Friday, August 24, 2012

Fantastic Mr. Fox and the Ideal Children's Movie

My friend's nine-year-old daughter and I have something very important in common.  We both like the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox.  It is a 2009 masterpiece from director Wes Anderson.  It also happens to be a solid model for how to do a children's movie.  It's a true family movie with some elements that children will not get, just as all children's movies and stories should have.  The "kids only" movie should not exist outside of potentially the purely educational film, whereas movies only for the older set are still valid.  There are numerous reasons for these facts.  The true family movie, as opposed to a mere children's movie with a false label, should replace the children's movie and Fantastic Mr. Fox is on example of how to go about this.

The "children only" movie is a bad and unnecessary form.  To dumb-down a movie to the level of, say, a five-year-old is to make a really dumb movie.  When we put things strictly on a child's level, we tell them that their consciousness and undeveloped worldview is all their is.  This hampers the intellect and boxes-in the imagination.  It leaves children with no room to grow beyond themselves.  Also, as in the case of Mr. Fox, children can enjoy things that are intelligent and beyond them as long as it has some fun and entertainment value and they are thrown a bone.  Why watch something dumb when they can enjoy something good just the same?  The dumbing-down of childhood is an adult construct, not something children want.  Little children are the most inquisitive people on Earth.  Why destroy their sense of wonder rather than cultivate it?  This all, of course, does not include intense violent or sexual content or other things that young children should be responsibly shielded from.

 Why is this preferable to the works of Hayao Miyazaki?

Why is the pedagogical film an exception.  Children need to learn their reading, writing and arithmetic.  I'm not sure there is a way to package "1+1=2" for adults, but this primary learning is absolutely necessary for children.  Beyond purely technical, academic knowledge, though, this is not the case.  Messages of friendship, acceptance, hard work and other values that are common in children's media have a place with adults, too.

Why are R-rated, adults only movies valid while kids-only movies are not?  For starters, grown-ups are more likely and capable of watching a movie by themselves without the kids than kids are to watch without grown-ups.  This is absolutely true at the movie theater.  Second, mature movies are something to be grown with or into.  Kid movies can only be grown out of.  You move on and its just a memory to be poisoned in revisiting.  Mature movies are for life.

This is why children's movies must become intelligent family movies.  I hope that parents will come to recognize this.  They'll be doing themselves a favor.

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