The Wind in the Willows (1983)

br-wind-in-the-willowsThis is a very nicely done stop-motion animated version, which sticks closely to the book. We watched about half an hour of it, and then M. (4 years old) complained that it was “boring.” I tried to convince him that there’s no such thing as boring, that this was a very nice film, and that he should give it a chance. And then I burst out laughing because I realized that I had always found The Wind in the Willows (whether as a book or a movie) boring too. I include this here because it is good, and I wish we liked it – but we just do not seem to be a Wind in the Willows family. (It’s not that we’re immune to the charms of early 20th century anthropomorphic British animals – we just seem to prefer the Beatrix Potter tales!)

Age: 1+
Child rating: N/A (we’re not the right ones to judge)
Adult rating: N/A
Running time: 79 minutes
Available: there are various free versions online

The Story of Christmas

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.05.52 PMThis is a bright and cheerful version of the Christmas story, with luminously painted zinc foil cutout animation against a black background by Evelyn Lambart. The story is told wordlessly with a celebratory renaissance-style soundtrack by Karl Duplessis.

Age: 1+
Adult rating: 9/10
Child Rating: 9/10
Running time: 8 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

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

The Snowman

BR The SnowmanThis is a sweet, gentle adaptation of the book of the same name by British author and illustrator Raymond Briggs. The animation comes from the book illustrations and the music is pleasant. Great for cozy watching on a cold, dark winter afternoon. The Snowman and Snowdog is an equally pleasant sequel.

Age: 1 1/2+
Child rating: 9/10
Adult rating: 9/10
Running time: 26 minutes
Available free on Youtube

The Sand Castle

This was one of my favourite films when I was a kid, and I’m delighted that it’s one of M.’s favourite films too. It’s a National Film Board of Canada film, by Co Hoedemans, and features beautiful and imaginative stop-motion animated sand creatures. There are no words, and the soundtrack is a well-composed neo-renaissance-ish score by Normand Roger.

Age: 1+
Child rating: 10/10
Adult rating: 10/10
Running time: 14 minutes
Available free on the NFB website

Bagpuss

This is a great British show from the 70’s, made by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin of Smallfilms. Only 13 episodes were ever made, but it seems like every British kid from the 70’s until now grew up watching it. The beginning and ending of each episode is the same, and it’s always very gentle, calm, and creative. Each episode, the characters fix something that has been found broken, and tell stories about it. The art is beautiful and varied. The music is a great collection of English folk revival songs, some traditional, and some written for the show. Initially we were sad to learn that there are only 13 episodes, but M. loves the first two episodes that he watched, Ship in a Bottle and The Mouse Mill, so much that we just end up watching them over and over again, and have hardly seen any of the others! We still enjoy watching these episodes, but are looking forward to when M. will let us see some of the others as well!

Age: 1+
Child rating: 10/10
Parent rating: 10/10
Running time: 15-minute episodes
Most episodes are available free on youtube