The 80's and 90's brought us some of the best in children's entertainment, and some of the worst, but still a whole bunch of films every kid should see at least once. In the aughties, no great children's film went forgotten (aka "Finding Nemo"), just the bad ones (aka "that other one with the fish"). But when it comes to films from the 80s and 90s, it's seems not only did the bad ones get buried (The Pagemaster), but so did the greats! We remember them of course, so let's change this for the kids these days.
In that spirit, here's five "forgotten" kids films from the 80s and 90s that every kid ought to see, in no particular order--the kind of films I'll be sure to force my own kids to watch one day, whether they like it or not. This will be the first in a two part series. Now before you say anything, the list is of course limited to the films I've actually seen, which is why "The Last Unicorn" or "Flight of the Navigator" or "Your Personal Favorite" is not here.
The Land Before Time - Who could forget probably one of the saddest kids' movies ever made? Bambi has nothing on the trauma of this little Apatosaurus! After his mother's death, right before his eyes, Littlefoot goes through all the stages of grief, from outright sadness, to directionless depression, to this hardened, near-delusional obsession (searching for the "Great Valley") which drives him and all his friends right to the verge of death before, finally, the rewards of his determination suddenly fall right in his lap. The animation is lush and the score ranks among one of the most heartfelt, depressing and yet life-affirming, with just a touch of good, clean, schmaltz. But what a beautiful, and ironically, "timeless" film, so long as you just toss the sequels.
The Rescuers Down Under - Or is that, Dan-Indah? Granted, it's been a while since I've seen this one so I can't comment on the particulars of the story, but this is the rare Disney sequel that is actually light years ahead of its yawn-fest original. With this one, there is a great sense of adventure, a real sense of danger, and spectacular flight scenes with the boy on the giant eagle. In fact, it's almost like a whole different kind of film. I even remember being spellbound by a scene involving eggs sitting in a nest on the side of a cliff. It gets forgotten because it came sandwiched between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and wasn't a hit like they were, but this is definitely a "Disney Renaissance" film. The animation is superb, and...well, like I said, it's been a while, but I do remember a lot of eggs in the movie, and a hungry Komodo Dragon.
The Little Mermaid - I know... it's a girl's movie, but with an opening that has dolphins leaping out of the way of a huge wooden ship as it comes plowing through the mists and crashing through the waves, I was sold in the first minute of this classic. What an awesome ship, and later it even meets a fiery end during a terrible storm too! A Disney masterpiece, it's arguably the best "songed" Disney film, in that the songs actually tell us volumes about the characters and aren't just there to fill time. And there's actual feelings behind these characters, even the prince has a personality for a change, not to mention his very own name! Plus, Sebastian the "jah mon!" crab was just damn hilarious. You may wonder why I include it here, but there's a reason. I think what's "forgotten" about it is that it actually is a good movie.
The Secret of NIMH - Bluth's masterpiece...yeah, you can't overstate how great this film is. Perhaps its a bit dark, but so what? Ms. Brisby's personal quest is a very simple one--to save her home and her children--and yet, it's one that ends up pitting her right in the middle of a larger and more confusing world, from the cutthroat to the mystical, and yet, all of that is secondary to what she needs to get done. It's a cautionary tail about mad science, a film about overcoming real-life struggles, and an exploration of the powers beyond. And the animation? Come on, it's the Secret of NIMH--of course it's wondrous. I can't even try to knock this one... even the idiot loveless blackbird was funny.
So there's my first five greatest forgotten kids' films of the 80's and 90's. There will be more to come when I feel like it, and I promise more 90s films next time! In the meantime, go out and stream these right now, if you can, or better yet, rent them on VHS-- the way they were meant to be seen!