As any parent knows, once you have kids in this day and age, you tend to watch a lot of animated movies. You can be as idealistic as you want but there’s no way around it. We always have something on in the background. And if we like a movie (we rate them on a scale from 1-10), we’ll bestow the greatest of honors upon it: we’ll buy it on DVD. Yes, I know you can see most of this stuff for free through streaming video, but really it’s just easier to put a physical disc in the player. We are old-fashioned I guess. Heck we even have quite a few VHS tapes as well.
I love movies. I love going to the theater or watching them at home. It’s probably one of my most favorite things in the world to do. Call me an escapist I guess. But with two small children in the house I, my wife as well, get to watch very few grown-up movies. I can count on one hand the number of dramatic, scary, violent movies I’ve seen in the last several years. Maybe if we’re “lucky” we sneak in a romantic comedy on a rainy Saturday afternoon. If I do want to watch something R-rated, or even PG-13 I have to wait until after the kids are in bed. By then it’s usually 10pm and I’m exhausted from watching my wife raise the kids all day long.
So when life give you lemons, make lemonade. In fact there are plenty of kids’ movies that we throughly enjoy. Could be that I’d even watch one or two in my studio by myself if I was painting or needed background noise.
Over dinner last night the wife and I made a list of our favorite animated kid movies. We then listed the qualities we would use to rank the movies. In this post I’ll go over our not-scientific-at-all criteria as well as the list of nominees. In the next post I’ll share our rankings for the our top ten (maybe twenty if I’m feeling frisky).
Our Criteria For Liking A Kid’s Movie
Music – Off the top of my head I think all these kids’ movies have music, either songs written specifically for the movie, like that non-sense they keep playing from ‘Frozen’ on the radio, or regular songs such as ‘Send Me On My Way’ by Rusted Root in ‘Ice Age’. If there is at least one catchy tune, and not too many bad ones, rest assured it will increase our chances of liking it.
One Liners – Witty, clever, memorable dialogue can make a kid flick stand out. If we watch the same movie forty-two times in a row and we still chuckle at the same line every time, then that movie definitely “Snailed it”.
Plausibility – Ok, this is mostly my criteria and it’s hard to explain. See, most…okay all of these movies are not realistic compared to the real world. And I don’t have a problem with that. Fast snails, talking birds, monsters going to school…I’m down with all of that. What I’m not down with is a world made up solely of ‘Cars’, where everyone has very human like qualities and needs. They don’t have opposable thumbs…how do they manage doing anything remotely human without actual humans or even small helper robots. How do they apply their rear bumper ointment? Do other cars have to do that for them? Gross. Usually in sequels and whatnot the producers will back off a little and start to apply fixes for this sort of thing, such as a fork lift that can mix drinks, after they realize the insanity of their ways. How do they pick up a martini glass though…
Animation – This is the eye candy part. Technology has gotten to the point where everything is essentially photo realistic. Regardless though, the look, style and quality play into how well we enjoy a movie. Back in the old days, like when ‘Bugs Life’ came out, animation was pretty good. Movies like ‘Open Season’ lose out because the animation isn’t our cup of tea. We need to be immersed in another world, and balance tech wizardry with cuteness and plausibility. Pixar is likely the gold standard for animation, but now days almost everyone has got their act together, unless they’re trying to be edgy or arty.
Feel Good – It goes without saying, the story has to make us feel good and be happy. If I want to be depressed I’d pay Disney to animate my life story. We didn’t even bother watching ‘Toy Story 3‘. And ‘Up!‘ may as well have come with a bottle of sleeping pills and a bottle of Jack. Look, I’m likely to cry even during a happy movie, I don’t need to bring an entire box of Kleenex with me. Beware of movies that transcend generations or time periods – death is unavoidable.
Storyline – As with any movie a good storyline is a must. All the other stuff doesn’t matter if the story isn’t engaging. We need a start, middle, ending. We need good characters, heroes, bad-guys, and preferably a cute sidekick or animal. Bonus points for a car crash.
Who’s Dead Or Dying – No one should be dead or dying, but if someone must, we’ll factor that in subconsciously. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, like when Paul Newman died between ‘Cars’ and ‘Cars 2’ they had to knock off his character but it was handled nicely – the kids would never pick up on that, just us old farts who miss the actor. Other times they knock off a character, usually a wife or mother, much to the chagrin of my wife. Usually dad’s are okay in kids movies.
Kid Friendly – Some animated movies seem kid friendly but if we feel uncomfortable watching them for fear we may have to explain something messy, like death, to our kids; or if the animation is scary, we likely will stop the movie or at least not watch it again. I think we watched ‘Frankenweenie’ and I spent the whole movie asking myself what have I done as my kids watched in mild horror.
Watch-ability Over And Over – After all, my kid is likely going to want to watch the movie a few thousand times. Which means we’ll have to listen to it over and over again while we hide in the other room. I’ve never actually sat down and watched ‘Cars 2’ from start to finish, but I’ve seen it 37,659 times already.
Previews – One other note, a movie trailer or the name of the studio making the film will sway our decision to watch it or not initially. Some movies got good reviews but we’re just not interested. Others we felt that way and stumbled upon them for free on TV and loved them.
There you have it, those are the general criteria we use. Below is the list we compiled of contenders for our rankings. If movie isn’t here then we don’t even consider it to be close to the top ten for the reasons stated above, or we simply haven’t seen it.
Add your favorites in the comments below!
Also, parents, what’s your criteria for evaluating kids’ movies?
The List Of Nominees For Our Top Ten (maybe twenty)
Despicable Me 2
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2
Over The Hedge
Ice Age 2
Ice Age 3
Ice Age 4
Toy Story 2
Horton Hears A Who
Monsters vs. Aliens
Meet The Robinsons
How To Train Your Dragon
A Bugs Life