Weeks of quarantine with children have a way to burn a collection of movies.
Even with the libraries of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus and others, there are many households that have already had their share of “Frozen” and an overdose of “Onward”. At best, the canon of children’s films may seem limiting. Disney overwhelms.
But there is a wider world of films for young people. We will assume that they have already acquired a solid foundation of some of the essentials: “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “The Iron Giant”, Pixar, the Muppets, et cetera. So here are a few more distant options – all available for broadcast, rental or free – that your kids might not have seen.
“Fly Away Home”: the outlines of this 1996 film, starring Anna Paquin and Jeff Daniels, suggest a familiar and schmaltzy family film genre, but it is managed with such grace that it exceeds the limits of the ordinary . Plus, the geese are really great. A 13-year-old (Paquin) moves with her distant father (Daniels) to rural Canada after the death of her mother. She adopts an abandoned nest of goose eggs, raises them and teaches them to fly south for the winter. Available to broadcast on the Criterion channel. Director Carroll Ballard and director of photography Caleb Deschanel also made a film of pastoral beauty and sweet child-animal camaraderie in 1979’s “Black Stallion”, which airs on Amazon Prime.
“Lupine the Third: Cagliostro Castle”: To broadcast Studio Ghibli films, we will have to wait until they collectively hit HBO Max when it is launched in May. (They’re available outside of the US on Netflix.) They’re so good – some of the most wonderful in cinema – you could just go ahead and buy copies of “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke”. But for now, you can broadcast the first feature film by Hayao Miyazaki, the master of animation and co-founder of Ghibli. “Cagliostro Castle” on Netflix is not as well known as the best of Miyazaki. But the director’s verve and imagination are already there, a hug that continues the exploits of the easy-going thief Arsène Lupine. Here, Lupine discovers that the spoils of a casino robbery are a forgery.
Buster Keaton: No child raised on Buster Keaton can be bad. It’s just a fact. Most children, even the youngest, recognize and laugh at his genius. Keaton’s features are widely available, but many of its equally brilliant short films can be released for free. Among them, “One Week”, in which he tries to build a house; “The Goat”, where Keaton is mistaken for a murderer; and “Cops”, in which he angered the entire Los Angeles police.
“Stop Making Sense”: concert films are an underused source of entertainment for children. Jonathan Demme’s glorious documentary Talking Heads, available for digital rental and free streaming via Vudu, is a good place to start. And since David Byrne is slowly putting his group together – starting with himself, an acoustic guitar and a tape recorder, on “Psycho Killer” – “Stop Making Sense” offers good step-by-step education on how to build a post-modern extravaganza funk. Plus tips for wearing great costumes and dancing with street lights. (See also: “A Hard Day’s Night” on Criterion Channel and “The Last Waltz” on Amazon Prime.)
“The Three Caballeros”: There are also Disney’s forgotten treasures, including this 1944 trippy gem shown on Disney Plus. On his birthday, Donald Duck receives the package from his friends in Central and South America. Inside are film reels that bring a handful of individual stories and travelogues that Donald also embarks on. It’s a celebration of South America so exotic as it is exotic with fabulous and surreal moments that mix animation and live action. The film was produced as part of the wartime “good neighbor” policy aimed at bringing the Americas closer and responding to calls from the Axis powers. All this to say: “The Three Caballeros” is not your average Disney movie.
“Apollo 11”: this bestselling documentary of 2019, on Hulu, simply follows the lunar mission from launch to rescue, without speaking and with large amounts of IMAX images never seen before. It is a propellant time capsule, one that the 50 years that have followed have only made it more formidable. “Apollo 11”, like the “For All Mankind” archive, captures the thrill and glory of all ages of landing on the moon.
“Pirates! Band of Misfits ”: Aardman Animations has reliably produced delicacies from“ Wallace and Gromit ”to“ Shaun the Sheep ”for decades. “Pirates! Band of Misfits ”(2012) came and went somewhat quietly and did not generate a franchise. But the Aardman charm is also there on the high seas. Streaming on Hulu.
“Boy”: Taika Watiti does better for children than any filmmaker in activity today. Long before his Oscar-nominated “Jo Jo Rabbit”, Waititi made comic, big-hearted films about childhood, including his Oscar-nominated short film “Two Cars, One Night,” and this second semi- film. autobiographical, inspired by this short. James Rolleston plays the role of an 11-year-old Maori boy and a Michael Jackson fan whose obscene ex-convict (a delighted Waititi) returns home. Available on the free streaming service of the Kanopy public library.