Making a traditional Japanese wooden Kokeshi Doll

BR Japanese DollMany of M.’s favourite videos are of people making things or doing physical labour, and there’s a great wealth of such videos on the website The Kids Should See This. This video, as the title suggests, is of a man making a traditional Japanese wooded Kokeshi doll. The doll is turned on a lathe, and painted with great precision.

Age: 0+
Adult rating: 8/10
Child Rating: 10/10
Running time: 4 minutes
Available free on The Kids Should See This

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Lights for Gita

BR Lights for GitaI’ve been looking for films about non-Christmas winter holidays, and this is the first I’ve found that I’ve wanted to show Milo. Based on a book by Indian-Canadian author Rachna Gilmore, this film tells the story of a young girl, Gita, who has recently moved from India to Canada. She is looking forward to celebrating Diwali with her new friends from school, and is disappointed when a snowstorm means that her dad won’t be able to set off fireworks, and her friends can’t get to her house. Gita, her family, and one friend who lives near by, figure out a way to celebrate and light up the darkness in her new wintery home.

I don’t love the animation or illustrations (I prefer the book illustrations), but they are fine. The score is by Normand Roger, whose work I always enjoy. Milo loved it, and wanted to watch several times in a row.

Age: 3+
Adult rating: 8/10
Child Rating: 9/10
Running time: 8 minutes
Available free on the National Film Board of Canada website

The Lion and the Mouse

BR The Lion and the MouseThis is a beautiful and sweet animated version of Aesop’s fable “The Lion and the Mouse,” by Canadian animator Evelyn Lambart (1914-1999). Lambart was initially best known for her collaborations with Norman MacLaren, but later in life developed her own unique and visually arresting style of animation using brightly coloured paper cutouts against a black background, which looks a bit like Russian folk painting. There is no verbal dialogue, but the soundtrack by Maurice Blackburn tells the story in a conversational, semi-improvisatory style. Some children might find the lion a little bit scary, but nothing bad happens, and the mouse and the lion become friends at the end.

(Do be careful if you decided to go on from here to “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.” It starts out very gently, but the country mouse takes a gun when he goes to the city. M. doesn’t yet know about guns, so we stopped the video when we got to that point!)

Age: 3+
Adult rating: 9/10
Child Rating: 9/10
Running time: 4 minutes
Available free on the National Film Board of Canada website

The Old Mill

Old Mill

We’re trying to keep Disney characters out of the house for as long as possible, but we were curious to see this short, non-character-driven Disney film from the 1930’s. The Old Mill tells the simple story of some animals hiding out from a storm in an old mill. Some kids might find the storm a bit scary – the mill is almost blown apart – but the animals do all survive. It could actually be helpful for young children to watch this in preparation for a big storm, or as a way of processing it afterwards. Although Disney-style animation has never been my favourite, I do find these earlier, hand-drawn films much livelier and more appealing than the more recent films.

Age: 3+
Adult rating: 8/10
Child rating: 8/10
Running time: 8 minutes
Available free on Youtube

Frog and Toad are Friends; Frog and Toad Together

BR Frog ad ToadWe’ve been postponing watching the film versions of many of the books we like (such as the Moomintrolls and the Gruffalo) so that M. has the book version in his mind first, but we’ve already been reading Frog and Toad to him for two years, and since this movie version is voiced by the author, Arnold Lobel, we figured it wouldn’t stray too far from the original spirit or aesthetic of the books. Each of these movies consists of several short, gently humorous vignettes, reenacted in claymation. The humour is often on several levels – some silliness (eg. Frog pouring water on his head) that appeals to toddlers, and some subtler, more philosophical humour that only older children and adults would get. The claymation is generally lovely, though occasionally falls into a bit of an “uncanny valley” (if one can call it that for frogs and toads).

Age: 2+
Adult rating: 8/10
Child rating: 8/10
Running time: each movie 18 minutes
Available free on Youtube