Can you name any non-violent movies for 2-3 year olds?
January 4, 2008 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Non-violent, non-scary movies for 3 year olds? My daughter likes watching movies as a special treat but is scared by Disney's trademark ultra-villains and even shouting or dark scenes are a bit much for her. So far the only two movies she loves beginning to end are the newish Curious George movie and My Neighbor Totoro. I looked long and hard and can't find any others. Any ideas?

I've tried all the pixar films and they all feature some fairly scary scenes. Monsters Inc has the scary spider guy in charge (she freaks out when she sees him), Finding Nemo is half scary shark scenes, and even Ratatouille has some scary scenes.

I'm just trying to find movies with some sort of arc, probably animated, but without some character meeting a violent end or having a death-filled confrontation in it. I've been surprised how many things I think of as kids movies feature these.
posted by mathowie to Media & Arts (79 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Kiki's Delivery Service is in a similar vein to Totoro. (Double check first for scenes that might be scary)
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:23 PM on January 4, 2008


If she is not scared of bugs (and you are not opposed to her seeing two snails doin' it), I think Microcosmos might be a good choice.
posted by kitty teeth at 5:26 PM on January 4, 2008


It's not animated (though it does have some animation sequences), but what about Mary Poppins? My nephews all loved it around the age of 3. The quasi-villian (absent banker father) isn't really a villain, and the only darkness I can remember is during the chimney sweep's dance.
posted by scody at 5:29 PM on January 4, 2008


How about The Red Balloon? I suppose that the balloon does meet a violent end, but it's not particularly scary.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:31 PM on January 4, 2008


When Alvin & the Chipmunks comes out on DVD, try that.. no scariness. My 4 year old niece loved it.
posted by clh at 5:31 PM on January 4, 2008


march of the penguins? there is death, but it's so glossed over and euphemized that i think it would sail right over a 3-year-old's head.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:39 PM on January 4, 2008


Try DVD collections of television series, not movies.

Thomas the Tank Engine

Little People

Pingu
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:40 PM on January 4, 2008


Try The Cat Returns.
posted by pilibeen at 5:42 PM on January 4, 2008


I would consider any of the Winnie the Pooh movies and off-shoots.. Piglet and Tigger.. although the Tigger movie has some elements that could be considered intense.
posted by mcarthey at 5:47 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blue's Big Musical Movie...a Blue's Clues episode blown out to movie length, that features Ray Charles (and Steve rather than Joe, if you're the sort of Blue's Clues viewer who cares).
posted by gnomeloaf at 5:51 PM on January 4, 2008


Try the Winnie the Pooh movies. My daughter loved them as a tot. It's amazing sometimes what Hollywood considers a "children's" movie. Very few are appropriate for the real little ones.
posted by pearlybob at 5:53 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service were both done by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Many of their films have had a US dubbed version done. Grab some at Blockbuster or put them on your Netflix list and preview them for her. They are magical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studio_Ghibli
posted by willmize at 6:05 PM on January 4, 2008


At that age, stuff like Teletubbies, In The Night Garden and Boobah are best... not whole films.

Every story has it's dark elements, it seems, and one can't have a hero without a villain (or scary problem to be solved).

I've run into this same problem with my kids. Happy Feet is pretty non-scary, but I found the music to be really annoying and the comedy to be to schlocky.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:06 PM on January 4, 2008


Oooh! I nominate Joe Camp's Benji. Long takes of dogs running and exploring--not exactly MTV-style cutting, but if you happen to love dogs as much as I did when I was a kid, there's a certain charm there. I was a huge fan in my kindergarten years--my mom even cross-stitched an "I Love Benji" pendant for me ... awww!
posted by vindyloo at 6:13 PM on January 4, 2008


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It's a classic and on top of that it's also the most fantasmagorical musical entertainment in the history of everything!
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:14 PM on January 4, 2008


Uh, be careful with Mary Poppins. The Under the Sea panic segment gave me nightmares like whoa when I was a kid.
posted by headspace at 6:21 PM on January 4, 2008


I do not recommend March of the Penguins, unless you can fast forward. My child is not yet 3 and I had to sidestep death, why the mommies and daddies went away, a few other things and fast forward through the scary seal attack (I think it was a seal...I forget). My child does tend to ask very detailed questions, though.

I also do not recommend Benji. I went to get a drink from the kitchen and when I came back, the kids were bound and gagged. I only let my child watch about half an hour total, because the plot was inappropriate (despite my own recollections).

I am looking forward to the rest of this thread, as I've been looking forward to treating my child to a movie that isn't scary.
posted by acoutu at 6:23 PM on January 4, 2008


Your daughter sounds just just like my parents say I was at that age! If this question were about books I would have a ton of suggestions, but here are a few suggestions for movies: Seconding Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (whether or not she understands anything the chocolate scenes are really fun) and Babe.
posted by peacheater at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2008


Studio Ghibli! Our Bean loved Totoro at 3 and I had enjoyed Spirited Away (not for little kids for sure)so I started looking around. Kiki's Delivery Service, The Cat Returns are wonderful and still favorites at 5. She liked Winnie The Pooh movies for a time , Thomas the Tank Engine, Nemo....The Thomas the Tank Engine movie is frightfully horrible though, so if you can keep that out of the house.
We also took her to her first movie at four--Nanny McPhee, it's quite nice. And there's a very cute collection called Bagpuss from the UK.
posted by pywacket at 6:34 PM on January 4, 2008


All of the Land Before Time movies are pretty tame. My three year old LOVES them. In fact, her new constant companion is a stuffed Cera (the triceratops from the series). As chuckdarwin mentioned, everything is going to have dark elements. The LBT movies have 'Sharp Tooths', but by and large, it's nothing like the super nasty (for a 3yo) Disney stuff, IMO.

The My Little Pony stuff is very saccharine, and totally safe. Catchy tunes (think earworm) and usually, they teach some sort of little lesson - how it's OK to be a little different, etc. Oh, and you will be in (a different kind) of Pony Hell for the next, oh, 2-3 years. My 5yo has an entire stable's worth of them.

Charlotte's Web is sweet, though you might not want to have to deal with explaining Charlotte's passing. It even might go totally over her head.

My SIL bought the girls the Old School DVDs (kind of an oxymoron, huh?) of Sesame Street and they've been watching them pretty regularly. We also have the Muppet Movie, and the Muppet Show box set.

If you can deal with the obnoxiousness, there's always Dora Saves the Mermaid is the latest one out. Blues Clues is actually not bad at all and is much more tolerable than that purple dinosaur. The Miss Spider stuff is nice, as is Little Bear. Really, anything you can find that's on Noggin is a safe bet with the exception of Lazy Town.

Have you found any of the Sproutlet stuff from PBS? Not necessarily movies, but I know my 3yo doesn't necessarily have the attention span to sit for a full 70-90 minutes. (Kipper happens to be my personal fave. :) )

Hope that helps!
posted by dancinglamb at 6:34 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most of Studio Ghibli's stuff is not suitable for 3-year-olds. Trust me, I've known parents that saw Totoro and grabbed the next Miyazaki on the shelf - bad things happened, man. Even Kiki's is a little borderline, less because of violence and villains than because it's just got older subject matter. I'd suggest the one that is squarely aimed at your audience - the awesomely-named Panda! Go Panda!

Also, if you ever find yourself in Tokyo with the family, you must seek out the Ghibli museum. Great animation displays, every particle of the place kid-friendly, and four-ish words: Full-sized stuffed cat-bus.
posted by ormondsacker at 6:35 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oooh, yes. Babe! That's a great one. Also, the Dr. Seuss compilation DVDs. They've got a whole bunch of short stories on several DVDs. I found them at Costco.
posted by dancinglamb at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2008


My daughter really disliked the seal attack scene in March of the Penguins too. A lot. Out of Studio Ghibli's catologue, Kiki's Delivery Service and The Cat Returns are your best bets. Porco Rosso is good but there's a (delightfully ridiculous) fistfight at the end. A lot of the other movies have bloody scenes which might be too much for younger viewers. My four-year-old loves Spirited Away, but Haku bleeds all over the plave in a couple scenes. Princess Mononoke is right out for younger viewers.
posted by lekvar at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2008


My first movie was Cinderella. As villains go, I don't think its villains are too terrifying. They're pretty mean but not really scary per se, and the only violence I can really remember is Cinderella's stepsisters tearing apart her dress. I guess the cat Lucifer is kind of creepy and mean to the mice.

I second Sesame Street, and Babe also occurred to me, but you may want to prescreen it since I don't remember the plot.
posted by crinklebat at 6:41 PM on January 4, 2008


the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I'd be careful with this one since it scared the shit out of me when I was 5. I started crying when Augustus Gloop got sucked up that pipe towards the beginning and my parents had to turn it off.
posted by Falconetti at 6:43 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (whether or not she understands anything the chocolate scenes are really fun)

No doubt that the chocolate scenes are fun, but I would say a major OMG NO to several other parts, especially the ultracreepy boat scene ("there's no earthly way of knowing / which direction we are going..."). I love that film like the dickens, but there's no way I'd let an easily scared 3-year-old watch more than a few bits.
posted by scody at 6:47 PM on January 4, 2008


Did you try Pixar's A Bug's Life? It doesn't have any scary villains, and as a bonus, it has "outtakes" at the end so the kids understand it's only a movie.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:57 PM on January 4, 2008


All of the Land Before Time movies are pretty tame.

As I recall, the first one was pretty dark (including dead-mama scene, which I think the OP wants to avoid). I have a vague memory of watching it a few years ago with my stepdaughters and not being able to take it myself, since I was in a depressive low at the time. Granted, my kids didn't seem to mind it at all at the time (although their mother apparently later claimed that they wouldn't watch it anymore because of the dead-mama scene; my guess is that she was trying to avert too much wishful thinking on their parts--sorry, snark off). Anyway, I think the sequels are less heavy-duty, although they also get more saccharine and low-budget.

For a sweet and light choice I might recommend The Adventures of Milo and Otis. Live-action, cute dog and cat; I can't remember anything nasty. Check the five-dollar DVD bargain bin at your local Wal-Mart, if you're not averse; I've been seeing that one there a lot lately in my town.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:13 PM on January 4, 2008


the old Pink Panther cartoons (compiled on video and now probably DVD)?
posted by oldtimey at 7:14 PM on January 4, 2008


Yeah, Willy Wonka = all the kids get killed and Willy Wonka doesn't help them.

Another option is to get Laurel and Hardy or Buster Keaton or other old slapstick shorts.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:15 PM on January 4, 2008


Is your daughter interested in non-fiction? Many (on preview, all) of the movies recommended up-thread were too intense for my oldest son (he once asked me to turn off the Teletubbies because it was too scary, to give you a benchmark), but he has done well with non-fiction. All the videos from Little Mammoth are wonderful, detailed, and not-talk-downy, and they are perennial favorites at our house. The Big Boom and The Big Rescue have some potentially scary parts.

Movies my kids love whose quality I wouldn't endorse quite so unreservedly include anything with the Wiggles, old Muppet shows (occasional scary monster), The Looney Tunes Golden collection (OK, that's pretty fabulous), the Backyardigans. We've had more luck with TV shows on DVD than with movies.

None of that meets your criterion for having a story arc, but in my experience as the parent of a sensitive kid, movies that fit the bill are few and far between. We pretty much had to wait until he got older for actual movies.
posted by not that girl at 7:29 PM on January 4, 2008


DO ***NOT*** JUST GRAB ANOTHER STUDIO GHIBLI MOVIE.

_Grave of the Fireflies_ is a Studio Ghibli movie. It is the heart-killing tale of two children who are neglected to death after their city is firebombed towards the end of WW2. It is utterly magnificent, and I hope that I never have to see it again, ever.

Unless you want to explain to your crying daughter what those things falling down are and why those people are on fire and why does their mommy look like that and does burning hurt, daddy and why do they live in a culvert and why won't anyone help them and why is she so skinny and she's not dead, is she and why is he lying down in the train station and why won't anyone help him, be careful about which Ghibli pictures you choose.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:29 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no go on the Chocolate Factory -- that movie creeped me out so bad as a kid I could barely watch it as an adult (my personal nightmares were the boat scene, the bubbles part, and the blueberry girl -- shiver).

My fright-averse kids had a hard time with Monsters Inc and Bug's Life until they were 5, and they preferred to watch Mary Poppins on fast-forward until the part with the chimney sweeps dancing on the rooftops. They found their 3-year-old happy places in the My Little Pony movies, Blues Clues episodes and movies, and The Wiggles (the last one in particular is extremely terrifying to me as an adult, but the kids really enjoyed it when they were toddlers).

In terms of TV, even "Thomas" was too anxiety-provoking for my son, who worried every time Thomas or some other engine got in trouble -- even now at 5 he gets totally stressed out by the PBS show Sagwa, as there's a lot of "cats in peril" plot lines. But he totally digs Dora/Diego and the whole animal-rescuing story (maybe because there's more of a sense of control?).

My daughter at 3 was obsessed with two movies: Alice in Wonderland (which you'd think would be scary, but she wasn't freaked out in the least) and the ABT version of the ballet The Nutcracker, starring Macaulay Culkin as the nutcracker. Seriously. That video was on so much, I swear I learned the choreography.

Actually, I'm just remembering, too -- when my daughter was 3, one of her friends gave her a video of some Korean children's show, like a kind of Korean Blues Clues, except with farting. It was basically all about this duck who went around farting. Seriously, two hours of duck farting. It was all in Korean. No violence, and nothing scary (except for uncontrollable flatulence). The kids *loved* it.
posted by mothershock at 7:30 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


In all seriousness:

If she's 3, why not just let her watch Totoro over and over again? Tiny kids dig on the predictability.

Or download some episodes of Mr. Rogers for her to watch for shorter treats. I am not remotely joking. These might also be more fun/tolerable for you and Mrs. Fearless Leader.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:33 PM on January 4, 2008


Definitely the Muppet Movie, and the "Great Muppet Caper." Those are just plain fun.

Old Disney shorts like Goofy and Donald Duck. "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" and "Snoopy, Come Home."
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:45 PM on January 4, 2008


I have had the same issue with movies... my boys are 4 and 2. So far the okay (repeats) list includes Mary Poppins, Babe, Charlotte's Web, Happy Feet, Surf's Up, A Bug's Life, Cars, Wallace and Gromit, and The Polar Express. They love Mary Poppins - they act out parts of the movie, and sing the songs; it's their favorite. They love Charlotte's Web and Babe because they enjoy the animals - the potentially disturbing plot points (Charlotte's death, etc.) go right over their heads, they're handled delicately. The grasshoppers are scary in A Bug's Life but I was watching it with them, and I just explained how mean they were and how the ants learned to stand up to the mean grasshoppers; they were okay with it; that one's iffy. They really like the Wallace and Gromit movie and half-hour shorts; those have villains in them, but it didn't seem to bug my kids at all, and my older one is sensitive. They didn't like Wizard of Oz (older one thinks the wicked witch and the wizard are too scary). This Xmas they enjoyed the Grinch short, the Charlie Brown short, and the Muppet Christmas Carol. Great question - I'm glad to get some more ideas for okay movies from the other comments.
posted by Melinika at 8:04 PM on January 4, 2008


We love all the Richard Scarry videos at our house. Very sweet, with fun songs and witty little micro-plots (Mr. Frumble always running after his hat, etc...). After watching them via the library for a few weeks, I found them at Kmart.com and ordered them yesterday. (Library copies tend to be incredibly scratched.)

Guaranteed not to drive you nuts or to scare the little ones.
posted by mdiskin at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2008


If you go down the My Little Pony route, do the newer ones. Some of the old ones from the 80s have some scary stuff in them and are a bit weird. And the older ones don't have great music like the newer ones do.

My daughter loved Milo and Otis when she was your daughter's age.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 8:20 PM on January 4, 2008


Oh, and Kipper. How I love Kipper.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 8:20 PM on January 4, 2008


Seconding Wallace & Gromit and Richard Scarry (my six year old still loves 'em, and I kinda like 'em too, though I always sing "getting into fights in bars" instead of "photographing movie stars" during the theme song).
posted by Lucinda at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2008


We went through the same stage at our house. Sesame Street movies are generally good. Follow That Bird and Cinderelmo would, i think, fit the bill but Elmo in Grouchland is a bit shouty/scary in parts. The Tales of Beatrix Potter are cute with dancers from the Royal Ballet. Seconding Dr. Seuss.
posted by lunaazul at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2008


You didn't mention if you tried Cars- nothing really scary there. 2nding Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Better than that telletubby crap.
posted by Gungho at 8:36 PM on January 4, 2008


Kinda baffled by some of these suggestions.

Willy Wonka, with a kid that young and sensitive? You might as well just go ahead and put on some Hitchcock. That film is outright disturbing beginning to end, and intentionally so.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang features, basically, the most irredeemable and scary-for-kids villain in mainstream children's fiction, the Child Catcher. Plus that fair scene is creepy as hell.

The Muppet Movie, again, no. The central villain is chasing Kermit because he wants to eat (or sell for other people to eat?) his legs. There's also a scene where a mad scientist tries to brainwash Kermit with an old-fashioned electric chair-looking device. The Muppet feature films get gradually less perverse over time, (and The Muppets Take Manhattan may be my favorite movie of all time), but they all have their dark moments. Based on what you already know she doesn't like, I don't even think she'd be ready for Follow that Bird, the Sesame Street feature film.

If she doesn't like shouting, she won't like Mary Poppins, and she really won't like the bank scene and the part after it when the kids run away. Also, I think the "under the sea panic" that headspace is remembering is from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, also probably a bit too gritty-London for such a sensitive kid.

Snoopy Come Home is straight up sad. She may be disturbed by Snoopy getting kicked out everywhere. Some of the Charlie Brown ones might work, but some you'd definitely have to steer clear of. There are a lot. Avoid Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown like the plague. That one is super dark and a bit confusing--not sure what they were smoking with that one. I don't remember anything scary in She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown, but I do remember my parents crying at the end every time, but I never understood why until I grew up.

She sounds super-duper sensitive, so I'm afraid you might be stuck with the truly, truly preschool stuff. Anything on PBS or Nick Jr. would probably be both safe and relatively high quality. Honestly that Blues Clues movie sounds pretty cool.

Sorry to be mostly negative, I just feel for the kid, and know that if she can't handle today's Disney stuff, a lot of these classics will be even worse.
posted by lampoil at 8:41 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have a 2yr old also.. and this is what she's allowed to watch:
Cinderella 2 - Not scary at all. It's very Disney Princessy-pretty. 3 cute stories, no villans. (Avoid Cinderella 3.. it has scary scenes in it)
Cinderella - Only one menacing scene with the step-mother and her glowing eyes.
The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh - fun loving full of stuffy cubby.. equally fun are the Tigger and Piglet movies (that someone already suggested)
Care Bear's Joke-a-Lot and Big Wish are wonderful movies with good songs and a lot of colours and fun animation. Avoid the 1980ish Care Bears.. they're scary.
I watched a 2hr movie of Jakers!... but I don't know if its available on DVD. My daughter loves this TV show though. It's adventurous without being scary.
posted by czechmate at 8:41 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


> Did you try Pixar's A Bug's Life? It doesn't have any scary villains...
????

If you go for Wallace and Gromit, I'd say stay away from A Close Shave and the full-length Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which are both wonderful but both have a sprinkling of good ol' terror. (Crazed mechanical dog and lycanthropic man-rabbit, respectively.) In fact, as much as it pains me to say it, I might have to suggest avoiding Wallace and Gromit entirely -- for now.

My best suggestions would be Richard (not-so-)Scarry, Arthur, or Babar.
posted by churl at 8:51 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Man, nostalgia central in this thread. I haven't thought about Richard Scarry in years.

What about the Bearenstein Bears TV shows, too?
posted by Quidam at 9:29 PM on January 4, 2008


For a sweet and light choice I might recommend The Adventures of Milo and Otis. Live-action, cute dog and cat; I can't remember anything nasty.

There are some pretty perilous scenes especially when they're floating down toward - and end up going down - the waterfall. Hell, that even freaked *me* out the first time I watched the movie.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:58 PM on January 4, 2008


the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I'd be careful with this one since it scared the shit out of me when I was 5. I started crying when Augustus Gloop got sucked up that pipe towards the beginning and my parents had to turn it off.


Ha, Falconetti, I was coming here to say exactly the same thing, only I was three, and it was in the theatre with a friend and her mom. I totally lost it and they had to drag me out. Good times.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:00 PM on January 4, 2008


My daughter loves Finding Nemo (we did have to forward past the shark scenes the first 10 times, but she eventually got used to them). She also loves ANY ocean documentary, now, as a result. Especially the "Blue Planet" series.

Our in-laws live 8 hours away, and when we are driving to visit them she enjoys Blues Clues. Over and over and over again. I stare at my iPod longingly while she is watching the same episode of Blue's Clues for the 10th time.

Familytv.com has many non-scary movies. My daughter enjoys The Bellflower Bunnies and she is 3. The non-animated films seem to have a bit of a crazy religious bent, but the animated ones teach values such as sharing, obedience and respect. And that's ok, I guess.
posted by Ostara at 10:06 PM on January 4, 2008


I also wouldn't recommend other Miyazaki films or Milo and Otis. I can specifically think of one scene in Milo and Otis that would freak her daughter out. The one of the bear trying to eat the cat in the shed. This is a really tough question. I was also a sensitive child when it came to movies. One of the most traumatic things that I ever witnessed as a child was watching Benji The Hunted when I was seven at the theatre. There's a scene where Benji is protecting some cougar cubs in the wilderness and a bird of prey ends up getting one of the babies and carrying it away. I can't even describe to you how much that scene fucked me up for years. Thinking about it now is starting to bring back old feelings of extreme anxiety and panic that I harbored at the time from that movie.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:07 PM on January 4, 2008


Sounds familiar. I remember my daughter at that age watching Elmer Fudd and crying "I don't WANT him to put the bunny in the oven!!!!".

She was also freaked out by Dumbo and Bambi, which alerted me to just how many kids movies have child-separated-from-mother as their essential plotline.

The safest thing are very mindless saccharine things, as above. She is only three, for heaven's sake, people (Agreed: Bugs Life? Disturbing. Charlotte's Web? Disturbing. Willy Wonka? TRAUMATIZING).

So, from above: Pingu, My Little Pony, Mr Rogers, Sesame Street all sound good.

from the I can't believe I am going to recommend this but I am serious dept.: Teletubbies. Teletubbies are very safe, colourful, and the fact they are a little obscure in their plotlines makes me think they actually stimulate the imagination since the plot isn't just handed to them - they fill in the blanks.

A friend of mine had a kid who loved these videos of construction workers, bulldozers, stuff being built. There might be some harmless documentaries along those lines -- not to stereotype, but maybe documentaries on horses & ponies, or "children of the world" or something. It may be more about the images and the moment than the plot of a long movie, at this stage.
posted by Rumple at 11:45 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bear in mind that "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" (or whatever the syndicated animated series was called) had "Heffalumps and Woozles" in some of the episodes. To elementary-school-aged me, the flying elephant-things in the rainstorm were pretty terrifying. However, on the whole, that was a cute show.

Stay away from Miyazaki's other work. I enjoyed The Cat Returns when I saw it in my late teens, but I'm not sure how much I would've got out of it at a young age. A lot of the other stuff is quite dark.

I've never looked, but are old episodes of Reading Rainbow available anywhere? I used to love that show. Agree also on Mr. Rogers. I'm personally not such a fan of newer kids TV, but I've only looked at it from the perspective of myself as someone who remembers enjoying 80s childrens' TV, not as a modern parent, so I can't really speak to that.
posted by Alterscape at 11:58 PM on January 4, 2008


Ironically, you might be better off with some more "adult" movies instead of the scary monsters and villains you find in many kiddie films. I'm especially thinking of classic Hollywood musical comedies. When I was 3 I was addicted to Fred & Ginger movies--maybe the jokes went over my head, but I was fascinated by the beautiful sets, costumes, and musical numbers. And they'll entertain you as well as your daughter.
posted by clair-de-lune at 12:23 AM on January 5, 2008


Old comedies including the silents: Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Our Gang, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd....
posted by brujita at 1:40 AM on January 5, 2008


Have you looked at any Mary-Kate and Ashley movies? The little girls that I was a nanny for loved these movies for years and years. There are some you may want to avoid (possibly the full feature-length ones), but I think the things like their party movies or any of the ones they did when they were younger are pretty tame. It's mostly just M-K & A singing and dancing.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:42 AM on January 5, 2008


See also: Charlie and Lola, Peppa Pig, Pocoyo and Shaun The Sheep - four of the best UK kids shows. I think you're better off with TV at this age; plus the short format is better.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:19 AM on January 5, 2008


My 2 1/2 year old nephew loves Bob the Builder--the dvds have 3 or 4 episodes that tell a continuous story. Bob's business partner and several of the construction machines are female, which made me feel much better about it. The lessons are usually either about environmental stewardship or the value of persistence and self-confidence. As a plus, you get to all shout "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!".
posted by hydropsyche at 5:22 AM on January 5, 2008


Definitely avoid The Land Before Time. Oh man, the whole dead-mom plot line seriously freaked me out. I was exactly the same as a kid, and my favorite movie year round was A Muppet Family Christmas.
posted by fermezporte at 5:34 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Despite the recommendations above, I'd suggest you avoid Babe. It opens with him losing his mother (she's taken to be slaughtered), which still makes me anxious & teary-eyed, even though I'm 35 and have seen it a dozen times. If you can skip that opening part, the rest of the movie might be appropriate.
posted by belladonna at 6:31 AM on January 5, 2008


When I was 3 I was addicted to Fred & Ginger movies--maybe the jokes went over my head, but I was fascinated by the beautiful sets, costumes, and musical numbers.

That's a pretty good suggestion. My Fair Lady is pretty fun to watch and so is Funny Face (with Audrey Hepburn). I think that depends on your daughter though. Mine is very girlie.. she enjoys dressing up, twirling around, wearing a tiara, and singing. So when she sees these types of productions, she's enthralled.
posted by czechmate at 6:49 AM on January 5, 2008


"Cat in the Hat" and other Dr Suess adaptations.

"Piglet's Big Movie" and other Winnie the Pooh adaptations.

Beatrix Potter animations.

"Toy Story 2" doesn't have any overtly scary things in it, and "Cars" is pretty fun too.

Seconding (thirding etc) tv shows, particularly things shown on ABC Kids in dvd format so you too can experience the joy of watching Teletubbies every single day for the next three or more years.
posted by h00py at 7:34 AM on January 5, 2008


Oh, um I just remembered Frank in Cars, but it's brief and the fast forward button is your friend.
posted by h00py at 7:36 AM on January 5, 2008


For more on the classic movie side, The Best Old Movies for Families was written by a Boston movie critic and focuses on, well, when to show classic movies to your kids. I think the youngest age group is 3-6, which might be too old for your child, but I assume those categories aren't hard-and-fast. (But I don't have kids, so what do I know.)
posted by lillygog at 7:48 AM on January 5, 2008


I don't have kids so the only suggestions I have are from when my siblings and I were younger. The first thing I thought of is The Snowman, which is like kiddie valium.

Other 'safe' suggestions tend to be in shorter, episodic format - they can't really flesh them out to feature length, I guess? Teddy Ruxpin (did they reincarnate him yet?), Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh, and the terrible trio of Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine and Blues Clues...ugh.

Animated Disney movies are the worst, what with their evil villains and constant death threats to animals and pretty girls! I remember being more scared of the witch in The Sword in the Stone than pretty much anything.

The thing is though, thinking back to that age, all the movies that I loved the most had some scariness/tension/sadness - Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Goonies, Follow That Bird! (sad blue Big Bird still makes me sniffle), Return to Oz, Ghostbusters, The Great Muppet Caper. Partially because my brother is two years older, we often watched things that were more appropriate to his age than mine, but also because the whole 'pretend scary/cover your eyes/hide under the blanket' thing was fun.
posted by SassHat at 9:36 AM on January 5, 2008


Hunt down a copy of Frog and Toad are Friends. It's from 1985 or so, and done in old style claymation. Very sweet, and as a bonus there is a great making of feature at the end that used to fascinate my son at about that age.
posted by jvilter at 9:38 AM on January 5, 2008


People are warning against Studio Ghibli, and it's definitely true that most of their movies will be unsuitable, but Kiki's Delivery Service is sweet and similar to Totoro in that basically everyone helps each other out. As I recall there are some characters that *could* have been scary villains (as an adult I was bracing myself for them to act evil -- sort of like Totoro in that way) but they turn out to be helpful and nice. Definitely worth checking out.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:26 AM on January 5, 2008


The Adventures of Milo and Otis
posted by auntietennis at 2:59 PM on January 5, 2008


Auntietennis, please read the thread. We've already discussed Milo and Otis and I don't think it would be suitable for her child.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:36 PM on January 5, 2008


I don't think it would be suitable for her child.

Or mathowie's child, for that matter. ;)

posted by scody at 7:47 PM on January 5, 2008


My just-turned-four year old son has been loving the box set of Pee-Wee's Playhouse TV series over and over again. Very silly, nothing scary, and pretty fun to watch as an adult too. There is loudness, but it always upbeat and happy, not angry shouting. Just don't show her Pee Wee's Big Adventure. My little guy was talking about "Large Marge" for days (he loved it, but it sounds like your daughter wouldn't). OMG, I didn't realise amazon sold Pee Wee's Playhouse dolls!
posted by saucysault at 5:04 AM on January 6, 2008


Another *very* tame TV series is Caillou. There was also Caillou's Holiday Movie that explored winter traditions around the world with absolutely nothing scary in it. Personally, I couldn't watch Caillou after the girl who did the original voice died in a car crash but the early episodes had three year old Caillou dealing with age-appropriate issues. Plus, the original books (available in English too) are really well written and explain things like why parents can be irritable and rushed in the morning for example.
posted by saucysault at 5:20 AM on January 6, 2008


My 3yr old sounds the same and she loves Toopee and Beanoo (sp?) and all the Barbie fairytopia/mermaidia movies. There's villains in the barbie movies but nice tame ones who get turned into frogs. She also likes Cinderella a lot.
posted by Umhlangan at 3:13 PM on January 6, 2008


Oh my goodness, NO march of the penguins. It has traumatized me and I'm 20!
posted by thebrokenmuse at 3:48 PM on January 6, 2008


FWIW, I just tried to show my child Curious George (the movie) and he was really freaked out by the security guard who was looking for George in the apartment. No amount of explaining seemed to help. I had to stop the movie.
posted by acoutu at 4:49 PM on January 6, 2008


Second Toopee and Beenoo. Also, my nieces at that age loved The Backyardigans (a series, but I believe there are feature-length DVDs.)

The central villain is chasing Kermit because he wants to eat (or sell for other people to eat?) his legs.

You are remembering it wrong.
posted by evilcolonel at 4:51 PM on January 6, 2008


The central villain is chasing Kermit because he wants to eat (or sell for other people to eat?) his legs.

You are remembering it wrong.


You're right, actually. He wants Kermit to help him sell frog legs as food, as a spokesfrog. He does ultimately resort to trying to kill him, and the mad scientist scene is what stands out in my mind as the darkest. It was never meant to be a kid's movie, anyway, but for a three-year-old who isn't ready for Disney, I don't think it's a good choice.

I do like the idea of showing classic musicals. Some do have violent climactic scenes, of course, but some seem like they're mostly just a couple hours of trying to find ten different excuses to tap dance.
posted by lampoil at 5:11 AM on January 7, 2008


Mole is apparently a series of short animated films that fit the bill.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:38 PM on March 9, 2008


You're almost certainly not reading this thread anymore, but I chanced upon it while searching for Totoro before asking a question, so...

...seconding Charlie and Lola. It's a British TV series (I have the series 1 DVDs) and I'm not tired of it after umpteen viewings. Things that are good about it:

- children do the voices (producers were inspired by the Peanuts TV adaptions). Like Peanuts, there are no grownups in the show

- it finds the fun in ordinary kids' activities, without needing to resort to wish-fulfilment plots, jokes or fantasy (not that there's anything wrong with fantasy, but it's often easier than actually portraying a child's world and thus a bit of a cop-out)

- the drawing style and animation appears simplistic or naive at first, but body language is excellent and there's attention to detail everywhere. The naive style evokes a love of scribbling and craft that doesn't intimidate in its sophistication

- it's morally uplifting without once being cloying

- the music is excellent and completely unlike the approach usually taken on kids' shows

(The same commenter who also recommended this also recommended Peppa Pig. We have that too and while the visual style is cute, I found it conformed to every cliche of kids' TV, and doesn't have nearly the imagination of C&L. Shaun the Sheep's good, though, like all Aardman stuff.)
posted by snarfois at 12:13 PM on April 4, 2008


Oh, and like another poster said: totally get Panda Go Panda!
posted by snarfois at 12:15 PM on April 4, 2008


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