Paul's Blog entry
on negative behaviour in very young children reminded me of a hateful "stupid..." dialog sequence in Monster's Inc that convinced us that this Disney movie isn't appropriate for young ones. The debate goes on about what effect television has on children
(and adults.) We decided that it is a good idea to limit our daughter's T.V. viewing and not allow her to watch programs that are either too hyperactive (Ren and Stimpy, Veggie Tales), designed for adults (The Simpsons, Sharks Tale) or just a thinly-veiled advertisement for a toy. (Where do I start???)
Fred Rogers has passed on to a better neighborhood, but there are still people around the world making videos which aren't just hyperactive advertisements for toys. Here are some of our daughter's favorites:
Nature Baby and Music Baby:
(English): These fisher-price videos were our daughter's early favorites and she never grew tired of them. I like the simple idea, take high quality video of children playing music or nature's seasons and add a symphonic soundtrack. The only dialog is laughter and some short puppet skits between segments.
Raymond Brigg's wonderfully illustrated and animated Christmas story, with a quiet soundtrack. She asks for it long after Christmas.
Give up yer Aul Sins
(English): A Dublin teacher recorded her school children's versions biblical stories. Years later the tapes were recovered from the rubbish and animations were added to the soundtrack. Delightful and fun. Our daughter has only seen this once but one day we will all need the Dublin language lesson. This was produced in Ireland but is the only region 0 DVD's we own. This means we can play it anywhere, so we were able to show it to my family in the U.S.
Very strange for adults, but I haven't met a baby who didn't like them. If you heard strange rumors about these characters, you've been listening to too much late-night talk radio.
(English, Spanish, French): This one is towards the "active" end of our spectrum and some toddlers might want to skip some scary parts. (I do wish DVD fastforward worked as well as it did on old laserdisc players.) Dad doesn't mind watching Nemo. It reminds me of dive trips in the Gulf of Mexico, through layers of baraccuda and jellyfish, drifting silently over sleeping sea turtles at night. The artists must've been there! Other than the fact that fish don't talk, the artists captured the cartoon colors and beauty of different areas of the ocean. Just don't let your toddler flush your fish.
The Lion King
(English): I think this might have been one of the last animated Disney movies which wasn't nearly all computer generated 3D animation. The opening sequence is especially beautiful.
The Austrailian children's singing and dancing group. Our daughter saw them live here in Dublin and since she has always liked music, she enjoys this.
Dora The Explorer
(English, Spanish): I'll bet a child psychologist was involved in developing this. Adults will hate the repetition but it seems to have child development in mind. Dora teaches cause-effect and planning, "First we go here, then there, then fiesta!" She pauses for a second after asking the audience a question. One character will say something in english (or Irish--TG4), the other repeats it in spanish. The gardi would appreciate Dora's villains. To stop crime, just say "Swiper, no swiping!", to sneak past the bad guys, sing the Lechuza song.
I hope it's just the fact that we live in Ireland that I haven't seen many recent cartoons from the U.S. that aren't sardonic, hyperactive or downright hostile. Here are a few polite videos where the characters generally learn to treat one another with kind respect:
Postman Pat (English)
Bob the Builder
(English): Why not have videos showing the positive aspects of working? And what mechanic/hacker wouldn't like a character who sings, "Can we fix it? Yes we can!"
(Welsh): Our Daughter doesn't understand any more of the Welsh language than we do, but Sali and Jack Daw are far more gentle than the sumo wrestler cartoon RTE shows on weekends.
(English): Sometimes Kipper's friends have to learn to be polite, but Kipper seems to be a good chap.
Winnie the Pooh:
We have the movie from the 1970s. Even though the Hefalumps are a bit strange, she seems to like this movie when she is feeling sad or sick.
She has watched most of these more than once. For variety we sometimes play them in another language. I listed the languages of the U.S. versions above. If you get a DVD from a different region, beware of region codes.
Region codes are supposedly designed to discourage piracy but sometimes I think they have been more effective at insulating the U.S. from external language and culture.
I'd be interested in hearing recommendations of gentle children's videos from other parts of the world. We've found children's books
from other cultures to be very interesting.