across the silver screen. I fell in love with Hiyao Miyazaki at first dust sprite. Totoro was my first Ghibli great and thus wins the wrestling match for my heart in an epic battle against Spirited Away, Ponyo and Howl's Moving Castle, and Nausicaa. It's the little bits of kidhood (walking on knees to keep dirty feet off the floor, treating acorns like treasure, blowing raspberries at someone you find fascinating) that make Totoro magic. Napping on a humongous bunny who just roared in your face is the way we should all live life.
Mary Poppins - Bringing those of us who longed to be a rich kid down with a bump, Mary Poppins showed that money can't buy you a kite-flying dad or one who cares about pigeons. From the Wizard of Oz-style wind nanny-extermination wind storm at the start (who didn't wish the tiny dog that was left ended up as the nanny?) to the terrible cockney accent of Dick Van Dyke that kept going till the end ("Moooooooreeeee Puppins! As ah livun breathe!"), Mary Poppins is the ultimate all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza. Chuck in a handful of animation (I longed for my very own 'View hallooooo' fox) and the first feminist song I ever learned ("Though we adore men individually. We agree that as a group they're raaaaaaather stupiiiiiid!) and you're onto a winner.
Julie Andrews really is practically perfect in every way, and rich kids gone bad, Jane and Michael, are all kinds of adorable because they're really not that bad at all. I mean that nursery was really quite tidy. It's got London, it's got the most memorable tunes in existence, it's got Dick Van Dyke as an old man as well as a young(ish) one (how delighted I was when the credits confirmed my suspicions) and it's got a spoonful of sugar. Plus it's vaguely sinister. When Ms Poppins has that mirror face-off with herself it scared the bejesus out of me (a nod to PL Sherman's much darker book). And it won Oscars. So there. Total family film win.
Honourable 'love to the point of implosion' mention to Disney films in general (I'm looking at you Hunchback and Hercules) and Mike Wasowski's giant Monsters Inc. eye.
Bambi - How I adore this well-loved, but often maligned film. I didn't see Bambi till I was 18 (around 1987), but you can forget The Lion King and his all-singing all-dancing schmaltzy "Circle of Life", this masterpiece is the real deal. Here we have your life-lessons and extreme personal dramas mixed with the sublime, cheeky scamp of a bunny, Thumper. The animation is breathtaking (we all know about the wild animals being brought into the studios for the artists to study, right?) and the eye boggling art direction often borders on expressionism. It was Osamu Tezuka's favourite film too, (he watched it over 30 times) so you can almost certainly blame the visual style of big eyed Manga on Bambi. Hooray!
The Wizard of Oz - This film was almost too epic for my tiny childhood mind. It started off in black and white, then turned into colour (How did they DO that?); there was a pretty scary Witch hanging around on a broom; evil flying monkeys; a lion with a man's face (Aiiiee!); jolly little musical munchkins and the nicest, prettiest witch I'd ever seen; all slightly tempered by the crap prizes at the end and the big, unearthly wizard being some bloke behind a curtain (sorry *Spoilers!*). But by God what a journey! And what the hell is going on with all the farmboys looking like the Tin Man et all at the end? I was so confused...
Ponyo - I'd foolishly gone through most of my life completely ignoring Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Fortunately, my new girlfriend soon sorted out that ridiculous anomaly and dragged me to see Ponyo when it hit UK screens a couple of years ago. My jaw hit the cinema floor. Ponyo was spectacular. Immersed in charm and warmth, it was all so human and yet riddled with the weirdest fantasy. Artistically, it was so perfect; I could see that Miyazaki and his studio were touched with genius. I now feel like a big idiot for missing out on all that Ghibli and have since hastily gobbled up most of their output (How I loves My Neighbour Totoro...sigh...)
Jason and the Argonauts - One of my earliest memories is watching this spectacular introduction to Ray Harryhausen (I think I was 3 or 4). I remember someone opening a door on a massive, frightening monster's ankle and smoke pouring out, thus killing said monster. Then there was the big armpit everyone had to sail under and finally a big fight with LIVING SKELETONS!!!! Such a scary build up, then that piercing skeletal scream as they rushed into battle!!! I don't think I slept that night.
Toy Story 2 - Pixar rule. Full stop. You can take your Dreamworks animations with your Woody Allen/Sylvester Stallone voice overs and hilarious drug references for the grown ups and shove them up your bum. Pixar are the master storytellers; they grab you by the heart strings, make you laugh, make you cry (and not mawkishly either), give you imperfect characters with wonderful stories. In my opinion Toy Story 2 does this the best from an exceptionally good bunch (I'm looking at you Wall E, Ratatouille, Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Up, and Cars, [Ok maybe not Cars. Or Cars 2. Brave looks good though!]).
Beauty and the Beast - Yes, I was the classic nerdy misfit: overread, undersocialized, and totally weird. I was the only child of a single parent. I lived in a teensy, boring town. I longed for adventure, excitement, and a friendly horse. I regularly broke into song. It's not surprising, then, that Beauty and the Beast felt like it had been written by someone who'd cracked open my lonely preteen heart, scooped out the contents, and spread them across a mess of acetate. Despite the years and Disney's appalling urge to squeeze just one more golden egg out of this goose, I'm still willing to go to bat for this, the greatest animated movie ever made.
The Princess Bride - Sweet, funny, clever, intelligent, warm, thoughtful, charming and endlessly quotable, The Princess Bride is perhaps the high-water mark of 80s fantasy films. My friends and I used to watch it at slumber-parties when we were in high school - primarily, yes, because of Westley. But also for all the other reasons Lauren points out above. Also, that sword fight is amazing.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - The Child-Catcher may be the most terrifying villain ever to stalk through a family film. But there's also crazy old grandpa Potts, and a flying car, and Truly Scrumptious and her lovely doll dance. And the fact that the script is by Roald Dahl. Based on a book by Ian Flemming. A book which ends with a recipe for fudge. I really, really loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a kid, although not quite as much as I loved...
Bedknobs & Broomsticks - A left-over segment from Mary Poppins inspired this wonderful, deeply weird live action/animated film about a novice witch, the orphans she accidentally inherits, a con-artist magician, and a magical flying bed. Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I kind of tear up when Angela Lansbury's Eglantine Price animates an army made up of the military history of Great Britain to go fight the Nazis. Say it with me now: traguna... macoities... tracorum... satis dee!
The Emperor's New Groove - The only film on my list I didn't know and love as a child (because it came out in 2000), The Emperor's New Groove is the red-headed stepchild of the modern Disney pantheon: a strange, slight fable about a selfish king who learns the value of friendship, set in a stylized Incan empire. It's also gut-bustingly funny, and the closest Disney has ever come to the balls-to-the-wall slapstick of the Warner Bros. Studio back in the day. New Groove has a fascinating history: it began life as two separate productions which got smooshed into one at the last minute (explaining its weird combination of farce and sentimentality). And yet, the unholy combination works. It probably doesn't hurt that the film features a talking llama, a gigantic man-child who speaks Squirrel, and the greatest villain of all time.
Seriously, you guys. We nearly named the cat Yzma.