Eric's Favourite Films, At Age 3.5

When Eric and I visited one of my best friends last year we spent time chilling out as well as walks and day trips, and we put lots of films on Sky Movies.  I hadn't considered watching any films with him yet and was really surprised that Eric had the attention span to watch nearly a whole film.  We got through Tangled, The Princess and The Frog and Puss In Boots, and had a generally brilliant time!  This got me thinking when we got home about which other films Eric might like, and I spent a long time Googling, looking on forums and asking parent-friends which films they recommended.  The criteria were: not too long, lots of funny bits, and not too scary.  In the last year, through trial and error, Eric now has several favourite films that he really loves.  I really enjoy watching films with him, snuggled up with some fresh popcorn.  We talk about the films afterwards and what the characters might be feeling, we sing songs from the movies and make up new stories about the characters.  When I asked Eric "which are some of your favourite films?" he replied "ALL of the films", so I thought I'd share some of them with you.

  • Tangled
Tangled is based on the Grimm fairytale of Rapunzel, and is my absolute favourite Disney film, I love it.  There's some bits that would make adults and older kids laugh, like Flynn Rider's 'smoulder', and slapstick humour for younger children like Eric.  It's important to me that it's showing Eric a very accomplished, cool female character who's handy with a frying pan (but not in the kitchen).  There's some exciting action that's not too scary, although there is one major character death, and one major character 'almost-death', but it's not horrible or gory, and is done in a way that it's not that obvious that that's what's happened.  We also love the songs, and Maximus the horse, and I like the message about freedom and being true to yourself.  There is the kidnapping element to consider, and 'Mother' Gothel is a baddy, so if your kiddos are especially sensitive or anxious about that it might not be for you. 

  • Enchanted
Eric loves watching Enchanted and it's one of my favourites to watch together.  It's really clever how they've mixed live action and animation.  There are really funny bits, like when Giselle calls all the animals in from the streets of New York to help clean the house, and when Prince Edward stabs the New York bus with a sword.  There are lots of great songs, and Giselle is a very loveable character.   It's not brilliant from a feminist point of view, as the princess is only just getting used to the real world which you could view as her looking stupid rather than na├»ve, and Morgan, the child protagonist, is bored and uninterested in her father's attempts to show her strong female role models in books etc., she just wants life to be like a princess-y fairytale.  The film also deals with divorce and relationship break ups which you might want to be aware of if that's something your family are going through.  Sometimes Eric finds the dragon sequence at the end a bit too intense and scary, so if he is feeling frightened we fast forward that bit until the happy ending.

  • The Jungle Book
Another of Eric's favourite films is The Jungle Book, which is funny, cool, and just has the most brilliant songs.  Coincidentally Eric's preschool have also just centred a term all about the Jungle Book - they made a huge display board, told the story to the teacher which were then written out and put up on the wall (seeing some of the children's interpretations of what happens in the story were hilarious!), talked about which animals live in the jungle, made masks, did a puppet show, made sock snakes, made Indian sweets etc.  The film has great songs which Eric loves...hearing him sing 'Bare Necessities' makes me smile every time.  I think Eric identifies with Mowgli and I like the adventurous element of the film, where the child is exploring the jungle, meeting animals, climbing trees etc., and he's quite a capable young character.  I like that the film is inspired by the Rudyard Kipling story, which I think Eric will be interested in reading when he's older.  Another thing I think is important is that the animals in the film are actually animals you'd find in the Indian jungle (except the orangutans).  It really annoys me in books/films/TV shows aimed at children where they talk about 'jungle animals' but then show animals that wouldn't be found in the jungle, like African lions and giraffes (I know there are a few Asiatic lions that live in an isolated population in Gir, but that is not the point!).  There are scenes with Kaa and Shere Khan trying to 'get' Mowgli, the scene where it looks like Baloo has died, and the scene where the temple collapses on King Louie and the orangutans, which you might want to be aware of with younger or sensitive children, but Eric is absolutely fine with it all.  Eric also likes Jungle Book 2, which is surprisingly watchable!

  • Peter Pan
Peter Pan is one of the films I remember most from my childhood and makes me very nostalgic.  Growing up my brother, sister and I loved it and watched it ALL the time.  I think it's such a lovely film about imagination, freedom and childhood, and it inspires many games and adventures with Eric.  Be aware that there are some racist scenes, e.g. the 'What Makes The Red Man Red' song which I do find uncomfortable to watch and find it difficult to explain to Eric why it might not be appropriate for him to sing.  There are also some quite sexist ideas about female jealousy and women's roles in the family.  I talk to Eric about how the film was made a long time ago when people thought differently, but now we know that women can do anything, etc.  There is violence in the form of sword fights and Peter Pan fighting Hook, but it's done in quite a tame way with no blood drawn or character deaths.   

  • Monsters Inc & Monster's University
I really thought Monsters Inc would be too scary for Eric, but from the first watch he has absolutely loved it.  He's watched it many, many times and knows all the characters and the story.  There are bits that he finds hilarious that we have to repeatedly rewind.    We talk about the characters a lot and he relates other things to them.  We act it out and pretend to be the characters.  It's a funny film that leaves you feeling happy and I think the whole world Pixar have created is very clever.  If your kiddo is afraid of monsters it might be initially scary, but it could help children with that fear as it humanises the monsters and we learn that they are scared of human children too, and it has a happy ending, so I think this will depend on your child.  The end of the film shows the importance of doing the right thing and living ethically which is great.  We went to see Monsters University at the cinema, and Eric likes it too but he found the plot harder to understand as he didn't know what university, frat houses, etc. were, but it's still the most requested DVD at the moment.  Monsters University also has good messages about friendship, teamwork, dealing with bullying, working hard, and not giving up until you achieve your dreams, and that cheating doesn't pay.  Eric is especially enamoured with the 'glow urchins' and this is a scene we recreate a lot using various obstacles to be the glow urchins which we race through and swell up.  It has made Eric very keen to go to university, where he says he "will learn how to line up plums".

  • Brave
I think Brave is a beautiful and inspiring film, and it's brilliant to have such a strong, female character as a role model for children, it makes the feminist in me very happy (although I think this should always be the case!).  The Scottish setting and atmosphere is hauntingly beautiful and different, and there's a great message about working together as a family, open communication and being allowed to be yourself.  There are some scenes involving naked bottoms that Eric finds hilariously funny.  There is some violence in the film, but no blood.  The fights between the Scottish clansmen are more slapstick and funny than scary, but there is a big, angry bear called Muldoon who is involved in some quite intense scenes which could be frightening to sensitive or younger children.  Eric wasn't at all phased.  Overall it's an excellent adventure movie that smashes the 'princess' stereotype.

So this doesn't turn into the longest blog post in the world I'll leave it there, but other films Eric absolutely loves are Home Alone, Home Alone 2, 101 Dalmations, Star Wars, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Robots, Toy Story 3 and Robin Hood.  If you are looking for information on how to decide which films your little ones would like I'd highly recommend the Common Sense Media website.  My friend Anna told me about it the other day and it is brilliant, so helpful.  Films (and games, books, TV shows etc.) are rated by Common Sense Media, but also by parents and by kids, and are given a 'recommended age', so you can make a really informed decision.  I hope that gives you some ideas of films to watch with your small people!

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