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.
The next stop on our Halloween tour: Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost! This animated movie came straight to DVD in 1999. Like most Scooby-Doo movies, this one revolves around a mystery. In this case, there is a witch’s ghost tormenting the citizens of Oakhaven, a sleepy little town where famed Horror writer Ben Ravencroft goes to write his books. Ben Ravencroft runs into Scooby and the gang after they solve a mystery at a local history museum.
Once Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred arrive in Oak Haven, they immediately begin to investigate the suspicious behavior of the mayor. The gang is skeptical about the Witch’s ghost being real , but once they see it for themselves will they believe in ghosts? Join the spooky adventurers as they try to solve the mystery of the Witch’s ghost!
Why it is a fantastic Adventure: This movie is one that I view every October to get me into the Halloween and Fall spirit. The town of Oak Haven has a picturesque Massachusetts Fall setting: brown leaves, barren trees, a small Main Street where everyone knows everyone, and even a re-creation of a Puritan village. If you live in parts of the world where the weather doesn’t change much and Fall doesn’t really happen, this is a great way to get yourself and the kids in the proper Fall mindset.
Along the way, the gang meet a group of Gothic witches who are in the rock band, The Hex Girls. This trio provides a few songs in the movie (which are actually pretty good) and help keep the kids entertained through the somewhat plodding mystery story.
Scooby-Doo provides the majority of the movie’s laughs, whether he is scarfing down a gigantic sandwich, begging for Scooby Snacks, or trying to churn butter in the Puritan village. He also provides crucial entertainment value in a story that is somewhat dark for a kids’ Halloween adventure.
On that point, the ghost in this movie is real. She is not someone dressed up in a costume to be de-masked at the end. She has a real thirst for revenge and will do anything to get her way. She brings pumpkins to life and turns them into evil jack-o’-lanterns that try to eat Scooby and the gang.
The plot deals with witches, Wiccans and warlocks, and provides a safe introduction to the topic of real life witches- Wiccans -that you can elaborate on later if you so desire.
The mystery plot is a lot of fun and will keep your kids guessing until the end, especially since the witch turns out to be real (but who was behind the other part of the mystery, and why was the mayor being so suspicious?). There are plenty of eerie locations to keep up the Halloween vibe: abandoned mills, forests full of dead trees, a cabin shrouded in an eerie fog.
Overall, Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost is a great atmosphere setting movie with a fun mystery and a few teachable moments and imagination igniting ideas for your kids. Watch and get ready for Halloween!
One of my best childhood memories of Halloween is sitting around the TV turning on the Disney Channel and watching The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. For those who don’t know the story, it basically involves a very superstitious and easily scared school teacher, Mr. Ichabod Crane, being told a spooky story of a headless horsemen by the town prankster. When Ichabod makes his way home after the gathering, he is chased down by this headless horsemen and never heard from again.
This story appeals to such a broad audience because we all love a good unsolved mystery. Kids enjoy it because it is spooky, scary and a stern reminder not to run off alone!
The animation may leave younger kids a bit disappointed as it is not CGI and is actually hand drawn (oh, the horror)! However, they will quickly forget that little tidbit as they are sucked into the world of Sleepy Hollow. The daytime settings are pleasant to look at, which gives you a nice secure feeling. Hold on to that feeling. You’re going to need it.
When night falls on Sleepy Hollow the quiet, melodic town turns into a foreboding maze of dark forests, dimly lit cabins and dark, unlit paths. Of course, this is the part that is most appealing to kids and adults on Halloween night. If you talk to your kids and explain tot hem that the dark is not scary, and that the headless horsemen is not, in fact, real, they will not be frightened and will be able to enjoy the story for what it is.
The sense of fear and adventure stirs something primal in all of us, which is why this story and this cartoon version of it, continues to enthrall us all these years later.
Sit down and put this family friendly telling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow in your DVD player!
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is available on DVD from Amazon.com
A recent Halloween tradition of mine has been to play the game Costume Quest by Double Fine Entertainment. It’s perfectly detailed Fall environments capture the spirit and feel of Halloween unlike any other experience. I would like to share this wonderful game with you today in the hopes it becomes your new family tradition as well!
The game takes place on Halloween night in fictional Schafer County. You play as either Wren or Reynold a sister and brother who set out on Halloween for a night of trick or treating! Unfortunately, your sibling is immediately kidnapped by evil Grubbins! (You can play as either the sister or brother). The Grubbins are sinister monsters who are secretly plotting to take over the entire world and consume all of its candy! Oh, the horror! You now have no choice but to team up with your neighborhood friends and stop the Grubbins before Halloween night is over!
The fun really comes to life in the gameplay. You essentially get to go from house to house trick or treating, collecting candy and using it to buy stamps which can be used to power up your different costumes throughout the game. Of course, it’s not all fun and games when trick or treating, for behind certain doors Grubbins lay in wait ready to pop out and attack! When they do attack, the game play is a simple battle system of tap this button and attack, run away, or use special ability. It is very intuitive and easy for a 10 year old to play!
The best part of this game has to be the visuals. Think of Halloween for one minute. What do you picture in your mind? That’s exactly what this game looks like. Every house is covered in Halloween decor, brown and gold leaves litter the ground, jack-o’-lanterns flicker all over the neighborhood, and all of the neighbors have come together to host a giant Halloween block party with apple bobbing, pie contests and more! And if that isn’t enough Halloween spirit for you, the second half of the game takes place in a decked out shopping mall, complete with Halloween costume contest, and the final part of the game sends you to an eerie Halloween carnival!
There are also Halloween costumes galore. Each costume has a different power up that will help you in battle against the Grubbins. Best of all, you can change costumes any time you wish, helping you get over obstacles and solve puzzles to progress the game forward. Building costumes, collecting candy and fighting Grubbins are all a lot of fun, especially when playing is such amazing environments!
Your kids will fall in love with the perfectly eerie yet cute Halloween visuals, and of course they will be even more excited to go out trick or treating and experience an adventure of their own!
I hope yu are as enthralled with this game as I am. It definitely deserves its place as a yearly tradition for the entire family!
Costume Quest is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. It is rated E 10+ Amazon.com Buy Now!
Today’s entry in Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment is the little known high seas adventure, Shipwrecked.
The story centers around a young boy, Haakon, who sails off as a cabin boy in order to save his family’s home. Little does he know, the ship’s captain and crew have all been replaced by pirates, who need the ship to return to a deserted sand to dig up their gold.
Young Haakon, shipmate Jens and stowaway Mary discover the pirates’ plan and are forced to walk the plank in the middle of a storm. Haakon washes up alone on a deserted island and soon discovers it is the hiding place of the pirates’ treasure. Can he recover the treasure before the pirates return? Will he find his friends? Most importantly, how will he get home?
Why it is a fantastic adventure: A young boy must survive on his own on a deserted island. Your kids will experience all the classic survival stuff: building shelters out of palm trees, weapons out of sticks, and eating coconuts and fish. A sense of exploration is crucial to your kids’ upbringing as creative individuals. They will be in Haakon’s shoes as he creates booby traps, fights for survival and attempts to stop the pirates from getting their treasure.
Haakon is a great young character for your kids to look up to and identify with. He handles himself with poise as he is stranded alone with nothing but his instincts and smarts. Your kids will be itching to go on an adventure of their own, and don’t be surprised if you walk in to your living room being converted into a deserted island.
This movie is a great way to let your kids explore their imaginations and get them to do creative things with whatever they have laying around the house. Since they will be pretending they are on a deserted island they will be making radios out of coconuts and shelters out
of bed sheets. If you happen to have an indoor palm tree, expect that you will no longer have it in the near future!
Overall, Shipwrecked is a fantastic adventure film safe for the entire family, and your kids will bond with Haakon and his island adventures.
Shipwrecked is available on DVD on Amazon.com
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