Most of the popular children’s films produced in current times are made by either Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks. Because of this, we decided to compile a list of alternative children’s films that should be watched by all, as a welcomed break from more mainstream blockbusters. The list features foreign animation, films created by less-known production companies and films that have a completely different style to other animation films.
Set in the fictional Louisiana bayou community called the “Bathtub,” Beasts of the Southern Wild follows the nine year old protagonist Hushpuppy whilst the little, cut off community is threatened by apparently apocalyptic circumstances in the form of a massive hurricane and melting ice caps. The children in the community are taught about ‘Aurochs,’ prehistoric creatures that will apparently be released from the melting ice caps. Hushpuppy and her father survive the hurricane, however her father is severely ill.
It is a touching tale of a close community faced with major problems, seen through the eyes of a nine year old girl. An important lesson of love and how people thrive on such little, it is centred by Quvanzhane Wallis' Academy Award Nominated performance.
Spirited Away is a Japanese animation film produced by Studio Ghibli. Young Chihiro is on her way to her new home with her parents when her father takes a diversion and they end up in a magical world. Chihiro is warned by a young boy called Haku that she must return back to where she came by sunset or she would be trapped there, however her parents had been turned into pigs and they become trapped in the magical world. She falls under the control of the witch Yubaba, who takes her name and renames her Sen in order to control her. Chihiro, along with Haku and her soon-to-be ally no-face, work together in order to restore her parents to their human form and get back home.
The movie deals with growth and childhood innocence as well as hard work. Teaching children that appreciate adulthood as well as their imagination.
Princess Mononoke is also a Japanese animation film produced by Studio Ghibli. It centres around Ashitaka, the last remaining prince from the Emishi village. When he defeats a demon boar (later we find to be called Nago, a boar god) he is cursed by its touch and is sent into exile by the town’s oracle in order to have any hope of finding a cure. On his travels he comes across many important figures, key in figuring out how to stop the curse and how the god became a demon in the first place, including monk Jago, Lady Eboshi of Irontown and San (aka Princess Mononoke,) a girl who had been brought up from a baby by wolves. He then becomes involved in a battle to save the forest in which a Forest Spirit dwells. The story progresses as Lady Eboshi attempts to destroy the forest whilst the gods that find refuge amongst the trees attempt to stop her.
The key theme in the film is the environment, and it helps children understand how valuable and important it is to protect the environment.
Tim Burton has almost become his own mini-genre of alternative children’s film. His different drawing style creates worlds and characters that have a look entirely different to any that appear in more mainstream children’s films. He is known famously throughout the world for his alternative designs and styles. His more noticeable children’s films are Nightmare Before Christmas (Jack Skellington, leader of Halloween town, attempt to become Santa Claus and puts his own twist on Christmas, scaring the world) Corpse Bride (2005 stop-motion animation film where a proposed marriage takes a turn for the worst as the husband-to-be accidently slips the ring on a dead woman’s finger and so apparently marries her) and Frankenweenie (2012 stop-motion animation film. Young Victor Frankenstien revives his dead dog Sparky with lightning. However when his classmates discover this, they use this technique to revive their own pets, which become monsters and wreak havoc on the town.)
While Burton films are always different, (though may feel tired now) these are perfect examples of everything Burton does best. Place a heart in the centre of the gothic, Burton's timeless pieces still stand strong today.
The Land Before Time is an American animation film, directed by Steven Spielburg, and produced by Amblin Entertainment and Sullivan Bluth Studios. It is set in a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, near the end of the cretaceous period. A young “Longneck” called Littlefoot, makes friends with a “three-horn names Cera. Whilst they are playing together, they are attacked by a “Sharptooth, which mortally wounds Littlefoot’s mother and seperates them from the rest of the herd. On their journey to find their way back home, Littlefoot and Cera are joined by a “Bigmouth/swimmer” named Ducky, a “flyer” named Petrie (who is afraid of flying) and mute hatchling “Spiketail” which Ducky calls Spike. Together they encounter the Sharptooth many times, before finally defeating them and finding their way back to their herd.
Though tragic, The Land Before Time has a message about learning to walk by yourself as well as never judging someone by their size. Also, making friends along the way really helps step away from your parents.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an American fantasy comedy film that combines live-action with animation. Private Detective Eddie Valiant investigates a murder involving legendary cartoon character Rodger Rabbit. Cartoon characters, known as “toons,” freely interact with the humans and live in Toontown. Maroon, head of Maroon Cartoon studios first hires Eddie to investigate Jessica, Roger’s wife, as he thinks she is having an affair. However Eddie has hated toons ever since one of them killed his brother Teddy by dropping a piano on him. Jessica is found playing patty-cake with ACME, and Roger runs away. ACME is found murdered the next day and Roger becomes the chief suspect. Eddie then teams up with Roger to try and clear Rodger’s name and find the real murderer.
Fun, whacky and scary at times, this is a wonderful movie that carries on to adulthood and teaches you not to be so scared to let loose and be crazy, even after a tragedy. It also teaches you that sexy women don’t owe you anything. If you treat her with kindness, humour and there is chemistry, anyone can fall in love with anyone.
What would you put on your Alternative Children's films list?