Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

Best Don Bluth Films

Don Bluth films. When they were good, they were better than anything Disney could dream of making, but when they were bad…well, let’s just not mention “A Troll in Central Park”… But how can one separate the wheat from the chaff? Fear not, for, inspired by one of my students who listed his top 5 Disney films, I have compiled the Top 5 Best Don Bluth Films.

1. The Secret of NIMH (1982)
This movie scared me so bad as a kid, but I loved it. This was Don Bluth’s first film and his best. It shows just what makes a Don Bluth film special: a willingness to explore darker themes, an eye for real conflict often missing from more cutesy films, and yet with enough bright, colorful, lighthearted scenes to make the movie perfect for kids.

2. Anastasia (1997)
Okay, I admit it. I like romantic comedies. However, this romantic comedy/adventure is better than any live action guy/girl adventure movie I’ve seen. Also the time period makes for a gorgeous film.

3. An American Tail (1986)
A movie about the plight of Jewish immigrants moving to America from Russia, and of the corrupt employers who oppress them. Sounds like a great kids’ movie, right? Well, it is if you make the main characters mice!

4. The Land Before Time (1988)
If you only know about “The Land Before Time” from the 5 billion awful straight to video sequels, do yourself a favor and watch the original. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you really hate T-Rex.

5. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
This was a very strange movie. From the concept of dog-heaven and dog-hell to the giant singing alligator, nothing about this movie should actually work. And yet it does, brilliantly.


Erica said…

Couldn't resist. Agree with this list 100%. Although I never wound up hating T-Rex. That might explain why I love Jurassic Park, or why I have a sharptooth toy sitting on the desk right now....
Anonymous said…
I never saw a Don Bluth film I didn't like (I've only seen 4 of them).

I'll say this: parts of them all scared me a lot (All Dogs still disturbs me a bit overall, Dragon from NIMH scared me the most there, the cats--especially the Cossacks--in American Tail and the fight between Sharptooth and Littlefoot's Mom [especially, for some odd reason, that musical orchestra bell cue when the earthquake starts]).

I'll also say this: the animation for these films is just a wonderful hodge-podge of color and light. Some scenes have a grittier, dirtier feel (the reveal of the Mouse of Minsk, Charlie's nightmare sequence) that I think many animated films from other sources sorely lack. That look really helped the scenes it appeared in.

It's a shame Don didn't continue directing animation well into the current time.