In this, the year of our Lord, 2019, my kid has access to approximately 100 billion TV shows and movies and that’s not even counting the weird stuff happening over on YouTube. My kid, probably like most of your kids or your future hypothetical kids, is brilliant at finding the absolute dumbest, most annoying TV show or movie to watch and then becoming obsessed with it. Did you know there are, like, 47 different Power Rangers shows on Netflix? I didn’t. But now I do. Because my kid is adept at finding them. Do you know what Mini Force is? I didn’t. But now I do. And, guys, I really wish I still didn’t. Did you know that, if you let them, kids will watch the same exact movie not just every single day but multiple times every single day? They’re not like normal humans who watch a movie once and then think, “That was great. I’ll watch that again someday.” No. They think, “That was great. I shall watch it again immediately and then probably again and again and again until the adult in charge of me loses his/her mind.” It’s maddening. There is an overwhelming abundance of choices available to these little monsters and somehow, they never make the right choice.
We watch a lot of movies in my household (duh) and I try to pick my spots as to when to force a movie of my choosing upon my son, in theory so as to broaden his horizons but in reality, so as to keep my brain from becoming Minionized. With both LEGO Movie 2 and How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World dropping this month, I thought I’d have a look at a handful of non-Pixar/Disney animated kid’s movies that are actually good and equally enjoyable for kids and adults alike. These are my go-to “suggestions” (read: “I will give you three options and you can choose which movie you want from those three movies”) for my kid when he’s watched too much Mini Force or tried to trick me into letting him watch Despicable Me 3 for the 400th time this month. You’re welcome, parents and future parents.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Series
The first of these movies is definitely better than the second and the second is definitely better than the TV series. But these are favorites of mine in part because the voice talent is substantial (Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Anna Faris, etc.) and in part because Lord and Miller directed the first movie and brought to it the kinds of witty humor you’d expect. The movies differentiate extensively from the book if you’re concerned about that kind of nonsense but they’re vibrant in color and humor.
How to Train Your Dragon Series
I am supremely pumped for the third and final movie in this series and I know my kid is, too, considering he has asked me when it comes out literally every single day for the last month. This series will grow on you quickly if you let it and the themes mature and progress substantially from the first movie to the second. I like the messaging at the core of these movies and the depth of the characters surpasses all but the very best Pixar has to offer.
The Iron Giant
The reputation of this one precedes itself as it is one of the more popular, better-received animated films of the last 25 years and comes from the brilliant mind of Brad Bird. I confess, this isn’t my favorite animated movie and I think the animation is only so-so. But, the actual Iron Giant himself is AWESOME, Vin Diesel provides the voice (always a plus, obviously), and one time, my son watched this movie four times in one day (thanks a lot, random snow day in Texas) and not only was he entertained, I wasn’t stabbing my eyes out with fork so that probably says a lot about the movie’s quality.
The LEGO Movies
I would hazard to guess that of all the movies on this list, and perhaps all animated movies in general, my son has probably watched The LEGO Movie the most. Combine that with LEGO Batman and LEGO Ninjago and you’ve got yourself a highly entertaining universe with strong messages that is insanely rewatchable. Plus, in a rare win-win for parents and soulless corporations alike, it has proven nearly impossible for my child to watch a LEGO movie without then wanting to play with and build LEGOs. Does this cost me more money? Yeah, it totally does. But is it awesome that he wants to actually play instead of stare at a screen? Yeah, it totally is.
Most Dr. Seuss movies have turned out poorly and, I admit, The Lorax isn’t great, at least in comparison to the best animated kid’s movies on the market. But, for one, I love this book and its central themes. And two, it serves as a good introduction (or re-introduction after the original Grinch) to all things Seuss if your kid hasn’t come around on the books or needs a screen to tell him/her something is cool. The movie looks great, too, with a lot of pop-off-the-screen colors that will keep your kid entertained without them ever noticing that they’re actually absorbing the story’s moral (maniacal laugh).
I had mostly forgotten about Megamind after seeing it in theaters in 2010 until we got HBOGo and it popped up on the kid’s feed. This has a great voice cast, the action moves with great purpose, and there are a ton of jokes for the adults. Plus, it’s kind of nice watching a superhero movie that is disconnected from the MCU or the DCEU.
Over the Hedge
The caveat on this one is, it’s not an “anytime, all the time” kind of movie. Meaning, it’s not so good that you will want to watch it over and over; you have to pick your spots. This is one I’ll bust out when Cooper INSISTS on an animated movie and we’ve already gone through most of my favorites and allllll of his. I save it for the longest part of summer break or the Christmas holidays, stuff like that. It’s a fun movie with lively animation and a touch of the Minions-type humor that will keep your kid entertained without totally melting his/her brain. Best of all, the soundtrack is all Ben Folds songs and I’m always looking for ways to teach my kid how to rock the suburbs.
Yeah, you read that right. I’m recommending Trolls. Sorry not sorry. I’m not saying it’s Pixar, obviously, but if I have to choose between Despicable Me, another round of PJ Masks, or Power Rangers Ninja Turbo Storm Steel (possibly not a real title but who knows, really) and Trolls, I’m taking Trolls every time. The movie’s got jokes, the story is fun, and the music is super catchy which means you’ll hate yourself three days later when you’re STILL humming “Can’t Stop This Feeling” but your kid will be entertained no matter how many times you watch it and will probably leave you alone for an hour so you can get some work done or, like, lay on the couch and stare off into space.