The Land Before Time – A Philosophy of Childrens Entertainment

The Land Before Time – A beautifully dark, film from 1988 by Don Bluth.  Dealing with topics of mass starvation and extinction, the loss of a mother, and racism, this film is a prime example of childrens films not being what they used to.  I don’t think you could have a Land Before Time nowadays without giving it a PG rating or having hardcore fundies up in arms about the subject matter being dealt with in the movie.  Watching this movie again as an adult there are so many things that I picked up on that I didn’t really notice as a child.  I didn’t associate the segregation of the different herds with racism, but then again I was 4!  “Three-horns never play with Long Necks” (PS. Sarah’s a bitch).

Last night after the CreCommedy night (by the way, you guys did an amazing job!! So funny!!) my roommates and I were browsing our VHS collection to see what movie we should watch.  I came across an old copy of The Land Before Time.  I remember bawling my eyes out as a child to this dark and somewhat depressing “childrens” film.  I wish they made films that tugged at your emotions as much as this film does.  Nowadays there’s Teletubies and Blues Clues and other shows that pretty much just distract kids with bright colours and random noises. 

No, they don’t make movies like the Don Bluth movies of the 80s and 90s!  The Secret of Nimh, An American Tale, All Dogs Go To Heaven, they’re all masterpieces.  But dark masterpieces that deal with pretty extreme subject matter.  Fifel loses his family while making the trek from Russia to America and is hunted by cats (I hated cats for years after seeing An American Tale); in All Dogs Go To Heaven, they deal with death and the afterlife and some really heady stuff and I think that our culture is remiss for dumbing down and ripping out emotionally poigiant subject matter from childrens entertainment. 

I am who I am because of my experiences with loss, anger and insecurity and how I’ve overcome said experiences.  I think we’re developing a new crop of humans who won’t know how to survive emotionally because we’re trying to “protect” them all the time from feeling any negative feelings. 

I wonder, that without dark, socially poigniant childrens movies like The Land Before Time and the Secret of Nimh, (coupled with the growing trend of parents allowing Television to raise their children) will children slowly lose the ability to empathize with characters, and inturn their fellow human-beings, if things that are happening to the characters are always bright and cheerful and seem to lack any serious conflict.

What do you guys think?

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2 thoughts on “The Land Before Time – A Philosophy of Childrens Entertainment

  1. ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’ was my favourite movie as a child, and I didn’t realize until last year that the setting was 1920/1930’s New Orleans.

    Don Bluth animation still exists with fans, but nothing of the same style or emotional quality is produced now, for sure. They frequently dealt with racism + death in a way Disney never could. I remember being a little bit disturbed watching All Dogs Go To Heaven as an adult when the main character’s casino get ransacked + his sidekick Itchy gets beaten up. It’s so clear that all lecherous actions lead to death + retaliation, but the crazy dog morality play is far beyond a movie about dogs, like an almost biblical redemption through fire.

    Amazing cartoon story telling, I say!

    PS: To this day, when someone gets very happy about something I say “Look Mama! I’m a flyer!” (and ignore whether or not people recognize Petrie’s famous line from LBFT)

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