– This is an oldie but a goodie. Coming out in 1964, this tale of family strife and discord is filled with fun songs and important lessons. Kids will love the magic and dancing and you will love the object lessons. The old British setting might be a little hard for kids to grasp, but anyone can understand parents who work too much.
Pinocchio – Coming out in 1940, this classic Disney cartoon might be a little scary for the younger kids. Sometimes I do not understand how the writer’s came up with such a twisted tale. The moral of this story, about bad boys and good boys and the love of a family is a good one, however and it is undoubtedly something every child needs to see before they get to their rebellious teenage years.
Kiki’s Delivery Service – Released in 1989, this is not a Disney film. Instead it was written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki, the famous Japanese animator. The tale of a young witch who gets a job as a delivery girl, this sweet and fun tale does not focus on the witchcraft but rather the girl’s service and kindness to others.
Finding Nemo – Another Disney Pixar contribution to the list (seems like a lot of those, huh?) Finding Nemo is a great story of a rebellious fish and his loving but overprotective father. This heartwarming tale is full of fun and adventure, but even the scariest parts are not too scary for the young ones. With bright colors and fun animated fish, even the littlest kids will be glued to the 2003 film.
The Wizard of Oz – Released in 1939, this was a groundbreaking film. Not only was it in color (gasp!) but the songs and characters brought new life into an era where that sort of thing was very unusual. The kids will love the munchkins, the cowardly lion, the dopey scarecrow and the moody tin man, not to mention Toto, but be aware that the witch and the flying monkeys might scare younger kids. I love the moral though, that there is “no place like home.”
Up – A Disney Pixar cartoon released in 2009, this one is groundbreaking for a whole new reason. The slow storyline. This is a love or hate movie. Some people think it is too slow but personally I love it. Perfect for younger kids who need more time to think and fewer explosions, the tale of a grumpy old man and a boy scout lost in South America is the sweetest movie you will ever see. The talking dogs and colorful balloons will keep kids watching while you enjoy the storyline.
How to Train Your Dragon – One of my absolute favorite movies of all time, hands down. Even my brother enjoyed this one, and he is not a cartoon person! Coming out in 2010, I watched this film at least three times in theatres and another half dozen on DVD. Okay, so you get the point. The story of a Viking boy who does not fit in and his dragon pet is one that will have both you and your children glued to the screen the whole movie. With not a second of boredom or slowness, this is one film that is excitement and adventure from beginning to end. Not only that but the moral about listening to others, finding out who you are and not being prejudiced is one we can all agree with.
Babe – This sweet story of a pig adopted by sheep herding dogs was released in 1995. Throughout the story you get to learn not only about the pig and his discoveries of life, but you also get a glimpse into the life of the quiet farmer and his loud wife, the duck who wants to be a rooster, and ‘how things are’ in the farm world. While the mature themes of death and violence may be too much for younger kids, the talking animals and heroic nature of the pig more than make up for it. I love the ending and it will defiantly leave you smiling.
The Iron Giant – Released in 1999, this hand drawn animated cartoon looks like a throwback but is actually beautiful to watch. The heartwarming story of a friendship between a fatherless boy and a robot from outer space with amnesia is perfectly set during the cold war era of Sputnik and atomic fears. When the government comes to destroy their happiness it is up to the robot and the boy to show the world that you are who you choose to be.
The Incredibles – Another Disney Pixar cartoon released in 2004, this one is about a family of superheroes. However, that is not the point of the film. The point is that being yourself is more important than being a hero. It is only when the family is almost pulled apart by trying to fit in that they realize they need to stand out, together. A great story but a little scary at parts for younger kids.
Ratatouille – Released in 2007, this unusual movie stars a rat that loves to cook. If that was not enough, he gets a job in a restaurant by controlling a hapless kitchen helper that just happens to be the illegitimate son of the recently deceased owner of the restaurant. Regardless of the plausibility of the plot, the story is a good one about finding your own way in life and not trying to become someone you are not. Thankfully it all ends happily.
Chicken Run – Created by the same people that made Wallace and Grommet and released in 2000, this claymation film is full of humor for adults and kids alike. I loved the setting that was reminiscent of a prisoner of war camp, a la Stalag 13. The chickens are trapped in a egg farm and when they do not produce they are sent to the dinner table. However one chicken is planning to escape and sees her chance when a ‘flying’ rooster (voiced by Mel Gibson) lands in her lap. After finding out that the farm is about to turn into a chicken pie factory, the chickens band together to find freedom. Cute but a bit mature for younger kids.
The Princess Bride – This classic live action film was released in 1987 and quickly became a cult classic. Kids, teens and adults all love this film which is full of romance, action, and comedy. From princesses in distress to giant rats and sword fights, this movie will be a family favorite.
Monsters, Inc – Last but not least, the Disney Pixar hit released in 2001 that was all about the monsters that live in our closets. I love this movie for kids because it really shows them that monsters are not always scary, no matter what they look like. When a little girl, Boo, sneaks into the world of Monsters it is the monsters themselves that are scared. However they eventually learn that they do not need to scare kids anymore. After thwarting the evil plans of their boss, the monsters return Boo home safely and make a happier life for everyone. Very cute and funny with colorful characters, this movie is great for all ages.