Ah, it’s October. Leaves browning, cold weather coming in, Halloween decorations begin filling store shelves and front yards…. Unless, of course you are like me and live in Southern California and it is currently 97 degrees with no end in sight to the heat. This is why I must rely on films, TV shows and books to put me in the correct mindset for Halloween.
A new addition to my Halloween Fantastic Adventures segment is the recently released Toy Story of Terror. First aired in October 2013 on ABC, this short 30 minute film doesn’t necessarily take place on Halloween, but is more of an homage to classic spooky monster movies. The toys wind up in a roadside motel when their humans’ car gets a flat tire on a road trip. Once inside, the toys begin disappearing one by one. What is this mysterious creature taking all of the toys? And what is he doing with them? You’ll just have to find out, won’t you.
Why it is a fantastic adventure: This short movie is a great way to introduce your kids to classic spooky movies. There are a lot of “jump” moments with things popping out from behind shower curtains, off the side of the frame, etc. In typical Pixar fashion, it is all done in a kid safe style. It’s not too scary, but just enough of a jump to get your kids flinching.
The tension is easily relieved by humor, and your kids will be screaming and laughing right along with their favorite toy characters.
Get your kids introduced to some spooky entertainment and get them ready for a season of Halloween TV specials and movies!
Toy Story of Terror is available on Blu-Ray and DVD at Amazon.com or other fine retailers.
For more Halloween movie and TV recommendations, please visit my 31 Days of Halloween posts by clicking on the banner on your right and look for Fantastic Halloween Adventures!
This is a special event based entry in my Fantastic Adventure series. For my readers in Southern California, coming this summer to a park near you, Shakespeare by the Sea!
It is FREE and I will most likely be at every performance working in some capacity.
I would love to see you! Get the schedule on the website above or message me your address and I will mail you a flyer!
Shakespeare by the Sea is a touring Shakespeare play. Each play is shortened for time and somewhat modernized. This year they are presenting Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These plays take place out in a local park. Bring your own blankets, chairs food, etc. and have a great time!
Why it is a fantastic adventure: Introduce your kids to Shakespeare plays in a fun and supportive environment. Don’t wait until they have to read Romeo & Juliet in high school. They will be lost and they will end up hating Shakespeare. No one wants that!
This is a great intro to the world of Shakespeare and a fun and interactive way to get your kids into all kinds of live theatre.
Come on down and say hello! Not in So Cal? Look for touring theatre groups in your area this summer!
My next item on my list of Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment brings us to a rather strange and unusual place. It’s a small town in Indiana that you won’t find on any map. Together let us journey to Eerie, Indiana.
Marshall Teller’s family moves to the small country town of Eerie, Indiana (Pop. 16,661). There, Marshall discovers that Eerie, as he puts it, “is the center of weirdness for the universe”. Elvis lives there, so do a pair of twins who stay young by sleeping in Tupperware, and many other strange things. Each episode, Marshall and his friend Simon collect evidence about the creepy things that happen there.
Why it is a fantastic adventure: Filled with paranormal shenanigans, clueless parents and two boys with an unending thirst for adventure, this television show delivers hours of amazing adventures for the entire family.
First, we have the classic best friends solving crime combo that encourages your kids to get out of the house and go looking for their own mysteries in their neighborhood and, hopefully, make friends along the way!
This is a great introduction to Twilight Zone / X-FIles – esque storytelling. Lots of great mysteries, paranormal, treasure hunting, etc. Just a few example of some of the more memorable episodes: A family that is hundreds of years old but stay eternally young by sleeping in Tupperware, a talking ATM that tries to be nice to you while getting you to steal other people’s money, a retainer that allows you to hear the thoughts of dogs (turns out, dogs are plotting to take over the world!), a VCR that brings the characters in the movie to life, a school eye exam that leads to all of the kids becoming complacent drones, and more!
This show sparks the imagination of young kids more than any other I have ever seen. Your kids will love Marshal and Simon, want to go on adventures just like them, and begin to question their own reality. Are things truly as they seem, or is there some creepy paranormal force at work? Either way, it will begin to open your kids’ minds to thinking outside the box and, hopefully, inspire them to create their own mysteries and adventures with their friends.
Eerie, Indiana is available to own on DVD on Amazon.com
What if I told you there was a book equivalent of The Goonies with a bit of Stand By Me thrown in there. And what if I told you it was a coming of age story that dealt with realistic kids? No super powers or vampires. Well my friends, that book exists, and it is called Saltwater Taffy by Eric DelaBarre.
From the book’s website: ” Saltwater Taffy is set during the 4th of July weekend and follows the lives of five “tweenage” friends as they uncover a treasure map leading to the Lost Treasure of Jean Lafitte. The discovery thrusts them from one treasure hunting adventure to the next as they try to out-wit, out-think and out-maneuver everyone from a one-legged junk yard man and an overbearing town bully, to the creepy old man living at the top of the hill.”
Why it is a fantastic adventure: Friendships are the lifeblood of our youth. They are what keep kids going. They live for after school and the weekend, when bike rides lead to adventures and the only limit is imagination. Your kids will undoubtedly value their friends more after reading this story.
This story takes place in the 1970s, before cell phones, Internet, computers, etc. If anything, your kids will be able to read about a time when life was a bit simpler. This will hopefully inspire them to get out of the house more often and go explore the town with their friends.
Treasure hunting is something that excites all of us. Whether we’re kids, tween,s teens, adults or seniors, we have all been bitten by a treasure hunting bug at least once. The story in this book will ignite your kids’ imaginations. Get ready to create your own treasure hunt because as soon as they are done reading this book, your kids will be pumped for an adventure – and what better way then with a treasure hunt!
This book really hits a lot of great themes in a young person’s life. I’ve told you about the friendship aspect. There is also a great lesson about learning to stop aiming so high because what you want is probably right in front of your face. This is always a great lesson to teach kids and is a great reminder for adults. Be happy with what you have! Loss of someone close to you is also dealt with in this book, and it is not just a tug at the emotions, but a great way to open dialogue with your kids about loss and what it really means.
Overall, Saltwater Taffy is an amazing coming of age adventure, with strong friendships, life lessons and even a treasure hunt. It truly is an all in one pack
Ahoy there, junior pirates! After a short absence, Dead Skin Dave has returned with a swashbuckling adventure for all of his junior pirates! Today’s fantastic adventure is perfect for all of Dead Skin Dave’s junior pirates! What’s the best activity to do after you read Dead Skin Dave, the Pirate!? Why, go treasure huntin’ with yer own board game, of course! Dead Skin Dave thoroughly recommends “Pirate’s Cove”, one of the only truly action oriented pirate board games.
From the Manufacturer: Come aboard and sail to Pirate’s Cove… the legendary hideaway of thieving pirates and cutthroat buccaneers. The tales of those legendary pirates of old who’ve fought and survived these mysterious waters still haunt all those who yearn for a life at sea. Armed with a secret map and starting with a modestly outfitted sloop salvaged from last winter’s storm you set sail to Pirate’s Cove — your eyes filled with visions of treasure and fame your lungs filled with the salty air of the High Seas. Your objective: to battle for the rights to plunder and become the most famed and feared Pirate the world has ever seen. To do so you will need to navigate shrewdly fight recklessly and pillage mercilessly. You will gain fame by winning battles; burying gold and treasure; and bragging about your exploits at the Tavern. At the end of twelve months the pirate with the most fame will be declared the most fearsome Pirate of the High Seas!
Arrrrrrrrrr ye ready for a game of swashbuckling and daring, mateys? In Pirate’s Cove, you’ll battle for the rights to plunder and to become the most famed and feared pirate on the seas! Win battles, bury gold, and boast of your exploits at the tavern. Sail the islands off Pirate’s Cove in your quest for fame and fortune – navigate shrewdly, fight recklessly, and plunder mercilessly! At the end of twelve ‘months,’ the most famous of the pirates wins! Includes game board, 7 pirate ships, 5 player mats and navigation wheels, 60 treasure cards, 6 pirate cards, 42 tavern cards, 75 wooden game markers, 6 dice, reference map, and rules. For 3 to 5 players ages 8 and up.
Put this game on your next birthday wish list. This game is perfect for kids 8 and up and is actually a lot of fun for adults, too!
Whew, it has been a whirlwind of a month, which is why I usually go light on the blog in December. Sorry for the lack of updates, everyone, but here is a new fantastic adventure for the entire family that’s worth the wait.
Whatever your religious beliefs (even lack thereof), there are not too many things better than gathering with family and taking a stroll on a cool December night and looking at Christmas lights. Here in Long Beach, we have a row of homes along a canal in Naples who go all out every year. It is a great way to take a little time off from all the shopping, rushing around and bad drivers! Spend some quality time with your kids (even your teenagers), parents, aunts, uncles, whoever you can drag with you, and experience the wonder of humans both young and old when they gaze at Christmas lights.
Enjoy the photos and the holidays! See you all soon!
First off, I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. December is in full swing, my daughter’s birthday party is coming up this weekend, and then Christmas celebrations begin! It is always a whirlwind this time of year, but it is fun and such a great few months to spend with friends and family that it is all worth it. How do you feel about this time of year?
Seeing as how my viewership is nearly double that of last year, I thought I would point you all in the direction of my Fantastic Christmas Adventures posts from last year. So today you get not one, but multiple Fantastic Adventures. Best of all, I’ll only charge you for one! Oh wait, I don’t have a tip jar on this blog. Well, lucky you, you get them all for free! Happy Holidays!
While most of my entries in the Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment series have been book, movie and TV show based, I have decided to broaden my approach and open it up to all forms of family entertainment. Today I’d like to talk about theatre camps! What are they? Well, I assume most people are familiar with summer camp. This is similar in that you drop your kid off at a camp for a few weeks in the summer or Winter, but instead of sports and scavenger hunts, your kids will learn how to prepare for and put on a play. This includes all aspects including set design and building, costumes, makeup, acting and directing.
Why it is a fantastic adventure. There are few things in the world that foster creativity in the same way that live theatre does. It s truly a collaborative process where everyone belongs to a community and everyone is involved. Whether your kids are acting, directing, doing backstage work or making costumes, everyone will feel part of the process.
This is also a great opportunity to get your kids who are not as outgoing into a supporting community. Maybe your child is shy and doesn’t want to act. That’s OK. She can work backstage and help the play get up and running. Every one is an essential piece of the puzzle in theatre. And I can almost guarantee that by the end of the camp, your child will want to leave the backstage and audition for the lead role in the play. That’s just how it works. It is such an empowering place where everyone can feel safe and welcome.
Imagination and creativity are things we often squander when we’re older because we’re taught they don’t pay the bills! Let your child build their sense of imagination and creativity so they have something to tap into when they become adults. There’s nothing wrong with a career in the performing arts. Money be damned!
Ah, Hocus Pocus. This film was only mildly successful when it came out in 1993 and to this day it is a very divisive film. However, it is one of my favorite Halloween movies and a great family friendly movie, so I will be presenting it. The story focuses on three witches who were burned at the stake for their evil deed of stealing the souls of children in Salem, Massachusetts in 1693. Right before they died, they cast a spell on a black flame candle that once a virgin lit the candle on the full moon before Halloween, they would rise once again. Fast forward 300 years to 1993 and a young high school boy named Max Dennison lights the candle to impress a girl. The three witches rise again to steal the souls of little children.
Max, his (hopeful) girlfriend Allison, and Max’s little sister, Dani must stop the evil Sanderson Sisters before the sun rises on November 1st in order to prevent the sisters from coming back permanently. Of course, the hard part for Max and company is that it is Halloween night and none of the adults or authority figures believe them! I will not spoil the ending, of course, but you can expect much hilarity, adventure and creepy Halloween spooks.
Why it is a fantastic adventure: Max is every bit the aspiring young hero for middle school aged boys, with just the right amount of disobedience and knowing when to do the right thing. He is also an especially good role model for any big brothers who have little sisters to take care of. Max learns throughout the movie and teaches your kids at the same time. You can be irresponsible and have fun, but there will be consequences. You can hate your little sister for being a
burden, but you’re going to do everything you can to protect her when things turn ugly. And lastly, you can try to impress the cute girl at school all you want, but you’re not going to win her over that way.
The little girls in your family will wish they were in Dani’s shoes from the very beginning. Dani is lovingly portrayed by Thora Birch, who really steals many of the scenes in this film. She is strong-willed and won’t stop tormenting her big brother until she gets her way. Your little girl will be going on the adventure with Dani, reveling in a night of witches, zombies and magic that all seems fresh and real. She even gets a talking cat as her companion through the film. Another plus, just when Dani is getting too scared – and maybe your little girl, too – her big brother swoops in and comforts her. It is a perfect lesson in sibling relationships. Just enough rivalry, but in the end it is compassion that wins the day.
Of course you can’t mention this film without talking about the witches themselves – the Sanderson Sisters. They provide most of the comedy throughout the film, mostly having to do with being from 1693 and being awoken in 1993. The elementary school is deemed a “prison for children” (your kids will
agree with that), a man dressed in a devil costume is mistaken for the real thing, and the entire concept of Halloween being a night of young children dressing up as creatures is quite upsetting to them. Bette , Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker play the creepy yet kooky witches to perfection with just the right amount of terror and humor. If these three witches do not get your kids excited about all things Halloween, then there is not much that will.
There are Halloween decorations abound, zombies, talking cats, creepy cemeteries and picturesque Salem settings, which really bring that cold Fall feeling to the film.
The entire movie itself is one long, grand adventure that never lets up and teaches very important lessons along the way, all the while building your kids’ love of Halloween.
Today’s Fantastic Adventure in family Entertainment brings us to the Neitherworld with the cartoon version of Beeteljuice. In particular, the Halloween episode “Laugh of the Party.”
When snobby Claire Brewster excludes Lydia and her friends from a popular kids’ Halloween party, Lydia decides to have one of her own. But when Delia takes over the planning, it looks like disaster is imminent until Beetlejuice — as Mr. Beetleman — offers his catering service. Armed with party supplies from the Neitherworld, he’s ready for anything…except the discovery that one of his decorations, Party People in a Can, shouldn’t be used during a full moon. He and Lydia must hunt down the missing Party People before they wreak havoc on all of Peaceful Pines.
Why it is a fantastic adventure: Your kids will obviously love the zany antics of Beetlejuice and will be able to relate to mom taking over the planning of a party (sorry, moms!). As in most children’s cartoons, there is a message to teach the kiddos. In this case, the message is one that you will enjoy as a parent. You see, Beetlejuice ends up getting on over his head (another good lesson) and Lydia has to help him clean it up (lesson number two). But the big lesson is that it is usually for the best when your bumbling but helpful parents plan your party because they know what they are doing.
Another fun aspect of this show is the animation. There is something very comforting about hand drawn animation from the late 80s and early 90s. Maybe it’s just the overload of horrible CGI in cartoons these days, but seeing hand drawn animation is very inviting. Plus, the animation style of this show is very unique. Your kids will hopefully appreciate the old animation style, as it is creepy, colorful and fun all at the same time.