For those of you who are parents of young children, doubtless you’ve been innundated with some of the worst, most boring and infantile children’s videos since your little one first discoverd the VCR (or DVD) Play button. How many times can someone watch the Wiggles play air guitar and lip synch; or a Teletubby waddling over a cartoon hill; or a Baby Einstein promoting skads of boring infant toys without feeling like you’re losing your sanity?
Well, you’ll find relief right here. There are many videos that will entertain both you AND your child. Even repeated viewings won’t drive you to drink. Here are my video picks:
This is the real find here as far as I’m concerned. Charles and Ray Eames, the Rennaissance couple who designed the Eames chair in the 1950s and mastered so many other fields and professions, created this wonderful short film about vintage toy trains. The beauty of their concept is that in 1957 they filmed the trains as they moved through ‘natural’ terrain like railroad stations, countryside, etc. Locations are so realistic and the filming so vibrant and lively that it takes your breath away. I first saw this video at an Eames exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the 1990s. Now, I found the video version and I’ve introduced it to my son, Jonah who loves it almost as much as I do. The video pairs the Train film with another short called Parade, which does for parades what Tocatta does for toy trains. Parade’s dancing elephants and bears, and clowns driving racing cars are amazing to behold. The colors are brilliantly vivid. The movements of the figures are so ingeniously conceived. It makes you realize how boring and unimaginative are most toys today. These vintage toys using simple mechanisms moved in ways that are more fun and exciting than modern toys which have all the benefits of batteries and motors.
HBO Kids produced this video, which actually a compendium of several great children’s stories and songs along with interview footage of some of the brightest and cutest children attending New York City private schools. Susan Saradon reads the classic Goodnight Moon. Among the other performers appearing are Billy Crystal, Tony Bennet, Natalie Cole and Patti LaBelle.
The children interviews focus on the subject of dreams (how, why, what and when do we dream?) It’s a brilliant concept and she manages to get some of the most creative, cute, funny and surprising answers that I’ve ever heard from the mouths of babes.
Thanks to Jonah, I’ve watched many of the old Disney kid films. One of the best is Dumbo. Besides the brilliant animation work, the dialogue is beautifully written, the music has the verve of a Broadway show (it was largely written by Broadway composers), and the story is at once comic and tragic, full of humor and deep pathos. The characters are unforgettable. I’m not just referring to Dumbo, but the Stork, Timothy Mouse, the Crows. These are some of the finest artistic conceptions in all of children’s entertainment (whether literature or film).
I plan to blog more about Dumbo soon. I’ll add a link to this post when I’ve completed it.