4.17.2011

Simple.

Dear Mr. Movie Executive,

As a kindergarten teacher, I have the unique perspective of watching a room full of five and six-year-olds (your target audience) for seven hours a day. I know you are constantly looking for the next ‘hot property’ for your children's movies and I figured, being the generous guy I am, I’d offer some advice.

I grew up satiated by classic two dimensional, hand drawn animation. My Saturday mornings were filled with Looney Toons, Smurfs, He-Man, and bowls of sugary cereal carefully prepared by my older brother. A trip to the movies was usually to see an hour and a half long animated version of a favorite… The Peanuts had a few that I fondly remember and every few years Disney would rerelease a classic and I was in heaven.

As I grew up, Disney began churning out new hits. The Great Mouse Detective (a seriously overlooked gem), The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King brought the modern Broadway musical to movie screens across the world. Adults enjoyed these as much as the kids and the box office receipts exploded.

Then something peculiar happened. Somebody got the idea that computer animation was required to bring in the masses. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Toy Story flicks, but as the computer animation revival took off (really, do we need another Shrek movie?), the warmth and emotion of traditional hand drawn animation fell to the wayside. It’s almost disappeared altogether and I’m a little sad about that.

Last week, on a dreary rainy day, I popped in a DVD I’d bought with some Scholastic points (seriously, kindergarten parents buy a ton of books!). The DVD was just some fun children stories that had been animated. One of our class favorites, Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type was played… with simple animation and zero special effects, we laughed and giggled through the entire movie.

With a few minutes left, I played Let’s Give Kitty a Bath. This one was live action… two children, a boy and a girl, decide to give their kitty a bath. The smart feline outwits their attempts and eventually, well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise ending… this movie looked like it had been filmed with a camcorder in the mid-eighties for about two hundred bucks. It was bad… the quality that is… the movie itself was cute, engaging, and had my entire class roaring with laughter.

So the next time you’re sitting around your big important conference table trying to think of the next big idea (Gnomeo and Juliet? Really?), come ask my kindergartners what makes them laugh… they don’t need 3D glasses or computer animation… Keep it simple...just a boy and girl trying to bathe their scrawny, dirty kitty.

8 comments:

Mr_Fines said...

I couldn't have said it any better. I have a collection of animated scholastic books as well. They are by far my kiddo's favorites. Many of the newer digitally animated shows you mentioned are fantastic, yet they still don't get the same simple, visually/literacy-rich engagement from the kids as when they watch the scholastic stories.

Sunny said...

Oh I totally agree!! Even my 5th graders get a kick out of some of the "simpler" stuff (I have one boy who LOVES the Pigeon books...and he's not afraid to admit that, even though he's in 5th grade!).

Susan Seale said...

sigh...yes, the glory days of animation:)
I just found out about Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings on you tube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsEvbj9o9t4

You will love these!

SassyGinger said...

No kidding! Does anyone else remember Voyage of the Mimi in 5th grade? http://youtu.be/8dqKYc578ng

That couldnt have cost more than 1,000 dollars to shoot and it was awesome! Plus it featured a very young Ben Affleck.

Clix said...

I think part of the problem is that there's nobody who can currently compete with Disney in hand-drawn animation. The Princess and the Frog was pretty awesome; Enchanted also had quite a bit of traditional animation as well. But with computer animation you've got a good rivalry going between Pixar and Dreamworks.

Ms.S said...

So true! My kid's request Harold and the Purple Crayon (also Scholastic) quite often. It's good to see that the appreciation for 2-D animation hasn't been lost on the coming generations

James said...

Oh man. This feels like I'm reading something I wrote! Totally agree. Interestingly I'm a Dad and founder of Made in Me, a company dedicated to creating apps, books and toys for young children with a traditional heart. Greetings kindred spirits!

mellywilliamswrites said...

I'll have to check those two out. I know my babies (prek students) LOVE Magic School Bus. That's the only thing that they will all sit down and watch on a rainy or air quality alert day.