Being a parent can be stressful for any number of reasons. From the initial days of not getting any sleep to the strain it places on your bank account, raising children isn’t for the faint of heart. But for the cinema junkie, perhaps the most difficult aspect can be the hours upon hours of mindless cartoons soaked up over the early years of a child’s life. It all adds up to far more Dora the Explorer than any adult cares to have in his or her life, which makes it that much more of a godsend when something watchable hits theaters.
For this reason, there’s no better time than now to look back on the kids’ movies that can save parents from the feeling of dread every time the family puts on a movie. Worry not: There’s still hope out there.
1. Toy Story (and basically every Pixar film)
Rather than devolving into a list that basically runs through every Pixar movie, it’s better to focus on Toy Story as the one that got it all started. Most every one of the studio’s offerings possess an adult appeal disguised in animation form, but its first offering was the one that set the tone. Toy Story (and its two subsequent sequels) get at the heart of what it’s like to grow up from the perspective of the world we all left behind as children. Odds are that parents will end up understanding this theme more than the kids they have in tow, but it’s great entertainment nonetheless.
Looking for a movie not made by Tim Burton that combines beautiful stop-motion animation, light horror, and a frightening fixation on the nature of mortality and discrimination? Then load up the minivan, because you’re about to see ParaNorman! It contains just enough to keep younger audiences fixated on the screen, but even more to engage adults who can perceive its subtle nods to classic horror flicks along with its mature take on death, violence, and human nature. Basically, imagine if Burton was just a shade less creepy and off-kilter with his animated stories, and that’s ParaNorman in a nutshell.
3. Big Hero 6
Out just this past year and now on DVD, Big Hero 6 pretty much embodies the idea of having something for everybody. Kids will love the fluffy and quirky title robot Baymax, while parents will chuckle to themselves at the scene where Baymax’s low battery makes him act like everyone’s least favorite drunk friend in college. There’s also the obligatory heart-rending death of a close family member within the first hour, so consider yourself warned if the tears start flowing from both you and your little ones.
There’s a very good chance your kids won’t understand a vast majority of the references from Rango, but really, that’s by design. Our title character spends a better part of the movie dressed like Hunter S. Thompson circa Fear and Loathing as he vividly hallucinates in the desert (we even see Hunter drive by for a quick cameo in his trademark red convertible). Past that, it’s a classic cowboy story told by animated talking animals, as well as a solid gateway for getting your children into Spaghetti Westerns. Hey, it’s worth a shot, right?
5. The LEGO Movie
The LEGO Movie may have been snubbed by the 2015 Oscar nominations, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t by and large the best animated film to come out last year. Thanks to LEGO’s ironclad grip on copyrights allowing its to depict any character from any film or comic universe as long as it’s in toy form, we get to see what happens when Batman, Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Han Solo come together in the same movie. Your kids may not understand why this is important, but odds are they’ll love it anyway.