Curious George Review

This post previously appeared in my Family Movie Night column over at Ldsblogs.com.  Would love if you checked out all my writings over there and would be so grateful for comments.  Thanks!

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In this Family Movie Night series there are going to be weeks that appeal to certain families more than others.  Last week was a film that will probably appeal to older children and teens; whereas, this week the choice is more for young children under the age of 5.  As a lover of animation I enjoy all of these films so you never know what your family will like.  I would like to think older kids can sit through a film geared at younger kids but there is always going to be that battle.

Making a film for toddlers is particularly difficult because of their short attention span.  For it to work it needs to be somewhat episodic in feel as opposed to a longer plot that might be hard for little ones to keep focused on.  It also needs to be gentle with a simple message they can absorb.   That’s what makes Winnie the Pooh so brilliant is it is short stories that are sweet and teach a valuable but simple lesson.

This week’s pick recognizes the challenges of making a film for toddlers and executes it very well.  It is the 2006 animated film Curious George.

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Based on the book series by HA and Margret Rey Curious George is kind of an origin story to our lovable monkey named George and his friend with the yellow hat named Ted (voiced by Will Farrell). Ted works in a museum owned by Mr Bloomsberry (voiced by Dick Van Dyke in his first animated film role). The museum is having a hard time entertaining kids some of which are brought by a teacher Ms Maggie (voiced by Drew Barrymore).

The museum isn’t making enough money to stay afloat and Mr Bloomsberry’s son Junior (voiced by David Cross) wants to build a giant parking structure.  This is a tired plot point we’ve seen in movies like Home on the Range but there is so much left to love in Curious George that I didn’t mind the plot.

Mr Bloomsberry is almost convinced to close the museum but Ted changes his mind by promising to find the relic called “The Lost Shrine of Zagawa”.  This is what sends Ted to the jungle and is what helps him meet George.

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Given this movie was made in 2006 it was actually pretty special to see it not only in 2D animation but for it to be so bright and colorful.  In the world of CG everywhere it is a joy to watch Curious George.  I hate to say it but such a film would never be made in 2D in 2015 and I think that is a real shame.  The backgrounds of both the city and jungle are lush, layered and colorful.  It just looks so beautiful!

They also made George so adorable.  He makes me smile every time he is on screen. I feel they managed to make him even cuter than in the books.   In what may seem like a strange comparison the charm of George reminds me a little bit of Wall-e.  Neither of them talk but they have personality, love another character clearly and are just so darn cute!

After Ted meets George he finds the statue but it is only 3 inches tall, which will not be the grand attraction Mr Bloomsberry is looking for.  Ted smudges this detail in the photo he sends and heads back to New York but George loves him and follows him on the boat.

The rest of the movie is basically George making mischief in one scene after another.  There perhaps could have been one less of these scenes but they are done with such a joyous spirit I didn’t mind them.  Like I said with Winnie the Pooh there is a gentleness and sweetness that even the villain Junior is really just looking to be loved by his Dad.

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To perfectly appeal to toddlers Curious George could have been a little shorter. It would have been better at just around the hour mark but I think most kids should be able to sit through the 86 minutes.

There’s a really nice message to the film about embracing adventure and being loyal to those who love you whether actually your family or not.  I also think it is nice to see a film where a little mischievousness and individuality is encouraged in young children not put down as disorderly or too manic.  (Although watch your walls after the kids view this movie!).

As far as the voice talent they all do a good job although I don’t think the celebrity voices are really necessary.  I think the people who are going to watch Curious George are going to do so celebrities or not.  Movies can save a lot of money by having voice actors do their job and I wish more films would use that amazing resource.

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The music is a huge standout in the film with original songs from Jack Johnson.  This I think was worth the money as his relaxed style goes well with the bright joyous nature of Curious George.  I love all of the songs and even bought the soundtrack when it came out year ago.

I’m a 34 year old adult with no kids and I really enjoy Curious George.  It’s so beautiful. I love the music and the sweetness of the characters.  It’s like a hug from a friend and I think a hidden gem many don’t know about.  If you like Curious George there are a number of sequels and a TV show from most of the team minus celebrity voices that are also very well done.

If you do watch it with or without your little one put in the comment section what they think about it. I would love to know how they react as it is a type of film especially with the 2D that is rarely made any more.  Enjoy and stay curious!

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Watch “Top 11 Forgotten Animated Movies” on YouTube

I did a youtube collaboration with The Lawn Gnome and we both created our Top Forgotten Animated Movies: http://youtu.be/_cmeJCpFDpU

I think you guys will enjoy it and would love your feedback. What do you think of my list? What would you pick?

Here is my collaborators list.  It’s very different from my own so I think you will also enjoy it. Would love to see my awesome commenters give him some feedback.

 

Favorite Non-Disney Animated Movies

Hi guys!

I just thought you might be wondering what my opinion is on non-Disney animated films.  I’m not talking Pixar,Studio Ghibli or other Disney wings because they should get their own list.  I’m talking about other studios like Dreamworks, which while not as consistently my favorites like Disney, they have made some great animated films.

So here we go in no particular order.

1. The Adventures of Tintin- underrated action adventure movie.  Yes, it is motion capture not traditional animation but I figure if it looks, feels, acts like an animated film it is an animated film.  More people should have seen this movie.  It was so entertaining!

2. The Lego Movie- one of the most visually inventive movies I’ve ever seen.  The effects with the legos blew me away.  Great voice work by whole cast, and the script is so well written. Every joke got a laugh from me and then there’s moments that were surprisingly tender.  It is the best movie I’ve seen at capturing how a child plays with their toys and how incapable adults are at understanding that play.

3. Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2- both films are very entertaining with a likable lead character, fun action, beautiful visuals, and great villains.

4. Secret of Nimh- wonderful movie featuring one of the toughest Moms in movies.  She doesn’t want to be a hero but will do anything for her son.  There’s humor, adventure and most importantly real heart.

5. Anastasia- one of the best animated romantic comedies put onto film.  Great chemistry, a fun villain, and decent music.  The story is silly but I still find it very entertaining.

6. How to Train Your Dragon- haven’t seen sequel but want to.  Original was very entertaining.  It’s a predictable story but told very well.  Great voice cast and a great heart to the story of Hiccup and his desire to please his demanding father.  The relationship between him and the dragon is very absorbing. Beautiful flying visuals.

7. Prince of Egypt- some people have problems with the changes from the Biblical story but not me. I am mad for the music, just love it and the scene where Moses communes with the burning bush is breathtaking.  I’m a huge fan of biblical epics and this stands with the best.

8. Arthur Christmas- A movie I thought looked really stupid and then totally surprised me.  Santa’s youngest son Arthur believes in bringing Christmas to every child and when he finds a girl has been missed will do anything to make it right.  I love the idea that even the North Pole has become over-commercialized for Christmas.  I love Christmas movies so this is a big win.  Great voice cast. Real heart.

9. Chicken Run- An homage to Dirty Dozen and other prison escape movies from the 50s.  Great writing and voice work.  Terrific villain and the stop motion animation is fabulous.

10. Transformers 1986- Michael Bay should be strapped down and forced to watch this movie for a week straight to understand how it should be done.  Those bloated, obnoxious mess of movies don’t have 1/10th the heart of this animated film.  Orson Wells is Optimus Prime and he is great.  It’s got action and fun characters and with every Michael Bay monstrosity it looks better and better (Transformers 2 and 3 are 2 of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  I just can’t see 4.  It’s too much.) Boys deserve better transformers movies and this animated film gives it to them. .

11.  Charlotte’s Web- One of the best non-Disney animated musicals.  Sweet songs with great vocal performances by Debbie Reynolds and Paul Lynde.  It’s actually pretty sad but in a way that will teach kids about friendship and sacrifice.

12. Iron Giant- If you haven’t seen this film, stop what you are doing, go out and watch it.  The animation is stunning.  The story has real heart and lovely characters.  It is a total winner!

13. Paranorman- everyone who thinks I’m a total softy when it comes to darker movies will probably be surprised to find this on my list.  I like a good ghost story and this definitely fits the bill.  It’s more for teens than children.  Some of the images are pretty scary and the humor, like the jock actually being gay, is probably more for teens than little kids.  It looks amazing.  Has some genuine scares and the story surprised me.  Very well done.

14. Simpsons Movie- Everyone is always shocked to find out I love the Simpsons.  My favorite show of all time.  My brother and sister and I would watch it every week and 26 seasons later still do.  The movie is overwritten and could have been better but I still really enjoy it.  I love the characters and the HD colors add a nice touch to the movie over the TV show.  Simpsons has given me so many laughs I love it.  Lisa is my particular favorite.

15. Pirates: Band of Misfits- A movie nobody saw but I really enjoyed.  It’s funny with Charles Darwin as our unlikely hero.  The stop motion looks great and voice work is engaging.  A hidden gem!

16. Curious George- So few movies are made well for children under 5.  Curious George is one of those movies.  It is sweet and engaging with lovely songs from Jack Johnson.  One that is unabashadly for the smallest of children and yet adults won’t be miserable.

17. Lord of the Rings (Bakshi)- It’s not as good as the Peter Jackson movies but it is also a different take on an epic story.  To me there is room for multiple retellings of the Lord of the Rings and Bakshi crams a lot of story into this film.  Maybe not a masterpiece but I enjoy it.  The music is wonderful and characters engrossing.  If you like the story of Lord of the Rings give this animated version a chance.  I think this is what the Black Cauldron was trying to be and it isn’t near as successful.

18. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Still my favorite Batman movie (yes, you read right).  Intense without being too violent.  Batman is interesting without being over-the-top.  I hate in the live action movies how the villains are always more interesting than Batman.  Not the case here.  Great animation.  Great voice work.  If you haven’t seen it and love the Nolan films give it a shot.

19. Happy Feet- A flawed film but I love the music and it is so unabashedly cheerful I enjoy it.  It’s the kind of movie I put in when I’m sick and it brightens my day.  Huge talented cast and serviceable story.

20. Charlie Brown Christmas Special- I realize this was for TV but I couldn’t not include it.  One of the best Christmas movies ever made.  Perfect soundtrack.  Lovely message and delightful characters. It focuses on the Christ message of Christmas in a way that is powerful without being overbearing.