Movies for the very young and the very immature
October 21, 2011 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Movies that I can watch with my two-and-a-half year old, that both of us can enjoy?

The only feature we've watched is "My Neighbor Totoro", which my son (and I) liked, but even as light and short as it was, his attention wandered at times.

What are some simple movies that we can watch together that don't rely too much on plot and dialogue? Animation is probably ideal. And something that I can enjoy as well and won't annoy or bore me to distraction.
posted by zardoz to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
My son loved (and still loves) Pulse, and as a bonus is now at the ripe old age of 3 able to distinguish a djembe from a doumbek from a doundoun and knows which one you're allowed to hit with sticks. It's watchable in short snippets.

We also got a lot of mileage out of youtube videos.
posted by ook at 5:07 PM on October 21, 2011

How about a documentary? A really awesome documentary. About ants. Really awesome ants. Ants: Nature's Secret Power, available on hulu.
posted by phunniemee at 5:09 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Iron Giant
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:10 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is TV okay? We watched a lot of Shawn the Sheep with the almost-one-year-old last month when he had a fever. A good multiple-levels show.

Also, anything Muppets.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:15 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Babies! A friend was telling me yesterday how much her 3 year old loves it, and I'm planning to try it out on my toddler soon.
posted by Mimzy at 5:20 PM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Silent comedies
Mon Oncle and M. Hulot's Holiday.
posted by brujita at 5:21 PM on October 21, 2011

Monsters Incorporated? Perhaps? I've a feeling most movie length things are going to cause his attention to wander, so you may want something that will catch his attention scene from separate scene, Pixar does a decent job in that department and I think MI (perhaps Cars? didn't watch it) has enough child funny stuff it may hang together ok for him.
posted by edgeways at 5:22 PM on October 21, 2011

Everything Pixar? My oldest loved Cars when he was that age, and it wasn't intolerable the first several times through. The Toy Story movies are in heavy rotation with my little one (2.5 years). Sorry if these are too obvious...
posted by the christopher hundreds at 5:26 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I asked a question a few months ago about documentaries like Babies.
posted by k8t at 5:28 PM on October 21, 2011

Spongebob Squarepants and The Powerpuff Girls movies; although I think the boxed collections of the actual shows are better.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:32 PM on October 21, 2011

My niece loved Riverdance at about that age. Lots of lights, people jumping around, making stompy noises. Just beware that you may have a Young Michael Flatley on your hands if you go this route.
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:37 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you only looking for feature length movies? If not, you should definitely try The Backyardigans. Fantastic music, fun animated characters and my kids loved them at that age. Surf's Up is the first one we saw and the music is pretty addictive. I'm still entertained by them and my kids are now 7 and 5. If you're considering Pixar then Finding Nemo was a favorite when they were younger.
posted by victoriab at 5:41 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

A recent study found that Spongebob Squarepants is bad for preschoolers. Based on my son's experience with it, I'm not surprised.

When he was 2.5 years, he started to enjoy opera. I think he enjoyed the pageantry and the costumes as much as the music.
posted by jingzuo at 5:44 PM on October 21, 2011

There's also a spin-off of Shawn the Sheep called Timmy Time, which is cute and fun for young and old.
posted by fings at 5:50 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

You might give a try at the old Disney live-action nature films that were part of the "True Life Adventure" series. They've been reissued on DVD--some are shorts (15-30 mins) and some are (short) feature-length films. The pacing is kind of slow by modern standards, but that's probably good for a toddler. The narration is engaging, and each film is more of a series of vignettes than a real "plot."
posted by drlith at 5:59 PM on October 21, 2011

If Shaun the Sheep is ok, then you'll probably enjoy the series of Wallace and Gromit as much (or maybe much more) than your kid will. Several of the Aardman flicks like Chicken Run are enjoyable on multiple levels.
posted by pappy at 6:03 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was kind of mesmerized watching The Backyardigans with my friend's four year old. It's a lot of fun!
posted by sweetkid at 6:18 PM on October 21, 2011

If he's big enough for Phineas and Ferb, then that. If not, watch it on your own. It's that good!
posted by Andrhia at 6:23 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

When I was just a little older than that, my parents started renting old movie musicals. Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, the Sound of Music, The King and I, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Fiddler on the Roof, etc. I loved the costumes and the singing. My love of musicals persists to this day, and I credit their choice of movies for it.
posted by decathecting at 6:35 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Peep and the Big Wide World (animated shorts featuring a chicken, a duck and a cardinal, narrated by Joan Cusak) has great physical comedy and bright colors for the small person and funny (but not inappropriately so) dialogue for the grownups. Also teaches science concepts in a really accessible way. Mr. Coffeespoons and I love Peep.

My 3yo and 7yo also love the Three Stooges, though I am not a fan except for the occasional fascinating and somewhat heartrending social settings (parentlesss kids living in dumps).

As mentioned by others, Backyardigans is largely painless.

For a full length feature, Wall-E has virtually no dialogue for the first half, and is quite sweet.

Older Sesame Street is also good. We have the 35th anniversary edition and "A Celebration of Me: Grover" that have some great bits.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 6:43 PM on October 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

How It's Made. Watch all of them.
posted by pmb at 7:42 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

IMAX nature movies. Actually, any kind of nature documentary. Good times.
posted by Go Banana at 7:56 PM on October 21, 2011

Pretty much everything made by Pixar. I'm one of those "heavily restricts TV" parents, and what TV I do allow them to watch has to be something that won't drive me batshit. At two, his attention won't likely be held by anything as long as a full-length feature, but that is actually good thing. Leave the movie running if you want to continue to watch it, let him wander off and play with toys, then wander back when he's ready.

My two and a half year old likes Toy Story 1/2/3, Monsters Inc, Cars, and Wall-E. The kids also love Despicable Me, but I only enjoyed it the first time I watched it, whereas all the Pixar stuff I can watch and enjoy again.
posted by Joh at 8:00 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

My 2.75 year old daughter didn't really get into My Neighbor Tortoro but LOVES Ponyo.
posted by stefnet at 8:02 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

If a kid likes something, they'll want to watch it a hundred times, so if you watch it with them, you're going to get bored whatever you pick. Monsters Inc is a good film choice, but I'd acquire some classic BBC children's shows from the seventies - The Clangers, Bagpuss, Paddington Bear, Camberwick Green and so on. They're short, charming, well made and timeless classics. Above all they're quiet.
posted by joannemullen at 8:18 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Finding Nemo is in both mine and my 2-year-old nephew's top 5 movies of all time. I'm nearly 30.

You could kick it back a notch and try The Land Before Time.

And you can never really go wrong with The Muppet Show, unless your child might be scared by the monsters that like to eat stuff.
posted by erstwhile at 8:47 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Snowman is beautifully illustrated and the music is amazing.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 10:00 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ponyo (which is on Netflix instant last I checked) and downvoting the Iron Giant. It's one of my all-time favorite films, sure, but it gets pretty dang scary towards the end, right around when the main character Hogarth seems to die and the robot starts to destory everything before he is blown up by a nuclear warhead. So, yeah, YMMV.

I'd also second the Wallace and Gromit short films, but those can get a bit scary (penguin shooting a gun, angry robot dog, bomb in pants) as well.

To go along with all the Pixar love, the Pixar Short Films Collection is spectacular entertainment. The one we have only goes up through Lifted, so we just went through our Pixar DVD collection after that and watched each of the newer ones (including two of my personal favorites: Presto and Day & Night)

My three year old loved (and loves) the budget-priced Brainy Baby and LeapFrog DVDs. They also helped to teach her letters, letter sounds, numbers, etc.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:02 PM on October 21, 2011

had to add that I agree with brujita on the silent comedies--you can never go wrong with Charlie Chaplin. Also, I remember a friend once telling me how he grew up watching The Pink Panther films with Peter Sellers and I thought that was pretty cool.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 10:25 PM on October 21, 2011

Latcho Drom is a cool, mostly wordless movie about Roma music and culture--you might want to watch it alone first though. I saw it years ago, and I'm pretty sure it's totally kid friendly, but not 100% sure.
I totally agree Backyardigans is awesome, though the weird animation can be off-putting at first. When I worked in a daycare, a lot of the kids were really into Wallace and Gromit, which I'm not crazy about (for purely taste/preference reasons) but everyone else seems to like it.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 11:43 PM on October 21, 2011

Perhaps 1974's "Zardoz," with Sean Connery? ...Maybe not.

I'm gonna counter the Chaplin recommendation with Buster Keaton, eg Steamboat Bill Jr.

Iron Giant is also one of my favorites and I also wouldn't recommend it for someone too young. But it'll be so worth it when they're old enough. I'm surprised Toy Story 3 is mentioned here, since that got pretty dark too.

Maybe some of the Peanuts full-length movies, like "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"? Haven't seen it a while though. "Snoopy Come Home" is great, but too depressing.

And you'll be watching "It's the Great Pumpkin" together, right?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:06 AM on October 22, 2011

Oh, and you can show him Yellow Submarine and get him into the Beatles at the same time.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:07 AM on October 22, 2011

Charlie and Lola! Lovely, lovely BBC show (on Disney in the US, I think? Also on DVD) that features a four-ish-year-old Lola and her slightly-older brother Charlie. The animation is collage-style, and it's just gorgeous. Also, in a pleasing twist, headstrong, precocious Lola is often wrong about things and requires gentle guidance from her brother to behave/do things right/etc. It's also so cute that I've been known to watch it by myself.

Pingu is very charming, as well--it's a stop-motion claymation show about a young penguin, and my daughter--who'll be nine in a week--has been watching it since she was about eighteen months old. She still watches it...and I'm still not sick of it. Also, it has no dialogue at all, which is a bonus for this age group. You can see episodes (each is ~5 minutes) on YouTube: Pingu Goes Fishing, Pingu is Babysitting, Pinga is Born.

You might also have luck with The Koala Brothers, which is about a pair of koalas who live in the Australian outback and love to help people. It's not, in my opinion, as good as the first two shows mentioned, but it's not annoying, either, and models healthy friendships and problem-solving between friends.

Seconding Ponyo, Backyardigans, and Shaun the Sheep.

I'd watch an episode of Phineas and Ferb before letting your child watch it--I let mine (at seven) watch it because so many people said it was great, but I hated it and found it rather offensive. It's also worth mentioning that I saw Land Before Time as a child, and thinking about it for too long will still make me cry. So if you've a sensitive kid, skip that one, maybe.
posted by MeghanC at 3:08 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Herbie! But be prepared to share some sobbing, when Herbie tries to run away. Also, Kung Fu Panda.
posted by ouke at 4:35 AM on October 22, 2011

"The Red Balloon."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:47 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ivor the Engine. Nice short episodes, and lovely paper and cotton wool animation, from the same people as the clangers and bagpuss.

Just bought the DVD for my daughter, and enjoyed it as much now as when I was her age.
posted by fizban at 9:42 AM on October 22, 2011

We watched
Milo & Otis
Charlotte's web
Thomas the Tank Engine
and I used to tape Sesame Street during the day, and we'd watch it together in the evening.
posted by theora55 at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2011

Kipper the Dog
posted by IndigoJones at 2:02 PM on October 22, 2011

The Point might work. Seems to be available on youtube.

I am also seconding decathecting's recommendations for movie musicals. My parents did that with me and they are still some of my favorites. (I will add The Music Man to decathecting's list of them.)
posted by gudrun at 2:20 PM on October 22, 2011

Ponyo, The Aristocats, Finding Nemo, and The Jungle Book are the feature length winners at my house. The Magic Schoolbus videos are also popular. Shorter stuff includes Charlie and Lola, Toupie and Binou, Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train and um, Scooby Doo (the originals) which my 3.5yo and 5.5yo old inexplicably love and have nostalgia value for me. Totally inappropriate of course and another parent fail to add to my long list.
posted by Cuke at 6:18 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Babies-fascinates my 3 year old and me.
posted by purenitrous at 9:26 PM on October 22, 2011

Should you watch 'Charlotte's Web' make it the original, not the recent version.

Please. For the love of God, Montressor.
posted by mephron at 4:52 AM on October 23, 2011

I really hate Pixar films - I mean, I kind of enjoy them, but I don't want to, and I think they are lazy in terms of being entertaining for both kids and adults. I think the stories are mostly pretty trite, and I really need more than a lot of thinly veiled dick jokes to feel entertained.

I want to second The Snowman, although my lot didn't enjoy it until they were a bit older, but there's a Father Christmas animation that sometimes travels with it that we all liked. I generally like shorter formats for little ones, but your kid's attention span may vary.

I really want to very enthusiastically suggest Peppa Pig. We all love it, from the 2 yr old, through her brothers (oldest is 15) and her dad and I do too. It is genuinely funny, with a lot of running jokes, and really cute in a non mawkish way. Very short episodes though.

Peppa Pig Alphabet.
posted by thylacinthine at 5:40 PM on October 23, 2011

Thank you everyone for your suggestions. Many of these are appropriate for slightly older kids; I think following any kind of plot is too much for him and his attention span just conks out. He does like Miffy shorts, but, really anything over 15 or 20 minutes and he starts playing with his toys. Totoro was unique in that he actually was interested...for the most part; some parts he tuned out, even though mom and dad were totally into it.
posted by zardoz at 4:20 PM on October 24, 2011

Pocoyo. Charming, perfect for the attention spans of small children, and narrated by Stephen Fry so it's easy on the ears of parents listening to the 57th repeat.
posted by sarahw at 3:24 PM on April 26, 2012

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