Watching the Watchers
I hate Disney movies.
Wait, no. That’s not fair. I don’t hate Disney movies. I just have a problem with them being considered the pinnacle of children’s film fare. Because think about it: Disney movies have certain beats that they all hit: the death of a parent in the beginning minutes, characters you are supposed to think are nice who are not, children without anchor being forced to deal in a cold, cruel world. And songs. Lots of songs. Songs with catchy hooks that get stuck in your head and you can never let it go. No, I don’t want to build a snowman; it’s April, and there’s finally grass visible.
Sorry. I think I digressed there.
Anyway. When the girls were two, we limited their video experience. Now that they are older, we still limit what they watch and when, but Muffin and Squeaker are now veteran video watchers. They started with “Dora the Explorer” and they were mostly okay with the content of the average “Dora” episode. Squeaker was often afraid of Swiper, especially in episodes in which he managed to swipe whatever he was after, but Muffin was able to watch full episodes without issue. From “Dora” and her cousin “Go, Diego, Go!,” they moved on to “Blue’s Clues” and other kids’ shows. Some shows had scary episodes once in a while, but in general the shows were innocuous.
After a while, we decided the girls might be ready for longer videos. We showed them some clips from YouTube of movies we had enjoyed, such as “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” and “Gaston” from “Beauty and the Beast.” When they seemed to like those, we attempted to show them some longer bits of those movies, yet they resisted. They still enjoyed videos they chose, but not the ones that we chose.
They watched the double-length episodes of “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” and enjoyed them, so we had some hope that they would appreciate longer movies. Michael started reading them “The Wizard of Oz” because Muffin was interested in an adaptation of the movie done by “The Fresh Beat Band.” But when they got scared by the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” version of “The Wizard of Oz,” I began to worry they would never reach the point at which we could introduce them to the well-known 1939 film.
Over the winter break, a friend of ours with kids that the girls adore invited us to come see “Frozen” in the theater with them. I had to work, but Michael took the girls out to the Fenway theater to see it. Once Elsa lost control of her ice powers, though, the girls freaked out, and Michael had to take them out and bring them home. This led us to decide that perhaps the girls were not quite ready for the full-on big-screen experience.
So back to home video entertainment we turned. At some point since the beginning of this year, Squeaker started to ask us about watching “The Jungle Book.” There’s a new Blu-Ray version of the movie that has recently been released, so the girls have seen ads for it during some of the shows they watch from The Disney Channel. (They watch shows on our TiVo, and we try to cut out the commercials, but they still see them occasionally and — since the ads do what they’re designed to do — the girls ask us about them.) So Michael took the movie out of the Public Library of Brookline and sat down with the girls to watch the film. Michael had not seen the movie himself, so it was new to all three of them. With the exception of a couple of scary scenes featuring the snake, Kaa, the girls did pretty well watching the movie.
And then “Frozen” was released on DVD. Since Michael had only seen about 40 minutes of the movie, and I had not seen any of it, we were eager to watch it. When it came up as the next item on our Netflix queue, we were excited — this would be our chance to finally see it! The girls were hesitant, remembering that they had been scared when they saw it in the theatre. We told them, though, that they could leave the room for scary parts if they wanted, or they could close their eyes and we’d tell them when the scary parts were over. In the end, Muffin sat through the whole thing, with a bit of nervousness at the most tension-filled parts, and Squeaker, who skipped the beginning, ended up joining us for most of the movie and then asked to go back to the beginning to see how it started. Now they’ve watched it a second time and want us to buy the DVD.
I’m still not showing them “Bambi.”
This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.
About this column: The adventures of two Brookline parents and their twin daughters, Muffin and Squeaker. Copyright 2014 by Michael and Nomi Burstein.