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January 17, 2008

From Willy Wonka To Teletubbies: MeFi Movie Recs For 2-3yo Run The FreakyScary Gamut

Metafilter dad Matt Haughey asked the hive to recommend some non-dark, non-scary movies suitable for a movie-loving 2-3yo kid like his daughter. So far, Curious George and My Neighbor Totoro are it:

I've tried all the pixar films and they all feature some fairly scary scenes. Monsters Inc has the scary spider guy in charge (she freaks out when she sees him), Finding Nemo is half scary shark scenes, and even Ratatouille has some scary scenes.

I'm just trying to find movies with some sort of arc, probably animated, but without some character meeting a violent end or having a death-filled confrontation in it. I've been surprised how many things I think of as kids movies feature these.

Whenever animal films from Babe to Benji to Charlotte's Web to March of the Penguins get mentioned, it takes a few comments before someone chimes in to remind people that, hello, scary threats of death are central to every film.

As for what people were smoking when they suggested Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, I can only guess. That's one of the harshest, most emotionally manipulative pieces of agitprop ever committed to film.

If you ignore all the stuff you know--TV shows like Teletubbies, Backyardigans, Mister Rogers, Bob the Builder--there are precious few actual finds. The standout on the list seems to be old-fashioned musicals.

I don't know if the kid could--or would want to--watch all of Singin' In The Rain or Funny Face, but she watches the highlights on YouTube, no problem. She can sit through the entire Nutcracker, too. Starring Macauley Culkin. Scary indeed.

The thing is, movies people remember from their own childhood are by definition movies they saw when they were older. You almost certainly don't remember what you saw at age 2-3, especially if it's a movie you saw over and over again; what you remember is remembering it. At that age, it's really about being able to sit still, follow the story, be entertained, and not be freaked out or traumatized.

Which leaves the question still rather open, I think. Are TV shows the only movies a 3-yo could watch?

Can you name any non-violent movies for 2-3yo's? [metafilter]

posted January 17, 2008 11:14 AM | add to del.icio.us | digg this

comments

We're big Pingu fans - that is one of the few things that I could imagine showing to a 2-year-old. Yes, it is a TV show but you can rent the episodes.

For completely harmless film fare, I think you'd need to venture outside the realm of animation to look at "classic" musicals. Oldies like the Music Man can really engage some kids (mine included) and any vaguely adult themes are so subtle that the wee ones don't pick up on it. We've found that the kids also love Bollywood in small doses - although the movies can be a bit long.

The REALLY old black and white musicals (a la Fred & Ginger) can also work well, although we've found that older kids don't have much patience for the lack of color.

posted by: Mark Eidsness at January 17, 2008 11:52 AM

Since Totoro is out there, I'd highly recommend another Miyazaki flick, "Kiki's Delivery Service" (Majo no takkyubin)... my daughter's watched that almost as much as Totoro. The closest to a scary scene you get in that is maybe some of the broomstick flying stuff.

posted by: cam c. at January 17, 2008 12:14 PM

These are animated shorts rather than full movies, but they entertain our two-year old:

The Snowman
Wallace & Grommit: 'A Grand Day Out' and 'The Wrong Trousers'.

We also have a DVD called Little Laureate that he enjoys.

posted by: Jonathan at January 17, 2008 12:25 PM

I actually do remember the first two movies I ever saw, when I was three years old -

The first was the Raggedy Ann & Andy Movie, which my dad took me to see as the prize for finding the afikomen at the Passover seder.

The second was Snoopy Come Home (of "NO DOGS ALLOWED" fame). Not scary, but certainly poignant at times.

posted by: Eric at January 17, 2008 1:00 PM

I was 2.5 when my parents took me to see Superman (1978).

My two year old can't sit through more than 15 minutes of anything, except The Jungle Book, which has multiple threats of death, fire, vultures, an orphan and a fistfight. But the scariest part for her, is when Bagheera helps Mancub climb a tree.

posted by: Andy at January 17, 2008 1:08 PM

Our two year old loves the songs from Mary Poppins. The dvd even has a helpful menu where you can select to play just the songs - all of which are filled with colorful dancing and none of which are scary in the least. She also loves The Sound Of Music, especially the puppet show.

[yeah, running from the nazis in the graveyard might be a bit skippable. it's always something. glad to finally hear of an interesting chapter feature, though. -ed.]

posted by: Batsu at January 17, 2008 1:39 PM

we've been watching nemo and ratatouille to get her ready for the plane, we're basically limited to what we can download from itunes. she doesn't seem to know that all of the scary scenes are scary - ie she gets excited but doesn't always get freaked out, and its not like she's waking up with nightmares. maybe they are not so scary as exciting? maybe im fooling myself.

posted by: daniel at January 17, 2008 1:52 PM

Wallace and Gromit? Scary! They all have chase scenes or other hero-in-peril scenes. But OK with DD as long as you watch them the first time with a grownup (for comparison, Nemo and Toy Story are Not OK With Her At ALL -- Lion King and Ratatouille are with a grownup, don't ask me why, I don't know). Yellow Submarine is one of DD's favorites, but it's way scary, I'm afraid.

Different kids are very different. DD has a friend who was totally OK with Toy Story at much younger than DD.

posted by: Elizabeth Z at January 17, 2008 2:06 PM

Cars seems pretty scare-free, although having watched it maybe 20 times in the last two weeks (sick kid) perhaps I'm just jaded. Then again, my kid was freaked out by Totoro (mommy in the hospital, lost kid).

posted by: dorothy at January 17, 2008 2:10 PM

My wife has indoctrinated our daughter into the world of Jacques Demy, who directed the classical French musicals from the 60s - especially Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, and Peau d'Ane. Lots of dancing and bright colors and music - and no violence or scary scenes to speak of. She loves them.

posted by: Darren at January 17, 2008 2:20 PM

I can't remember any plots, only the visuals, but what about some old Bugsy Berkeley musicals?

posted by: Andy at January 17, 2008 2:33 PM

My son loved watching Milo and Otis at that age.

posted by: m at January 17, 2008 2:36 PM

Teufelskind LOVES Thomas. We've read all the original Rev. Awdrey books (over and over and over), but we didn't start watching any TV at all until x-mas of this year. Now we tend to finish the day (just after bath, just before stories and bed) with a few episodes (15min) of Thomas. Apart from a few crashes, there's nothing overly stimulating about them.

posted by: teufelkindsvater at January 17, 2008 2:42 PM

We also do a few youtube videos of something after our daughter's bath, and her current favorites are : Maisy (aka "Mimi"), Noddy in Toyland (aka "Oui-Oui" original stop-movement animated version, not the computer-generated animation they do now), Petit Ours Brun, Chapi Chapo, the Daft Punk Gap commercial (over and over and over...), and ABBA's Dancing Queen.

posted by: Darren at January 17, 2008 3:10 PM

I recently bought the dvd of The Point, written by and with songs by Harry Nilsson (Me and My Arrow anyone?) which I remembered fondly from my childhood (it came out in '71) but only knew since then from Nilsson's album, which is condensed and narrated by Nilsson himself rather than Ringo Starr (or, according to Wikipedia, Dustin Hoffman in the original airing). I haven't watched it really closely yet but I think it's pretty safe, isn't too long, and has great songs. Also a good message and lovely old school animation.

posted by: caitlin at January 17, 2008 3:57 PM

We have a 3.5-y.o. and we've been doing "Dinner and a Movie Night" every Saturday, so we've been wrestling with some of the same concerns. Aristocats worked pretty well - it covers the same territory as Lady & The Tramp and 101 Dalmatians, but with a lot less dark-and-scary in the middle. We tried An American Tail the other weekend, and it freaked her right the hell out. Ditto Aladdin - too scary at the end when Jafar turns into the big snake (I'd forgotten). We've avoided The Lion King, Monsters Inc., and The Incredibles for the same reasons. We took her to the theater to try Ratatouille, but the gunshots at the beginning led to serious tears, and she still harbors a grudge. Bee Movie is kind of boring and even creepy if you're an adult, but she liked it. She liked Cars, which isn't terribly dark or scary. Surprisingly, she liked Chicken Run, so we've got the Wallace & Gromit movie teed up. for later. Ours liked Nemo, but YMMV. Annie is OK.

Scholastic has a series of animated versions of kids' books that work pretty well. Some of them are really trite, like the live-action "Corduroy", but most are really excellent. They're much shorter, too -for example, "Chicka Chicka Boom" probably has a 10-minute runtime, which is good for shorter attention spans.

[Wow, nice roundup. I'm going to do a post on those Scholastic DVD's. My mom bought the whole set for the cousins to share, kind of a Grandma's DVD library. So far so good. -ed.]

posted by: bauhaus at January 17, 2008 4:26 PM

Chicken Run is good for DD too. Plus, on YouTube, she loves loves loves the old Warner Brother cartoons. And hey, Tom and Jerry in Italian is educational, right? Maybe not.

We also adore the Scholastic DVDs; some of the ones that look punishingly old-school to adult eyes are among her favorites.

"Balto" which she picked at the library because it has a dog on the cover is not-scary because it "only has one scary bit, with a bear" according to DD. I would file that under "scary", personally, but it seems it was a short sequence. (DH watched it with her, so I didn't see it myself.)

posted by: Elizabeth Z at January 17, 2008 5:19 PM

Well, the little one has a much older sibling, so he's seen a lot (like knight's tale) that would make most of you want to wag a finger in my face, but I would still recommend the updated version of "The Parent Trap" (at 11 that Lindsay Lohan could really act). It is long and has very obvious points to stop and start again later. And it's one of the few films that my husband and I can actually watch over and over without wanting to kill ourselves. I'm afraid to list anymore because even though I think they're ok, I think others may disagree. But I can, without reservation, say that both of my kids loved The Parent Trap at two years of age and that there's nothing scary in the film.

posted by: jsklsk at January 17, 2008 5:21 PM

A lot of what bothered my kids at that young age was not "scary" but "intensity." Which they reported as "being scared." Intensity includes a lot of fast action, rapid changes of camera view, and things like that.

So I'd agree that the place to look is older films, before that kind of intensity became common.

posted by: cynthia at January 17, 2008 5:24 PM

Pixar's movie "Cars" is a big hit in this household...no scary moments that I can see. As for TV, we love the "Minuscule" bits (5 minutes long) on the Disney channel. Short enough to hold attention and they aren't obnoxious (no dialogue at all).

posted by: Michele at January 17, 2008 6:11 PM

I think Chicken Run might be to much. The plot is about the chickens in "jail" that are going to be made into pie. They get stuck in the machine and are almost cooked If your kid is sensitive I would prewatch that one in case.
What about some of the Olsen twin movies I remember the couple I ever saw being tame. I could be wrong though it has been a few years.

posted by: Lis at January 17, 2008 10:12 PM

Disney (not recent Princess) Movies = Mother dies in first act. Yikes!

We're big on Hayao Miyazaki, and even some of the more scary ones the kids kind of dig.

The kids love old Shirley Temple movies, and recently Eng has taken to exclaiming "Oh My Goodness!" It's very cute.

posted by: JJ Daddy Baby Momma at January 18, 2008 10:25 AM

I second (third?) the Scolastic DVDs. I've found a bunch of them at Marshalls/TJMaxx for cheap. My favorite is definitely the Chicka Chicka Boom one...with Trashy Town, The Foolish Frog (Pete Seeger!!), Rosies Walk. FANTASTIC music and graphics.

At 4 3/4 years Noisette is still afraid of the tea party on the ceiling from Mary Poppins (doesn't like the crying) and thought Peter Pan was terrifying. She doesn't even like it when PBS Kids' Curious George makes a lot of mistakes---she gets stressed out 'for' him. I think a lot depends on the kid when it comes to viewing movies/TV.

posted by: Noisette's Maman at January 18, 2008 10:35 AM

It's all about the Scholastic Book Series videos. I know they're not "movies" per se, but they've got a huge selection and they are totally captivating to a 2-3 yo (and older)! And, they're mellow; no intense action, fast camera work, etc. They're very static (great for the younger movie watchers and their very malleable brains). It's true, "scary" almost always equals "too much going on."

posted by: stephanie at January 18, 2008 10:41 AM

Coincidentally, we watched "The Point" for the first time last night (from the library). Me, to daughter: "Did you like it?" Daughter: "Oh, yes." Me: "Was it scary?" Daughter: "Oh, yes." Me: "What was scary about it?" Daughter: "The bottomless pit! The dog almost fell in a hole with nothing but DARKNESS in it!" Me: "Not the giant bees?" Daughter: "No, the giant bees were OK."

And her friend H, who thinks Nemo and Toy Story are not scary? He loves Cars, but has to fast forward past the part with the combine harvester, because it's too scary. He has a thing about teeth.

posted by: Elizabeth Z at January 18, 2008 12:09 PM

Delurking to overshare... :)

I'll throw in a 'hell, yeah' on the Scholastic series -- though you do have to be careful, because there are some scary ones in there (Great White Man-Eating Shark and Amazing Bone on Pete's a Pizza are a couple of examples where my 3yo was freaked out). Richard Scarry has 4 or 5 titles that are all great, Maggie and the Ferocious Beast is totally benign, the Kipper series is cute (though who goes 'sledging' really?), Muppet Show is great, Dan Zanes has a cool video of several songs, my daughter loves the Grinch, and Charlie Brown's Christmas is a hit every year. We's also collected a few YouTube hits and we watch those -- she likes the "William Wants a Doll" from Free to be You and Me, and some of the Schoolhouse Rock ones too. Cuteoverload.com has great animals and lots of videos.

Just some thoughts -- we don't watch TV, but she loves her movies! :)

posted by: Jennifer at January 18, 2008 12:33 PM

Forgot to mention some that my 3yo loves but that make me want to shave my head:
-Caillou (his parents are on major tranquilizers)
-Blue's Clues
-Maisy (adorable, but doesn't stand up to repeated viewings)
-Dora
-Elmo or Baby Bear (I hear those voices in my SLEEEEP)
-The Sharon Stone narrated version of Harold and the Purple Crayon (very scary monster in one, another all about dying dog, wtf!)

posted by: Jennifer at January 18, 2008 2:15 PM

Our niece is two and a half and doesn't really have the attention span for a full movie, but loves bits and pieces of most kids movies. For the scary bits, I keep my finger on the chapter skip button.

She loves Shrek, for instance, but the one time we let her watch the gingerbread torture scene, she kept asking about him for the rest of the movie, until he showed up at the end and we could prove he was okay.

posted by: Mike at January 21, 2008 1:21 PM

My 27 month old watches allof Nick Parks movies, Curious George movie, Milo and Otis, Cars, Bugs Life, Babe, Toy Story and loves the Backyardigans series which I may add has very catchy tunes. We Tivo Curious George, Backyardigans and Mama Mirabelles Home movies. I bet your little one would love MMHM which is BBC mix of live action and animated animals in an educational forum kind of like an upscale Zaboomafoo.

She has older sib so we have extensive movie collection and she has some odd tastes for a 2 year old as she loves "scary movies' such as Monsters Inc and Nemo.
Good Luck

posted by: jay at January 21, 2008 4:56 PM
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