Tag Archives: Family Entertainment

Fantastic Adventures Halloween Edition: Disney’s Halloween Treat

The next stop on our Halloween adventures: Disney’s Halloween Treat. This 45 minute video was released in 1982 and was a mainstay on the Disney Channel through the 1980s and part of the 1990s. Unfortunately, it no longer airs on broadcast television. But, you can find it on YouTube in seven parts. Link will be at the end of the post. This Halloween special centers around Disney villains, creepy stories with your favorite characters (Mickey, Huey, Dewy and Louie, etc.), and there are clips from some obscure Disney cartoons not seen since the 1970s.
They all feature creepy settings, vivid characters and perfect family Halloween thrills. A talking jack-o’-lantern introduces each story which include such creepy scenes as dancing skeletons, Donald Duck hiding from a rampaging gorilla, the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment from Fantasia, the wizard’s duel from Sword in the Stone,  and even a clip of the Headless Horseman chasing down poor Ichabod.  These are just a few of the great segments you will find in this video.

Why it is a fantastic adventure: Halloween is always a special time when you are a kid (and it should be when you’re an adult, too). This is one of those rare videos that can both frighten children while also making them howl for more when it is all over. It has just the right amount of “scare” and creepy imagery mixed with the pleasantness of Disney.
The truth is, we all love being scared. Your kids will be on the edge of their seats as they await whatever creepy creature is awaiting them in the next segment. It offers the thrill of being scared with the safety of the Disney brand.
If your kids love Halloween and all the creatures that go along with it, then they will definitely enjoy this video. there are creatures of all kinds.
This is also a great moment for your little kids to teach them what Halloween is all about. There may be scary and evil creatures, dark settings and spooky stories, but in the end it is all about having fun while being scared, getting and eating candy, and dressing up as your favorite creature or character. Of course, there is also a greater reason for Halloween, which you may share with your youngsters (but most of them won’t be ready to understand it), the remembrance and celebration of lost souls: relatives, ancestors, and all loved ones.
In the end, Disney’s Halloween Treat is a fun adventure for the entire family with some great scary moments, classic Disney characters and a great representation of all that is good about Halloween.

You can watch Disney’s Halloween treat in seven parts on YouTube. Start here: http://youtu.be/ASuuZejf8VE

Fantastic Adventures Halloween Edition: Hocus Pocus

During the month of October I will be bringing you the best Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment for the spooktacular holiday, Halloween! Check back all month for spooky stories safe for the entire family!

The first fantastic adventure for Halloween: 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 beirresponsible 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

Max and Dani portray a great sibling relationship.

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.

The Sanderson Sisters

Rent it on Amazon Instant Video, Watch it on ABC Family this month, or Buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray at your local store.

Fantastic Adventure #10: The Neverending Story

If there is one thing you can count on in Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment, it is the adventure part! Today I have a grand adventure for the entire family. The Neverending Story is a film that crosses several genres in such an effective way that it feels like several different movies in one. You have a young boy reading a book in the attic of his home, and as he is reading the story, the audience is reading right along with him as the book comes to life on the screen. There are magical creatures, giant turtles, rock monsters, horses, a beautiful empress and a plot full of action, daring and wit.

Why it is a fantastic adventure: Contrary to the title, the story does eventually end, and it is a fantastic journey that seems to go by much too quickly. The first time your kids see the giant flying dog, Falcor, they will be hooked into the adventure and the story. A giant flying dog that a kid can ride on is an amazing way to get your kids’ imaginations flowing, and that really is the key. As I have said before, imagination is one of the few tools in our brains that we do not fully develop as we grow older. So, the more chances you can give your kids while they are young, the better! And the more you foster the growth of imagination, the better.
The other magical creatures in the story bring in a lot of fun. There’s a large rock monster, which kids always seem to get a kick out of. You also have a giant turtle, moving statues, living trees, and other equally odd yet charming things.
Another important aspect of The Neverending Story is the fact that it promotes reading. The main character of the story is really the boy reading the book. The rest is just the boy’s imagination of what the book world looks like. Your kids can actually see what reading a book can be like. They can watch the boy read the book and then see him create this fantastical world all on his own just through the mere act of reading. And, of course, by the end of the book, the boy is so into the story that he is shouting out the window in order to save the life on the empress.

The Neverending Story gets your kids’ imagiantions running wild, draws them into the story and hopefully gets them excited about reading and all of its wonderful possibilities.

Fantastic Adventure #9: Goosebumps

The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine premiered twenty years ago. After an initial run of 62 books in the 1990s, the series has seen many revivals and is still in print, the latest series being named Goosebumps Hall of Horrors. No matter which series you choose, the thrills and chills are timeless. Perhaps the best part of the series is that each book is completely different. One may have a zombie theme, another may be centered around Egyptian mummies, or you may have a story about ghosts and monsters. This is very helpful in that your kid can decide which stories he likes to read. He may not enjoy ghost stories, but monsters and mummies are cool. Or perhaps Joey likes talking ventriloquist dummies, but Sarah likes ancient Egypt. No problem! There is definitely a story to please everyone.

Why it is a fantastic adventure: To start off, the first thing your child will notice is the cover. When I was a kid, I chose which Goosebumps books to read just by the cover. The artwork is fantastically creepy in a kid-friendly way, and will draw your child into the story by immediately giving him or her a visual reference for the book. This is important as it is a good way to get your kids to start appreciating drawings, and to use those drawings as a springboard to visualize the rest of the book.
All of these books are based off one simple premise: fear of the unknown. Most stories are in the POV of the kids, and the evil entity is usually shrouded in mystery until the last few pages. This sense of mystery and excitement is crucial to developing the imagination of your children. When there is an unknown, a child’s mind will immediately start deducing what or who the unknown could be (which also builds logic), and the mind starts creating those solutions. All of this brain activity helps to foster your child’s creativity and develop it in a safe environment.
The stories in these books are a little basic for adults, but still interesting enough that you will enjoy reading them to your kids (if they let you). The thrill of finding out what they twist is going to be at the end will keep your kid flipping the pages until the book is over. With over 100 old and current Goosebumps books out there to choose from, your kids will always have something else to read. Once you discover what type of stories your kid likes, it is a good idea to buy several in advance that are similar in tone, because sometimes it only takes a few hours to finish one of these books, especially if your kid is using his or her creative brain power.
These books will be more fun and scary for your kids then any other book in its genre. Your kids will not get enough, and it will encourage them to read.
R.L. Stine has created a world where scaring children is fun and acceptable. Any of his Goosebumps are perfectly safe. In a world where what is acceptable for kids is quickly eroding, it is nice to have such a large collection of spooky stories to fall back on.

Check out www.scholastic.com/goosebumps for recent releases and fun games for your kids!
www.rlstine.com for a complete list of all of his spooky works for kids.

Fantastic Adventure #8: Spy Kids

Today’s entry in Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment is the 2001 film Spy Kids. What kid (or grown up) doesn’t enjoy a good spy story? Even better, what kid doesn’t love seeing him or herself up on the screen as a spy? That is the premise behind Spy Kids. Take the exciting elements that make adults enjoy James Bond (gadgets, unique villains, action sequences) and put kids in the roles. It sounds like a simple premise, but this film brings in complex themes like what it means to be a family, brother and sister bonds and how enjoying being a kid is important.

Why it is a fantastic adventure: Family is the overarching theme in this film, and it does not hold back. We start with the Carmen and Juni Cortez not liking their parents because they are boring and nothing exciting ever seems to happens. Their parents get pulled out of spy retirement by OSS headquarters, they eventually get captured and the kids learn the truth about their parents. Carmen and Juni learn that their parents are really spies and are thrust into action.

Families kick butt!

Carmen and Juni bring perfect brother sister interaction, whether it is mimicking fights, name calling or roughhousing, these two characters know exactly what it means to be brother and sister, and this is something that your kids will really take away from this movie. They will, perhaps, see their siblings in a different, more appreciative, light. And if you play your cards correctly, they may be looking in your bedroom for the secret trigger that will unlock your spy base.
There is a lot of action and adventure to get your kids excited and running around the house, and hopefully motivate them to go on their own spy adventures when the movie is over.
Of course, the final and lasting message of this film is that of family. The kids realize that their parents are cool and exciting people. They are not just mom and dad who make us do our chores and go to school. This is a great learning opportunity for your kids to get them to see you as more than just an authority figure. There is also a large importance put on the cohesiveness of the family unit. In the end, this film – and all of its sequels – will bring your family closer together and have your kids wanting to be spies not when they grow up, but right now!

What is a Superhero Without Children?

There is a problem here in America. Our children have no superheroes. Long gone are the days of campy comic books, boy scout Superman films and tongue in cheek camp from Adam West and Burt Ward. Today’s superhero has to be conflicted, strong and of our world.

It wasn’t too long ago that American society rejected the dark and conflicted superhero. Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” was so abhorred by parents that Warner Bros., the toy companies and McDonalds all cried foul and insisted they did not know the film was going to be so “dark” and realistic. Yet, today, parents don’t think twice about taking a five year old to see the PG-13 “The Avengers” or “The Dark Knight Rises”, and those films are applauded for their darkness and realism.

“Superman”, starring Christopher Reeves was such a huge success because it made Superman accessible to all generations. The kids could look up to his boy scout image and be inspired to do good things for truth, justice and the American way. Parents could identify with the love story and the tale of the ultimate immigrant coming to America.

Something happened along the way to present day. The kids grew up. And with that, a desire to see their superheroes grow up, too. “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” all had prominent display shelves at the toy stores for kids of all ages. A less-informed parent who sees the toys and remembers Batman from his Adam West or even Joel Schumacher days would assume that the movie is just that – kid stuff. Unfortunately, “The Dark Knight Rises” is nowhere near safe for kids, and “The Avengers” (for all the toys they have you would think it is a G Rated film) has copious amounts of violence and the cast is filled with characters who all take themselves way too seriously.
The now 20-somethings love this stuff. Their childhood superheroes are now hardcore and based in reality. It makes the experience so much more real. Any attempt at toning down a superhero movie for children is considered lame, not epic enough, or stupid kid stuff. Except, these fans are forgetting something. It is a crucial piece in the puzzle to the longevity of superheroes. Without a proper role model superhero like Christopher Reeves’ Superman, or a campy version of Batman every now and then, kids will not get to see superheroes on the big screen or the comics, and they will slowly fade from existence.

Now that the realistic and gritty superheroes have had their moment to shine, the children need someone to look up to in our current times. Let the children have their heroes back.

Fantastic Adventure #7: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I am doing a bit of a hybrid for my next pick. I am combining the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the newer film. Reading the book is mandatory for all young children, and the Tim Burton film version really brings it to life in much better detail than the 1970s Gene Wilder musical. Both mediums put together will create an immersive experience for your children.

A perfectly colorful and inspiring landscape

Why it is a fantastic adventure: The book goes into great detail in classic Roald Dahl style. there are made up words for made up creatures. There are made up words for everyday activities like washing dishes or even passing gas! The use of unfamiliar words to describe very familiar things is a great way to capture your kids’ attentions and never let go. Once they see a funny new word they will be looking for the rest of them throughout the book. Of course, this is also a great way to spark your kids’ imaginations. Try to get them to come up with new names for everyday items around your house.
Children revel in the dark and spooky side of things, which is one reason why Halloween is so popular (more on that in a future post). Tim Burton’s vision in this film is not quite as dark as some of his others. It brings a much lighter color scheme inside the chocolate factory than out in the streets of the world. The scene in which the doors open to the chocolate waterfall room is reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz when the film goes from black and white to color.
There are many unique songs throughout the film, based on Roald Dahl’s poems in the book. These will surely entertain and get your kids dancing around the living room like an oompa-loompa. (There is even a Dance-Along special feature on the DVD).
Most importantly, the book and the film are two great sources of creativity and should be used as such.