Confessions About Kid Movies

It’s fairly common as a parent to not be wild about one’s children’s televisual selections. Children seldom express an interest in the most recent Academy Award nominees, nor light but charming rom-coms staring the Hunk of the Moment. However, I must confess that in ten or so years, there have been a few movies that I’ve bought for my kids that I’ve secretly enjoyed. Sometimes not so secretly (“C’mon guys—let’s watch ‘Franklin Goes to School’ again, you wanna?”). It's sort of like admitting that you really liked your toddler's Gerber Fruit Puff things, or that, as much as you  may roll your eyes when the song comes on the radio (every seven and a half minutes), you really do clap along with Pharrell and know what happiness is to you. This may not be an exhaustive list, but it has the potential to be vastly humiliating, and that’s what counts, right?

Pooh’s Heffalump Movie
This was the first one I found myself urging my oldest (who was the only one old enough to watch DVDs when it came out) to watch again. “How about Pooh’s Heffalump Movie?” I’d say hopefully. Since he was young and easily led, and not yet aware of the concept of an “ulterior motive,” he’d often agree. I’m not really sure what about this movie I found so delightful. Maybe the voice of Lumpy, which was voiced by some child with a little piping British accent. As a rule I scorn the idea of gratuitously giving characters British accents because the producers theorize that it makes them charming and endearing (lookin’ at you, Peppa Pig), but in the case of Lumpy, it worked for me. Also, as I once said to a babysitter when expressing my fondness for this particular movie, the fact that Carly Simon did all the songs made it a bit easier to take. (I was not charmed by her response: “Who?” Fuck it.) “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” eventually found its way into the garage sale box, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for it.

Scooby Doo and the Curse of the Tiki
You know, or something like that. The plot involved The Gang going to Hawaii (for…some reason. But as always with The Gang, it was a good reason—they were visiting someone’s uncle. Or cousin. Or godparent. Those kids had more family scattered across the globe, all of whom owned condos and vacation homes and shit that they were just itching to have people come stay in, than any five people you will ever meet). And there was a beach, and people were being scared away from it by the “wikitiki” and there was something about some damned resort being built nearby. It was in all ways your typical Scooby Doo story line, with an explanation of what “poi” was thrown in for good measure. For the life of me I couldn’t tell you what about this was appealing.

It was actually bad Scooby Doo, because it was when The Gang had become so two dimensional and nineties-afied.  But you have to give them credit for being willing to stick to the formula. I mean, seriously? How many people have pointed out that Scooby and his friends should just have stood their ground when the weird scary bad guy showed up the first time, and refused to run screaming. Then when the weird scary bad guy got tired of jumping around yelling, they could rip off the asshole’s mask and discover it was Old Man Jenkins. It would have made every show and movie about 80% shorter, but they would have been about four thousand percent more believable.  Finally the disc became so scratched that I threw it away. This was before I realized the video store near our house could clean them so they’d play again. I sort of regret having done that.

Franklin Goes to School
The last time I watched this (although to be fair I didn’t really watch it as much as listen to it, and it was probably the last time I will ever get to experience this without the shame of actually picking it for myself and secretly watching it, terrified of being discovered, not that I would do that) we were in the car returning from a short vacation, and I insisted it be on the video player, because I couldn’t stand the idea of listening to whatever the hell the other choice was. About ten minutes in, one of my kids announced that he was “making some notes” on this movie in a small notebook he’d found in the seat pocket. “So far,” he informed us, “I have ‘stupid’ and ‘babyish.’”

Well, OK, but as kids cartoons go, Franklin is pretty tolerable. I’ll admit that I find it odd that only Franklin has a name, and the rest of the creatures are referred to by their species (“Bear,” “Goose,” “Beaver”) and the fact that, with the exception of Snail, they all have opposable thumbs, or something that passes for an opposable thumb, even when the creatures they are do not in real life (and sure, I get it, it’s easier to have them be able to do “human” things, but then why didn’t Snail get an opposable thumb? Even Goose got super flexible wings that are almost as good. I mean, if you’re going to go unrealistic, just go for it, man), but those are small things. The characters are polite to each other, the story is one that kids can identify with: a familiar teacher is replaced by a substitute for an extended period of time, and that substitute is different—the kids would say weird—but they find a common interest over which to bond (in this case, soccer), get used to one another’s ways, and forge a nice relationship. This is another one that I think has made its way out of my house via yard sale.

My oldest was the right age for Cars, and I think he liked it pretty well, but nowhere near as much as I liked it. As a result he had every one of the cars (Lightning, Mater, Chick Hicks, etc, along with every possible permutation of them sold—Radiator Springs Lighting when he had the white wall tires on, Dynaco Lightning, old Mater, new Mater, you name it), as well as play sets of the various buildings in Radiator Springs. Every Christmas and Birthday for about two years he was showered with Cars toys. We had Cars slippers, Cars sunglasses, Cars sippy cups.

Then one afternoon when my oldest was about 7, I was walking through the kitchen, and I noticed a strange smell. I had preheated the oven for something, and the strange smell was coming from there. Since it was a brand new oven, I couldn’t imagine what it was. I opened the oven door to find a Lightning McQueen slipper that had been put in to roast by one of my younger boys. I tossed both slippers, and realized it was kind of the beginning of the end for our family and Cars. The attempted cremation of Lightning was a sign I couldn’t ignore. Also a sign that we needed to have a little chat about appliance safety and not playing with stove.

Toy Story
Both my husband and I justify letting the kids watch Toy Story by saying, “But Andy is playing with his toys at the beginning of the movie! It’s almost like a…a documentary with a subliminal message! ‘Play with your toys—be imaginative!’” Yeah, sure. At the end of the day it’s still a fucking movie and they’re still just watching TV. But they do have the Andy’s Room/Pizza Planet play set. Although they’ve pretty much outgrown it. Oh well, since they’ve pretty much outgrown the movie, too, I guess that doesn’t matter. This is one I watch on weekend nights when my husband is out of town, they’ve gone to bed, and I’m exercising my adult privilege of staying up late.

Naturally the list of children’s movies I couldn’t bear is much longer than this one (see: Time, Land Before and Squarepants, Spongebob), but these few I really did like. Now they’ve moved on to The Disney Channel, and all they want to watch is “Jessie” and “Austin & Ally” (would those two please get on with it and just admit they like each other, for fuck’s sake?). And, seriously, are there 327 Shark Boy and Lava Girl movies? Or is there just one that’s 46 hours long? I really can’t tell, but Shark Boy and Lava Girl is sort of like Disney’s version of 1990s cable and their obsession with “The Man From Snowy River.” Any time you turned on Cinemax, they were showing it. Of course, they do like “Frozen” (which is not necessarily a good thing, although I can take it in small doses), and they’ll watch the Brady Bunch on DVD with me (maybe don’t ask about that one), but I expect the next time I happen to catch one of their movies and realize it’s something I’d actually willingly watch again, and even kind of like, is a ways off.


Sarah (est.1975) said...

I will be the first and perhaps most adamant to say:


That is all.

Tracy said...

I can see where he could be annoying if you were exposed to him regularly (like on the TV show). I will say that he's 900 times less annoying than some (for which see: Caillou, Dora and Diego). But he was so much better than fucking SpongeBob that I embraced him (figuratively--not sure I'd want to embrace him literally. Turtles are sort of ooky sometimes).

Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0 said...

Toy Story, I don't mind. Toy Story 3, on the other hand, is PERMANENTLY BANNED from my house. They almost KILL EVERYONE! Are you kidding me??

Tracy said...

I agree Toy Story 3 was a bit over the top. The incinerator plus that evil bear. I mean, if that bear had been human, he'd totally have been a child molester. We have it, but my kids have never once asked to watch it.