Good DVDs for a preschooler?
August 13, 2006 3:05 PM   Subscribe

What are some good movies for an almost-four-year-old kid?

He doesn't like anything scary -- we fast-forward through parts of "Finding Nemo," and "Monsters Inc" and "The Incredibles" were a bit overwhelming. He recently liked "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Mary Poppins". I'd like to avoid movies that are religious, full of gender stereotypes, show lots of hitting, or are heavily marketed -- nothing on a cereal box, please.

We'll be trying to get them on DVDs from the library. I'll be in the room with him, so if they have jokes for adults, that would be wonderful. (And if the mom doesn't get killed off in the first scene... never mind, that's too much to ask.)
posted by The corpse in the library to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I believe they have all of the Charlie Browns on DVD now. My 3 year old loves those.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:07 PM on August 13, 2006

The Scholastic video collection has lots of wonderful short films based on children's books such as Where The Wild Things Are and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

As for feature length movies, the first one that comes to mind is the new Curious George movie. It's very mellow and very gentle. It should be out on DVD soon.
posted by jrossi4r at 3:15 PM on August 13, 2006

Bedknobs and Broomsticks!
posted by popcassady at 3:18 PM on August 13, 2006

How about the Winnie-the-Pooh movies and the other shorter Pooh cartoons?
posted by meerkatty at 3:23 PM on August 13, 2006

The Muppet Movie! The first seasons of both the Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock are on DVD as well.
posted by Robot Johnny at 3:25 PM on August 13, 2006

The first couple of Wallace and Grommit short films could be good (A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers). "A Close Shave" and the W&G movie would be too scary if he didn't like The Incredibles.

He might also like other older live-action disney movies. Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the Shaggy Dog (the original please!), and I seem to remember liking Pete's Dragon when I was real little.
posted by cathoo at 3:26 PM on August 13, 2006

"My Neighbor Totoro" is a great Miyazaki anime. It is wonderful for kids, and as an added plus it is interesting for adults also.
posted by anansi at 3:28 PM on August 13, 2006

Elmo in Grouchland and Elmo saves Christmas (There's no Christ in that Christmas, if that's an issue. Lots of Santa, though.)

Not The Iron Giant - scary parts. Otherwise, it's good.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:41 PM on August 13, 2006

Second "My Neighbor Totoro", it's very nonscary.

My daughters are really into music, and the Dan Zanes and Friends dvd is really fun, as is the Laurie Berkner dvd.
posted by padraigin at 3:41 PM on August 13, 2006

the charlie brown christmas special is pretty over the top religious, but i guess what did i expect?

seconding totoro. other miyazaki movies are scary/weird, so watch out. sadly if you want the widescreen version you have to order it from japan.
posted by joeblough at 3:48 PM on August 13, 2006

In addition to Totoro, Kiki's Delivery service is a non-scary Miyazaki movie.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 4:02 PM on August 13, 2006

Adventures of Milo and Otis was very popular with a nephew when he was young, and was enjoyed recently by my almost-four grandson.
posted by anitar at 4:02 PM on August 13, 2006

"He recently liked 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' and 'Mary Poppins'."

Apparently he likes musicals. Try the standard kid musicals...

"I'll be in the room with him, so if they have jokes for adults, "

then branch out into Broadway (I very much liked 1776 as a child) and Gilbert & Sullivan.

"I'd like to avoid... gender stereotypes"

Well, your boy likes show tunes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by orthogonality at 4:29 PM on August 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Um, for a four-year-old, I think Kiki's Delivery Service could be pretty scary at times, but Totoro is great.

The recent Curious George was pretty good, but I guess it was pretty seriously marketed (and includes some pretty heinous product placement, if that is an issue for you).

Pooh's Heffalump Movie is good, as are the other Pooh movies.

I don't know how opposed to TV you are, but the best thing we ever did for our daughter's entertainment needs was get a DVR and record plenty of the new breed of kid's shows. You can fast forward the commercials, and I have been very impressed with many of the new shows. Suggestions for that age level: "Charlie and Lola", "Big Big World", "The Wiggles", "Hi-5", "Peep in the Big Wide World", and many others. Like anything, they get annoying for parents after repeated viewings, but most of them also bring some parental entertainment to the table. In "Big Big World", for example, you get to gaze in awe at Snook, the most obviously stoned character on TV since Jim Ignatowski.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:29 PM on August 13, 2006

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh! Try some older Disney movies... many have scary parts, but you could probably fast forward through them. A few I liked when I was a kid are The Aristocats and The Rescuers.
posted by MadamM at 4:35 PM on August 13, 2006

There's an awesome DVD containing all the Schoolhouse Rock shorts sorted by topic (multiplication, grammar, science etc.) Great for short attention spans or long ones, if you Play All.

We also liked The Snowman, as well: sweet, non-religious, non-commercial Christmas movie.

Note on "The Wrong Trousers--Wallace & Gromit:" it contains a gun battle(!) between Gromit and a penguin. My scare-adverse son didn't like that part at all.
posted by jamaro at 4:40 PM on August 13, 2006

When I was 4 years old my parents took me to see Back to the Future in an actual theater. It was my first time at a theater, and even though I was so young at the time I remember going and having a blast; I'm told I sat in my seat and watched quietly the whole time. So I'd recommend the Back to the Future trilogy because it's such a great series of films that spark young imaginations and it's not the usual cartoon claptrap created by the toy committees for kids.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:46 PM on August 13, 2006

"Here come the ABC's" by They Might Be Giants has a lot of short and highly enjoyable songs about the alphabet. Designed for kids, with musical quality that adults can enjoy. The kids at a daycare I used to work at love it, as do I.
posted by potch at 4:49 PM on August 13, 2006

Back to the Future has quite a bit of cursing if I remember correctly.

When I was a kid I loved Big Bird in Japan and Don't Eat the Pictures (the Sesame Street characters get locked the the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:17 PM on August 13, 2006

On TV shows - I taped the Tiny Planets series for my daughter, and it had its turn as The Thing She Wants To Watch Over and Over.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:32 PM on August 13, 2006

Seconding Tiny Planets. Some great educational concepts covered there that I have never seen covered elsewhere for that age group (stuff like acoustics, for example).
posted by Rock Steady at 5:35 PM on August 13, 2006

Benji movies?
Born Free?
posted by plinth at 6:16 PM on August 13, 2006

Friends with a 2 year old and a 4 year old watch a lot of old musicals and the kids can't get enough of them.
posted by k8t at 6:20 PM on August 13, 2006

My oldest son loved Drop Dead Fred at about that age.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:37 PM on August 13, 2006

Response by poster: Many, many great answers, thanks! (And keep them coming, please.)

Well, your boy likes show tunes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

He also has a keen sense of personal style (tending towards the stripes-and-plaids), and his favorite color is pink. I'm just sayin'.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:47 PM on August 13, 2006

Flight of the Navigator.
posted by cribcage at 6:54 PM on August 13, 2006

I also have a not-quite-four-year-old son, and he demands we skip over scary parts of movies too. And I'm usually watching them with him, so I totally empathize with you on the watchability thing. Anyway, seconding The Adventures of Milo and Otis, as well as Charlie and Lola and Peep in the Big Wide World (I don't know if these latter are on DVD, though.) Something else my son LOVES is Between the Lions, which is available on tape and on DVD. Educational, funny, and clever enough for the adults too.
posted by Janta at 6:56 PM on August 13, 2006

May I take a slightly different point of view and argue that some age-appropriate scares might actually be good for the kid, in the long run? I'm not telling you to sit him down in front of Night of the Living Dead, of course, but let him be scared by scenes in, say, "Fraggle Rock." You can talk with him about why he's scared, and how things on the TV can't hurt him.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:03 PM on August 13, 2006

As a kid I absolutely adored Fantasia. It hasn't got a single long narrative but it ha great visuals and a cracking classical soundtrack. It might even get him into appreciating good music.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 7:04 PM on August 13, 2006

What about The Wiggles Movie? I also agree on the Disney movies.

Serial Killer, I'm not so sure about Fantasia or a four year old. I first watched it when I was about 4 and was scared silly.
posted by cholly at 7:06 PM on August 13, 2006

I second Fantasia (either old or new), which was one of my favorite at about that age, though I found some parts of the older one frightening as a kid (the walking brooms wigged me out).

In addition to Fantasia, when I was four I also loved the Yellow Submarine and The Last Unicorn (which might be too frigthening, as well), but then again, I was a hippy baby. Those last two are also fun to watch as adults.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:08 PM on August 13, 2006

Blue's Big Musical Movie would fit most of your criteria, and it's got Ray Charles!
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:41 PM on August 13, 2006

Weirdly enough, the 5 and 6 year olds I babysit (both easily scared) LOVE the Nightmare Before Christmas.
posted by radioamy at 9:01 PM on August 13, 2006

Hoppity Goes to Town.
posted by brujita at 9:46 PM on August 13, 2006

uhh... back to the future also contains a bunch of middle eastern terrorists tearing around a parking lot in a microbus with an automatic machine gun. they waste doc. also yes, there is swearing.

i was pissed when my wife let our kids watch this.

anyway agree with Faint of Butt that getting scared is kind of a normal process when growing up, and can be a vehicle for discussion. we let our 5 year old watch the original willy wonka movie and for a few days she was scared crapless of the 'grizzly reaper' but we were able to convince her that it was imaginary, and that she could defeat any imaginary creature with the power of her mind. "fear is the little death"...
posted by joeblough at 10:05 PM on August 13, 2006

uhh... back to the future also contains a bunch of middle eastern terrorists tearing around a parking lot in a microbus with an automatic machine gun. they waste doc. also yes, there is swearing.
Kids gotta learn the dangers of building phony bombs with used pinball machine parts sometime. Besides, right after that scene happens Marty takes the DeLorean back to 1955, and the special effects and cool car will wipe that upsetting moment away.
posted by Servo5678 at 3:29 AM on August 14, 2006

I came into this thread specifically to recommend "My Neighbor Totoro" as well, glad to see it already got mentioned.
posted by milov at 4:03 AM on August 14, 2006

Brave Little Toaster.
posted by quibx at 6:28 AM on August 14, 2006

Sorry to chime in with another non-movie suggestion, but I can't resist mentioning Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends [contains audio]. It may be aimed slightly higher than the preschool bracket, but my 5-yr-old and I are both addicted to it, and it's never inappropriate and very rarely scary. You can even watch the entire Emmy-nominated "Go Goo Go" episode on the Cartoon Network website to get a feel for it.

I like chokklit milk.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:18 AM on August 14, 2006

Ill toss my $.02 in as well...
My son (3.5yrs) loved/loves The Wiggles Magical Adventure Movie and The Wiggly Safari Movie (aka the Wiggles meet Steve Irwin the Croc Hunter)

Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkener are big favorites as well.

I also do the Tivo thing picking various new shows for him to watch off of Noggin or Disney and see what sticks. As a bonus, I very rarely buy Kids DVDs anymore as there is always something on in the Tivo. He has found Jack's Big Music Show and Charlie and Lola as well as some others that way. These also seem to be much less "advertised on a cerel box" as well :-)

He has also gotten into Krypto the Superdog on Cartoon Network and Kids Next Door (although that might be a bit too much violence).
posted by niteHawk at 8:36 AM on August 14, 2006

I like the Veggie Tales videos, though the mild Christian overtones may not be for everybody.
posted by jbradley at 1:26 PM on August 14, 2006

It's been awhile since I saw any, but certain VeggieTales videos don't seem all that Christian-oriented; the Silly Songs videos are an absolute scream and have as many visual puns per square inch as a Warner Brothers cartoon. They are totally clean, absolutely non-scary and have great production values. Even the ones that I've seen that ARE more "religious" are not overtly so; they moral or personal development lessons are pretty universal.

I second Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends; it's probably the best thing ever to come from Cartoon Network (and that's saying a lot).

And hey, I love showtunes, and I'm straight. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by lhauser at 10:53 PM on August 14, 2006

good to see craig getting some love on the green. the opening episode of fosters was so over the top frenetic that i decided that my kids were not going to watch it. but i dont think he cares.
posted by joeblough at 6:43 PM on August 17, 2006

I'm pretty anti-TV/movies/etc and my kids get completely upset by violence or sadness in movies. They were inconsolable after watching Charlott's Web.

As a result, I don't have a lot of recommendations! But after we read about 4 of the Oz books out loud, and saw a puppet show veersion, we watched the movie. The witch did scare the bejezuz out of them, but they liked the rest. They loved the Electric Company series, which is on DVD now, and is not scary in any way.

I periodically get 'educational' videos from the library. Lately they've enjoyed some Chinese language instruction videos (aimed at kids, it's mostly singing), sign language videos, and space and science stuff. The Magic School Bus series has been pretty good for specific sublects they're interested in (like space, the body, etc). We've even watched some NOVA specials on stuff that they are excited about like volcanoes.

Thanks everyone for their suggestions in this thread. I just put Here Come the ABCs in my Netflix queue, along with Yellow Submarine, which they don't have in stock yet ] :
posted by serazin at 7:26 PM on July 26, 2007

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