The Boy and the Snow Goose

BR Boy and SNow GooseIn this gentle, slightly bittersweet story, a boy rescues an injured snow goose and nurses it back to health. The boy and goose have magic-filled summer together, but must say goodbye when the goose migrates with the other geese in the fall. The boy spends the winter dreaming of the goose, and is happily (though briefly) reunited with the goose when it returns in the spring.

The visuals are book illustration style, in muted colours, with simple, slow-paced animation. The soundtrack is by Normand Roger, whose music I always enjoy.

In one scene, a child briefly threatens to throw a stone at the goose. Though nothing bad happens, you may wish to postpone watching this film with your toddler until they are already aware that people sometimes do mean things like that. (Or you could use it as an opportunity to discuss that before they encounter it in real life.)

Age: 3+
Adult rating: 9/10
Child rating: 9/10
Running time: 10 minutes
Available free on the National Film Board of Canada website

Hen Hop

BR Hen HopThis is a sweet, short animation of a dancing chicken by Norman McLaren, from the early 1940s. The animation is drawn directly on to the film with pen and ink, and the musical accompaniment is an old-time string band.

Age: 1+
Child rating: 9/10
Adult rating: 9/10
Running time: 4 minutes
Available free on the National Film Board of Canada website

Lines Horizontal

BR Lines HorizontalThis is another collaboration between Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, with a soundtrack composed and performed by Pete Seeger. As the name suggests, the visuals consist almost entirely of horizontal lines (and a handful of slightly vertical ones), moving up and down in different configurations and speeds. The visual effect is mesmerizing, and it’s great hearing a slightly more experimental side of Pete Seeger’s music.

Age: 2+
Child rating: 8/10
Adult rating: 9/10
Running time: 6 minutes
Available free on the Nation Film Board of Canada website

Kipper

BR KipperKipper is an animated TV series which ran from 1997-2000, based on books of the same name by British author Michael Inkpen. M. and I had previously read a few Kipper books, and decided to watch our first couple episodes of the TV show last night. M. loved it, while my feelings were slightly more mixed.

The animation is based on the illustrations, and is simple, cute, and fairly slow moving – a nice contrast with the frenetic pace of so many children’s cartoons. The stories are sweet and gently humorous. And the characters are all really nice and helpful to each other, which is great, especially since young kids are so prone to imitating the behaviours they see.

I was initially annoyed that almost all of the characters are male, but I’ve since come to see it as a sweet tale of  caring and gentle male friendship, in a world that too often portrays male characters as solitary or rivals or needing female characters to provide the emotional connection. Also: M. always put up such a fuss about brushing his teeth until he saw Kipper brush his teeth!

Age: 3+
Child rating: 10/10
Adult rating: 7/10
Running time: 8 minute episodes
Some episodes available free on Youtube

Le Merle (The Blackbird)

BR Le MerleThis short film by Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart (National Film Board of Canada) is based on a French-Canadian folk song about a blackbird who keeps losing body parts and having them return three-fold. The animation is semi-abstract, with simple white lines and circles representing the bird on a slowly shifting sky-like background. The song is sung by Trio Lyrique, with instrumental accompaniment, arranged by Maurice Blackburn. We all enjoyed this, and M. laughed aloud a number of times.

Age: 1+
Child rating: 10/10
Adult rating: 10/10
Running time: 4 minutes 30 seconds
Available free on the National Film Board of Canada website

Microcosmos

BR MicrocosmosThis is a great whole-family film, which consists entirely of stunningly beautiful close-up footage of insects and other invertebrates. We always watch videos on the computer, but this made me wish for a larger screen.

There is nothing scary, and the level of drama is appropriate for a toddler: a dung beetle trying to push a ball of dung which gets caught on a thorn, a crow eating ants, stag beetles fighting, etc. There’s a famous scene of two snails having sex, about which M. asked “are they hugging?” We said yes. (We would have answered more if he had asked more, but that was all he wanted to know). M. was particularly captivated by the moths, the rhinoceros beetle, and of course the dung beetle.

The soundtrack is by French composer Bruno Coulais, and contains a nice balance of recorded insect sounds and insect-inspired instrumental sounds, with occasional more typical movie-style music for the dramatic sections. The film contains very few words, so don’t worry if you can’t find the English version. I’m rating it as age 2+, because I think a younger child wouldn’t appreciate it as much, but there would certainly be no harm in watching it with younger kids around.

Age: 2+
Child rating: 9/10 (M. did get restless at one point, but I think it was because he wanted to eat dessert).
Adult rating: 10/10
Running time: 80 minutes