I was reading about the discussion of scary children’s movies that has been prompted by the release of “Where the Wild Things Are.” I haven’t seen “Where the Wild Things Are” yet because I can use the $11 I could spend on a ticket to see it for money to buy theater tickets.
I don’t see a lot of family movies because many of them come off as being too lame to me. The last family film I saw was “Up” and that was a work of art. To be honest, most of the family films I see are Pixar films because of the quality of film that one can expect, not to mention that their films can appeal to a wide age range.
But it seems to me that most children’s movies are not as dark as they were when I was growing up. I remember being absolutely petrified of Sid in “Toy Story” when my parents took me to see it in theaters because Sid is a really scary character that tortured toys. “The Black Cauldron” scared the crap out of me and still is a very terrifying film to watch for me.
But I grew up watching not only the Disney films that came out in the 90’s, but also the classic Disney films and other animated movies. As I look back on the films that I grew up watching, the films that I enjoyed more were the ones with really ruthless villains that would stop at nothing to get their goal. Although some villains that fit this description were in films that I thought moved slowly.
Friday, I was watching “The Great Mouse Detective,” which I think is an immensely underrated film, and realized how dark it is. Just watching the number “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind,” there’s the discussion of an overthrowing of the government in addition to a minion being thrown to a cat to be killed and the fact that half of the minions are drunk during this song. Oh, and Vincent Price did the voice of the villain, Professor Rattigan. I’m pretty sure that parent groups would throw a hissy fit over the content of just that one scene. (Not too mention other content in the film that would probably not be deemed as suitable for children.)
But “The Great Mouse Detective” is a good film because it is fast-paced, has a logical plot and a terrific sequence that occurs on the gears of Big Ben. And I certainly enjoyed it when I was younger and I enjoy it still.
Another film that I enjoyed when I was little was “The Brave Little Toaster,” which follows a group of appliances as they go off in search of their “Master” who abandoned them. According to Wikipedia, there was controversy surrounding the film because it is dark. I can’t deny that it was a dark film, although it didn’t terrify me that much when I was little.
Take a look at one of the songs from the film, “Worthless”:
Due to the anthropomorphic portrayal of the appliances and the cars, I had a very strong grasp at a young age that they were dying. And it’s interesting in how the cars are drawn as having broken grills or that one car even repeats itself before being lifted by the electromagnet at how down and out they are. That is just one number that is very dark. Then there’s also another number that is fairly dark.
Granted, I didn’t know what a B-movie was until a few years after I first saw “The Brave Little Toaster,” but that number actually carries the tone of the subject of the situation the characters are in very well. There’s also a scene in “The Brave Little Toaster” where an air conditioner goes nuts and explodes. I’m not sure if it’s on YouTube, but I will say that it did scare me a bit when I was young.
And then there are the villains of the Disney films of the 90’s. Ursala in “The Little Mermaid,” Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” Jefar in “Aladdin,” Scar in “The Lion King,” Frollo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Shan Yu in “Mulan.” They are all terrific villains because they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. (To be honest, I don’t know who the villain was in “Pocahontas” was, but I also hated “Pocahontas” when I was little.) And the means that the characters use to try to achieve their goals is terrifying. (Also, if you have time, try to find a clip of the song “Hellfire” from “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Watch it, and then watch it again, but really focus on the lyrics.)
Yet, when you watch many children’s movies, the antagonists are simply bad guys. But they’re not really terrifying; there’s no real danger that the characters are put in. That is what is nice about films like “The Incredibles” and “Up”; the protagonists have to actually overcome something or someone to achieve their goal.
But personally, I doubt that “Where the Wild Things Are” is any scarier than “The Brave Little Toaster.”