Short, non violent (1/2hr to hr or so) films for young children?
September 25, 2019 2:19 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to do a movie night with my two kids -- 3 and 5. They love it. The only problem is that most films are too long (even 80 minutes is pushing it) or too violent (never, ever watch the old Babar film.) Any suggestions?

We've had luck with a short Wallace and Grommit, the old French film The Balloon, The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, and Stick Man. Frozen was too long and a bit scary, but they just about were able to hang. They loved Peter Rabbit, which was also a bit long though.

Any other suggestions? Thanks!
posted by caoimhe to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
It’s a bit long at 87 minutes, but My Neighbor Totoro would likely be a good fit.

Perhaps you can split the longer films?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:40 AM on September 25, 2019 [11 favorites]

The Shaun The Sheep movie (85 min) is surprisingly good (I laughed a few times) and has a lot of slapstick and silliness that 3/5 yos will enjoy.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:58 AM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

You've mentioned Wallace and Gromit- there are three excellent ones to choose from:
Wallace and Gromit: A grand Day out ( 24 min) (some machine based peril)
Wallace and Gromit: The wrong trousers (30 min) (scaryish villain, machine peril)
Wallace and Gromit: A close shave (31 min) (amped up scary villain, very scary dog food machine. Won't spoiler it, but probably the scariest of the three. Shaun the Sheep makes up for it!)
The feature length movie (Curse of the were rabbit) is also good but run time is an issue.

What about TV episodes? (They fit the length criteria) My family watched Dad's Army (I can't stand it now though), Last of the Summer Wine, and other TV shows- a lot went over my head and we were probably a bit older- maybe 6 or 8? (We also watched documentaries- like Michael Palin's travel stuff and nature documentaries like Realms of the Russian Bear. On reflection, your family may vary!)

Shaun the Sheep TV show is really good, both for adults and kids. Also, Bluey is also excellent from an adult perspective and great from a kid's perspective also.
posted by freethefeet at 3:05 AM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

W&G: The wrong trousers scared the wits out of my kid. YMMV.

Perhaps The Snowman?

I agree that maybe you could split up the longer films. My recommendation is Minuscule.
posted by gakiko at 3:40 AM on September 25, 2019

My kids liked Microcosmos (aka "the bug movie") at that age. It's 77 minutes but has no plot so you could easily split it over 2 nights.

And I also was ging to suggest TV episodes since they're the right length. My kids liked Magic School Bus and Thomas the Tank Engine but there are probably better quality options.
posted by Redstart at 3:50 AM on September 25, 2019

seconding Minuscule, though I only know the original 6 minute shorts from 2006 or so.

For gentle and short, get some SmallFilms: The Clangers, Bagpuss. They're a little slow, but entirely sweet and silly.
posted by scruss at 3:54 AM on September 25, 2019

What about the Mr Bean skits?
posted by poxandplague at 4:06 AM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

At 3 and 5, respectively, our kids enjoyed My Neighbor Totoro (seconding Tell me no lies suggestion upthread), Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo, although there are some scary bits and they're a bit long.
posted by meijusa at 4:16 AM on September 25, 2019

Watch The Snowman with them -- wonderfully magical and gentle. (1982 original here on yt about a half hour, check it out first for ads.) Yes also to Totoro.
posted by nantucket at 4:57 AM on September 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pixar has collections of their short films on DVD.
posted by Temeraria at 5:56 AM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

You've mentioned Wallace and Gromit- there are three excellent ones to choose from:
What manner of heresy is this? There are four short W&G films. I'd say Loaf and Death contains a similar amount of peril and scariness to Close Shave.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:01 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don't have any recommendations but have you see the website Kids In Mind they rate movies based on Language, Gore & Violence and Sex & Nudity. They give details of scenes for each category.
posted by tman99 at 6:24 AM on September 25, 2019

The Winnie the Pooh movie from around 7 or 8 years ago. My daughter was 3ish and loved it.
posted by gaspode at 6:54 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's Curious George (2006), which is long-ish but very gentle and undemanding, which our kids enjoyed at that age. In addition to The Snowman there is also The Snowdog (2012). Our kids regularly watched Totoro at that age, perhaps not always in its entirety, but it became a familiar and soothing story for them.

Here is an interesting non-animated film that my kids found enormously entertaining and soothing at that age: Babies (2010). It's a wordless documentary following the first year in the life of 4 babies in 4 very different parts of the world. My wife and I will never tire of it, neither will our children. YMMV.

For shorts, we mainly watched old TV series, things like Charlie & Lola, Kipper, Clangers, Ivor the Engine, Sara & Duck, Barbapapas (some of the episodes are 20mins or so long), Little Princess, Shaun the Sheep, Octonauts, Morph, and the fuzzy felt Moomins. All of those are lovely and can be re-watched over and over.

You could also try the Animusic animated music videos. Start with Pipe Dream and Acoustic Curves.
posted by snarfois at 7:01 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, and the old Richard Scarry "Busy Town" videos.
posted by snarfois at 7:03 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Are they Elmo fans by any chance? We had good luck with Elmo in Grouchland and Elmo and the Bookaneers. The Winnie the Pooh movie mentioned above was the first movie my kid saw in a theater when he was 3, and he loved it.
posted by LKWorking at 7:24 AM on September 25, 2019

The Curious George TV show has a lot of holiday specials that are delightful and a bit longer than the standard 15 minute episodes. There's a Christmas special and a springtime special and a Halloween special. The Halloween one is delightful; there's a legend about a scarecrow the kicks off people's hats. There are people having scare reactions, but nothing actually scary happens; your kids' MMV.
posted by gideonfrog at 7:42 AM on September 25, 2019

My kids loved "Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey" (2009) at that age. It's a PBS cartoon movie. It is an 1h21 minutes, but it didn't feel that way. And the music is pretty catchy. I think that helped.

Also, all the Pixar Shorts, particularly "Mater Tales" was a popular one with us.

I'd also recommend tv episodes. "Animaniacs" is on Hulu right now as is "Pinky & The Brain" and "Tiny Toons." Maybe two or three episodes is easier to take than one long movie?
posted by zizzle at 7:43 AM on September 25, 2019

Our list of movies/media (my kid will turn 4 soon):

Wallace & Gromit, all 4 plus the "Cracking Contraptions" shorts which are on Prime.
Shaun the Sheep (I did not know there was a movie?! we watch the tv episodes on Prime.)
Pingu (Prime - these are very short and totally hyper - not for quiet time)
Magic School Bus (Netflix)
Hilda (Netflix)
Spongebob Squarepants (Prime)
The Muppet Show - original series only (bought the dvds)
Daniel Tiger (Prime)

My Neighbor Totoro (we usually split viewing sessions in 2, watch to the first appearance of the cat bus and then the rest the following night)
Kiki's Delivery Service (same)
Howl's Moving Castle (we have watched it twice and will try again when she's older, she is bothered by the aging of Sophie)

We repeat and repeat and repeat. The list expands every now and then, most recent addition is the Magic School Bus.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:40 AM on September 25, 2019

Unconventional option: watch The Sound of Music in a few nights and stop it after the Captain and Maria get married. The musical numbers and gorgeous on location shots of mid 20th century Austria are totally captivating, it hangs together fine and has a lot of good places to stop and say "to be continued", and the plot won't lose much for kids if you just skip the end bits.

Got the idea because my elementary school production of the musical did the same thing. Just tried it out with our 6yo a few months back and it worked nicely.
posted by potrzebie at 9:07 AM on September 25, 2019

Seconding the Babies documentary, which is 79 minutes. And verrry agree about the recent-ish Winnie the Pooh movies.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:16 AM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dinosaur train is our go-to, the individual episodes are about that long and there is a longer movie.
posted by lab.beetle at 9:24 AM on September 25, 2019

When my kids were that age we watched a lot of Dinosaur Train and Magic Schoolbus. This ultimately led to a classic "who's on first" style interaction with my then 4 year old.
"Mom, is that a carnivore?"
"no, sweetie, that's a tree."
"But is it a CARNIVORE?"
"No, a carnivore is an animal that eats meat. A tree makes its food by using sunlight."
"Oh. Yes, that is a conifer, you are correct."

My kids also really liked nature documentaries. There are lots of 30 minute ones on Netflix. Even the ones that had some predator-prey stuff didn't faze them. Like, they were both terrified of the yeti in Frozen but watched a crocodile capture a wildebeest without a qualm.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:34 AM on September 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

We had some luck recently with Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story - however, it's only 17 minutes long, so it doesn't quite count as a "movie" - it's more like a story read aloud (by Chris Rock!).
posted by vunder at 11:07 AM on September 25, 2019

I strongly recommend the Pixar Shorts collections. (there are three of them!) They were perfect when my little one was in the 3 - 5 year old range. They were entertaining enough for me, and the kiddo delighted in watching as many, or as few, as was interesting. They are also an interesting testament to how computer graphics has progressed since the late eighties.

If you're not interested in purchasing physical media, Netflix is presently running the Walt Disney Short Films collection, if you have a Netflix subscription.

The aforementioned My Neighbor Totoro is also excellent for this age group. I jokingly refer to it as "the best movie in which nothing happens." But the truth is, the movie just does an excellent job at showing us a world the way a child sees it. The movie pauses to examine a flower or watch a bug.
There *is* a bit in the movie that can be scary for some children. There are these magical black creatures called "dust sprites". They are harmless, but they are surprising when they make their appearance, they are black, and they kind of swarm. My kid wasn't a bit scared by them, but a friend of hers was. So, I guess it depends on the sensitivity of your kids.

But honestly, don't let that deter you. "My Neighbor Totoro" is a classic. It's perfect for small children.
posted by cleverevans at 11:07 AM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

The classic Pixar film collection, with included Tin Toy, Knick Knack, and some others was a great hit with our kids, more than 20 years ago.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:17 PM on September 25, 2019

We also had luck with the Peanuts specials. Charlie Brown Christmas (72 mins). Great Pumpkin (74 mins). Also Amazon made an animated version of the Snowy Day that is 38 minutes long.
posted by vunder at 3:54 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I also came in to say Peanuts. I remember there were a few. Here's a list with short reviews.
posted by kathrynm at 4:34 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I loved the animated film Rarg as a kid.

Rediscovering it on the internet thirty years later I was astonished to find it's only 23 minutes long.
posted by automatronic at 4:41 PM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Daniel Tiger has a couple of movies that are about 45 minutes. I think one was The Tiger Family Trip or something like that. Those were perfect for my kid who at age 7 still really hasn’t sat through a full length movie.
posted by JenMarie at 7:23 PM on September 25, 2019

Jim Henson's Tale of the Bunny Picnic
posted by daisystomper at 11:30 PM on September 25, 2019

Mine liked Wall-e at that age... if it's too long, you can split it into the part on the earth and the part in space.

Another popular choice at that age was Planes: Fire and Rescue.
posted by somanyamys at 10:48 AM on September 26, 2019

Are you in the UK, and are DVDs any use to you? If so, I would be happy to send you (free of charge) my DVD of Panda! Go Panda!, picked up for Studio Ghibli completist reasons but really aimed at too young an audience for me to want to watch it more than once. If not, I'll recommend its contents anyway. Two short films, 33 and 38 minutes, plots of both well summarised in that Wikipedia link.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:27 AM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

My kid is obsessed with The Adventures of Peep and Chirp, which used to air on PBS. They are 9 minute cartoons with genuine humor that's funny for kids and adults. Free on YouTube, also on Amazon. (It would be helpful to know where people watch all these suggestions!)

Also my kid likes some of the newer streaming shows like Tumbleleaf (Amazon) and Beat Bugs (Netflix).
posted by wannabecounselor at 6:50 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

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