In this Family Movie Night series there are going to be weeks that appeal to certain families more than others. Last week was a film that will probably appeal to older children and teens; whereas, this week the choice is more for young children under the age of 5. As a lover of animation I enjoy all of these films so you never know what your family will like. I would like to think older kids can sit through a film geared at younger kids but there is always going to be that battle.
Making a film for toddlers is particularly difficult because of their short attention span. For it to work it needs to be somewhat episodic in feel as opposed to a longer plot that might be hard for little ones to keep focused on. It also needs to be gentle with a simple message they can absorb. That’s what makes Winnie the Pooh so brilliant is it is short stories that are sweet and teach a valuable but simple lesson.
This week’s pick recognizes the challenges of making a film for toddlers and executes it very well. It is the 2006 animated film Curious George.
Based on the book series by HA and Margret Rey Curious George is kind of an origin story to our lovable monkey named George and his friend with the yellow hat named Ted (voiced by Will Farrell). Ted works in a museum owned by Mr Bloomsberry (voiced by Dick Van Dyke in his first animated film role). The museum is having a hard time entertaining kids some of which are brought by a teacher Ms Maggie (voiced by Drew Barrymore).
The museum isn’t making enough money to stay afloat and Mr Bloomsberry’s son Junior (voiced by David Cross) wants to build a giant parking structure. This is a tired plot point we’ve seen in movies like Home on the Range but there is so much left to love in Curious George that I didn’t mind the plot.
Mr Bloomsberry is almost convinced to close the museum but Ted changes his mind by promising to find the relic called “The Lost Shrine of Zagawa”. This is what sends Ted to the jungle and is what helps him meet George.
Given this movie was made in 2006 it was actually pretty special to see it not only in 2D animation but for it to be so bright and colorful. In the world of CG everywhere it is a joy to watch Curious George. I hate to say it but such a film would never be made in 2D in 2015 and I think that is a real shame. The backgrounds of both the city and jungle are lush, layered and colorful. It just looks so beautiful!
They also made George so adorable. He makes me smile every time he is on screen. I feel they managed to make him even cuter than in the books. In what may seem like a strange comparison the charm of George reminds me a little bit of Wall-e. Neither of them talk but they have personality, love another character clearly and are just so darn cute!
After Ted meets George he finds the statue but it is only 3 inches tall, which will not be the grand attraction Mr Bloomsberry is looking for. Ted smudges this detail in the photo he sends and heads back to New York but George loves him and follows him on the boat.
The rest of the movie is basically George making mischief in one scene after another. There perhaps could have been one less of these scenes but they are done with such a joyous spirit I didn’t mind them. Like I said with Winnie the Pooh there is a gentleness and sweetness that even the villain Junior is really just looking to be loved by his Dad.
To perfectly appeal to toddlers Curious George could have been a little shorter. It would have been better at just around the hour mark but I think most kids should be able to sit through the 86 minutes.
There’s a really nice message to the film about embracing adventure and being loyal to those who love you whether actually your family or not. I also think it is nice to see a film where a little mischievousness and individuality is encouraged in young children not put down as disorderly or too manic. (Although watch your walls after the kids view this movie!).
As far as the voice talent they all do a good job although I don’t think the celebrity voices are really necessary. I think the people who are going to watch Curious George are going to do so celebrities or not. Movies can save a lot of money by having voice actors do their job and I wish more films would use that amazing resource.
The music is a huge standout in the film with original songs from Jack Johnson. This I think was worth the money as his relaxed style goes well with the bright joyous nature of Curious George. I love all of the songs and even bought the soundtrack when it came out year ago.
I’m a 34 year old adult with no kids and I really enjoy Curious George. It’s so beautiful. I love the music and the sweetness of the characters. It’s like a hug from a friend and I think a hidden gem many don’t know about. If you like Curious George there are a number of sequels and a TV show from most of the team minus celebrity voices that are also very well done.
If you do watch it with or without your little one put in the comment section what they think about it. I would love to know how they react as it is a type of film especially with the 2D that is rarely made any more. Enjoy and stay curious!
About Rachel Wagner