Monday, December 18, 2006

Children's Films in the Days of Yore Yore Yore Yore Yore

Grumble, grumble. Last week on NPR's program Day to Day, Mike Pesca gave a piece about the recent increase in animated children's films. Here's the intro:

Happy Feet is just one of a string of successful feature films aimed at children. Why are so many movies being made for young audiences? Is quality declining as a result?
Basically, Pesca describes how, in the good old days, a Disney full-length animated feature would only be released every one or two years, and it would be a Major Event in the lives of kids everywhere -- something worth "two weeks of good behavior for your parents to take you to it" -- and how every one of the Disney films were of high quality. Nowadays, there's a new CGI children's film in the theatres every month, and most of them are pretty lousy. Kids get taken to all of them, and is this one more way that Childhood is Being Destroyed?

What Pesca has created here is a kind of dangerous sense of nostalgia. I don't know how much he read about the history of children's film for this article, but when Snow White was relased in 1937, it was just one of many, many children's films produced that year. It was a time period when many kids (in fact, the U.S. popluation in general) would frequent movie houses on a weekly, or sometimes daily, basis. For every Dumbo and Pinocchio there was a bevy of Shirley Temple, Tarzan, Buck Rodgers, and what-have-you flicks created at the same time. Plus, one must also take into account that the bulk of animated films made during the "golden years" of Disney were shorts, many of which were also of dubious quality. There was a lot of dreck; I imagine the good-stuff-to-dreck ratio was just about the same then as it is now.

As Lore Sjöberg would say, those who do not study the past are doomed to listen to a dance re-mix of it.

And for those of you who think that every child in America was completely enchanted by Snow White, go out and read Tomie de Paola's 26 Fairmount Avenue. The first-person account of the film's premiere -- and the author's reaction -- is absolutely delicious.

Thank you to A Fuse #8 Production for the link.


Scott said...

Props for the Lore Sjöberg quote

kittenpie said...

I was nodding along here - it's not like it's one house churning out masses, a CGI film still takes a couple of years to make from storyboard concepts to final edits. It's that there are a handful of different people in the mix, just like with publishing houses. Do we complain that there are too many of them, and that therefore there is nothing good made any more? Again, there are imprints that are more likely to have crappy stuff you don't like, but there is plenty of good to relish alongside it.

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