If you are beginning to build a video library for your child and are overwhelmed by the incredible selection, start here. My daughter is now almost 10 years old and still enjoys many of these wonderful movies. I’ve listed the top 5 (in order of original release) that you should start with, but there are so many with which to build your collections, that I’ve also listed a few more for your consideration at the end. Note that I’ve consulted with my daughter on the selection and she gives it a “thumbs up”. Enjoy.
The Wizard of OZ (MGM 1939)
(MPAA Rating: G)
I don’t think there’s a person on this planet that hasn’t seen this amazingly wonderful classic. For those of you who can recall the VCR-less days, I bet you remember having to wait a full year to watch it on TV – you couldn’t even tape it! I watched it every year without fail so I was thrilled when this movie was released on video for my daughter to enjoy over and over. This multiple academy award winner will take you back to your childhood when you hear “Over the Rainbow” again – which by the way was going to be cut out. If you need a refresher course about the film: Dorothy is bored and unsatisfied with her life in Kansas and decides to run away, but her plans are interrupted by a twister heading her way. As a result, she takes you on a fabulous journey to OZ via the yellow brick road.
There’s a 50th Anniversary Edition featuring a wonderful segment hosted by Angela Lansbury. The documentary was made in 1990 by Jack Haley Jr. and provides a behind the scenes look into the trials and tribulations of making the movie. The documentary is also on the DVD which also includes never before seen musical numbers, interviews with the actors, and everything a true fan or nostalgia addict would adore.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
20th Anniversary release (2002)
(MPAA Rating: PG)
The film you enjoyed as a kid you’ll love as an adult and will have your child just as thrilled. Like The Wizard of Oz, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" is a movie that you can watch over and over and it will never let you down. If your son or daughter is anything like mine, they’ll also get a kick out of seeing a very young Drew Barrymore (“Charley’s Angel, mom!) playing Gertie. She’s precious and this film is classic Steven Spielberg – you’ll laugh and you’ll cry. The story is about a relationship between a little boy (Gertie’s brother Elliott) and a creature from outer space that becomes his best friend. Near a big American suburban development, aliens are taking earth samples in the woods and when they depart, they leave one of their own behind who Elliott finds and, of course hides. The movies has some incredible moments and plot developments which ultimately leads to the famous line “E.T. phone home”
In the 20th Anniversary DVD, Spielberg uses digital effects and new footage to update this classic, but I guarantee - it’s still magic. The two-disc release includes the 2002 remake as well as the 1982 original. The new edition of E.T. includes never-before-seen footage, computer-generated enhancements, and a digitally remixed soundtrack — all of which Spielberg personally supervised. The extras include an introduction from Spielberg, and a 30 minute documentary on the making of E.T. So, get out some Reese’s pieces and tissues and enjoy this family film together.
The Lion King (Disney 1994)
(MPAA Rating G)
The Lion King was the first Disney animated feature not based on an existing story -although many of the reviews upon its release compared it to Bambi. The movie begins with the birth of Simba - a lion cub born to King Mufasa - as the king of the jungle-heir-apparent. The brother of Mufasa – Scar, the villain in this film - sees Simba as an end to his royal aspirations and vows to eliminate Simba from the top of the food chain.
The animation is so beautiful and wonderful to watch that it will keep toddlers and up enchanted. Lion King is a film where kids can learn friendship and responsibility but they’ll also love the catchy songs. The musical numbers are wonderful and if you only buy the video for “Akuna Matata” or “Circle of Life”, you’d get your money’s worth. The cast of colorful characters include the good guys - a hornbill named Zazu - advisor to Mufasa, and Timon and Pumbaa who befriend Simba during his exile and the bad guys – Scar and the three hyenas who conspire to keep Simba from returning to the pride. The DVD is loaded with extras, including a special edition of the film, audio commentary with the producer and directors, several deleted scenes and music videos.
A bit of advice – The Lion King is so wonderful that you may be tempted to get The Lion King 2, but you’ll be disappointed and your child may be scared. It’s pretty dark.
Mulan (Disney 1998)
(MPAA Rating: G)
This movie is especially wonderful for girls, ages 5 and up since the heroine triumphs against all odds in a male dominated situation. I guarantee that after you see this movie you’ll find yourself singing the catchy and funny tune “I’ll make a man out of you”.
This was the first real movie - in an actual movie theater - that I brought my daughter to and both of us loved it. Judging from the release date, she was about 3 years old, so this is fun for everyone. Based on a 4000 year old legend, the movie is about a Chinese teen-ager, Mulan, who disguises herself as a boy to take her sick father's place in the Chinese Emperor's army. At the time, only men were permitted to serve. When Mulan’s family realizes what she has done, they call up the gods to watch over her and bring her home safely. The movie takes you through the adventures that Mulan and her “god” have in maintaining the deception, training for the army and their ultimate triumph against the evil huns.
When the video was first released in 1999, we bought the VHS version, which is great and includes the fun music video "True to Your Heart" from 98 Degrees and Stevie Wonder. Also on the 2-disc DVD set you’ll find an audio commentary from producer Pam Coats and directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook talking about the characters and actors, and the research that went into the use of Asian culture to make it accurately reflect the ancient times. Other DVD-only features are “Fun Facts” – behind the scenes clips, “Deleted Scenes”, music videos a more.
Shrek (2001 Dreamworks)
(MPAA Rating: PG)
Academy Award winning Shrek is not your average animated feature. Kids will love it, but adults will roar with laughter since there are many jokes that only adults will get. Shrek appears to spoof the typical Disney animated film while it features some typical characters you’ll remember from your childhood: The Three Little Pigs turn up, along with the Three Bears, the Three Blind Mice, Tinkerbell, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio, Cinderella, and Snow White.
What stands out in this movie is the animation techniques – the first of its kind – which makes the film and its characters three-dimensional, life-like and fanciful at the same time.
The main story line is about Lord Farquaad hiring Shrek to slay the dragon that stands between him and the princess he wants to marry - who is locked in a castle. Shrek agrees to the mission if Farquaad removes the fairy-tale creatures that have taken over his swamp (he’s a loner). On the way Shrek is joined by a talkative donkey, who provides the movie’s best laughs. Scattered throughout the movie, when you least expect it are jabs at Disney and modern day pop-culture references that are incredibly funny partially due to the inappropriateness in the medieval setting of the film.
The Shrek 2-Disc Special Edition, features a behind the scenes "The Making of Shrek" and has various interviews with the cast and crew (as if they were real) and a music video entitled "Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Party".