So I’ve taken your suggestions from an earlier post. And I’ve watched a billion movies for small people in an effort to find sweet, non-violent, non-scary, non-gender-stereotyped movies for small people. Here’s what I’ve found (spoiler: most are shorter shows, not movies):
We still love Signing Time. The pace is great, the tons of kids that come in thirty-one flavors makes us feel good, and the language skills built by children who learn sign language are all reason enough to watch these half hour segments. The best, though, is watching real parents and kids talk, with sign language, about feelings and activities. Captivating. It’s a very simple series, where you learn one word at a time, and build to a song that uses five or six of the key words you’ve learned. Catchy, catchy tunes. Check your local PBS station…they may play it weekly. If not, the videos are available though the Signing Time Foundation and the regular DVD sources.
Kipper is the sweetest, more unassuming, thoughtful animated show I’ve seen. He engages in all manner of roles, defying conventional gender and species stereotypes. He’s caring, has lovable friends who each have their own quirks. The gently drawn cartoons are 10-15 minutes each, which is perfect for limiting tv time. I love Kipper. He was clearly a sling puppy.
Maisie is pretty sweet, too. Another loving character who has endearing friends. Longer episodes than Kipper.
Planet Earth: watched with a finger on fast forward for the carnivore scenes, this is a gorgeous, sweepingly breathtaking tour around the planet. My favorite, though not Peanut’s. And since we only watch once a week or every other week, he never chooses it. But I’ll pop it in on movie day when I want to row, so he knows I get to choose some things, and he doesn’t have to watch Office Space, which I think is a little much for the preschool crowd.
Charlie and Lola. A bit tough for some American kids to get used to the accent, but once they do it’s a funny and loving pair of siblings. Probably best for ages 4 and up or the humor is lost on them. For ages 2 and up it’s good to see how gently Charlie treats his little sister, and to see how to creatively handle age appropriate behavior. As with all our other favorites, nothing sinister lurking in the shadows, no gender stereotypes, and no violence. The Christmas one leans pretty heavy on the fantastic and on Santa Claus as real dude, but maybe that’s your family’s thing, too.
Bob the Builder: surprisingly good…characters who are generally nice (some mocking, and really requires parental supervision to explain some of the poor choices the characters make). Interesting stories, anthropomorphized trucks. Exactly what most kids want. (I try to limit Bob movies because the episodes each involve me way more than I want out of a video, but especially because he’s one of those characters who appears on everything from toothpaste to shoes, and just don’t want to fight the character-marketed crap battles. But the videos themselves are quite nice.)
Backyardigans: some nice music and lovely focus on imagination, but very gender stereotyped, and often not ideal behavior (refusing to share, sarcasm, mocking others, vanity, etc). Peanut loves them. I spend way too much time discussing why there are better ways to treat people.
The Snowman: Of all the 1970s book adaptations, this is the most gorgeous, sweepingly epic and wonderful. Many of the old Westwood Woods book adaptations are fun, but some have of namecalling, violence, and menaces.
Boobah: Why do I love this show so much? Seriously? It’s goofy and nonsensical and musical and dancy, but I still tolerate it. It’s as though Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Twyla Tharp had a lovechild and raised it, frustratingly, on Teletubbies. Once grown and on her own, she responds with Boobah–the way lumpy, brilliantly colored characters ought to be.
Little Hard Hats: great for when you don’t want animation, or when you miss the garbage trucks on garbage day and are jonesing for some heavy lifting. Real people and live action of trucks. Descriptive but not over the head of a two year old, eco-focused without being preachy.
Didn’t cut it:
Winnie the Pooh: the films and the show have scary elements, and the older pieces have guns. But no name-calling. Thanks goodness for small favors.
My Neighbor Totoro: I adored this film, but Peanut was terrified when the little girl went missing and the authorities dredged the pond. Gross fear of death not his favorite in filmic entertainment.
Disney films: dead mothers, animal cruelty, princesses who can’t do anything without a price, menacing evil around every corner. After I previewed a few, I gave up on Disney. update: Even Frozen, which finally embraces the power of girls to find their own way in the world without male rescuing, has the snow monster and witch hunt. Too scary.
The Muppet Show: I didn’t remember it being so sarcastic and violent. But the love I have for those puppets stems from watching in my tween and teen years, when all that is less sinister. Not for littles.
Veggie Tales: seriously? really? the first episode we saw (at a friend’s house) was about being selfish. We’re trying to parent without labeling and name calling. We talk about behavior in positive terms and this series is just too heavy handed with the “proper way to act” stuff. Reminiscent of some of the least appealing Richard Scarry “pest” narratives that moralize in annoying 1950s ways.
Curious George (the series not the film). Like the science projects and the monkey. Don’t love marketing crap or the absentee parenting of old Mr. Worst Parent Ever.
So. Signing Time and Kipper and Little Hard Hats and The Snowman and Maisie. Then Charlie and Lola and Boobah and Planet Earth. Then Bob the Builder and Curious George. Not a big fan of the other stuff.
What about at your house?