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Families with Younger Children

Issue: "50 family-friendly movies," June 28, 2003

The Little Colonel (1935/David Butler) A Shirley Temple classic in which a little girl mends the relationship between her mother and grandfather in the post-Civil War South. Includes the famous stair-dancing sequence with Bill Robinson.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937/ David Hand) and Pinocchio (1940/ Hamilton Luske & Ben Sharpsteen) Great songs, dazzling (and groundbreaking) animation, and endlessly colorful supporting characters make these two early Disney cartoons timeless, ageless classics.

The Wizard of Oz (1939/G/ Victor Fleming) When it was released, Oz was advertised as "The Biggest Screen Sensation Since Snow White," and it still lives up to that boast, despite advances in technology. Frank Baum's story is a fantasy classic that gently communicates real-world lessons.

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National Velvet (1944/G/ Clarence Brown) Young Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor shine in a horse movie with great steeplechase races and a "follow your dreams" theme that still doesn't seem as cliched as that sentiment now sounds.

The Yearling (1946/G/Clarence Brown) One of the greatest father-son relationships ever put on film. A farmer (Gregory Peck) struggles in post-Civil War Florida, where his son's eyes are opened to the harsh realities of life through his love for a motherless fawn.

Pollyanna and The Parent Trap (1960 and 1961/G/David Swift) Two Hayley Mills classics that prove that Disney was still making good movies in the '60s. The admittedly incomplete worldview of Pollyanna is unjustly reviled today.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960/G/Ken Annakin) A great family adventure that bears little resemblance to the story on which it's based, but is nonetheless an imaginative tale of a shipwrecked family's survival on a deserted tropical island.

Mary Poppins (1964/G/ Robert Stevenson) It's not easy imagining a live-action Disney film today matching the five Oscars that this classic deservedly won. It's just as hard imagining a film today that has this much fun teaching kids to respect their parents.

The Sound of Music (1965/G/Robert Wise) Julie Andrews in an Oscar-winning musical that has claimed the hearts of generations, with grand songs, an affecting love story, and an exciting World War II subplot.

The Black Stallion (1979/G/ Carroll Ballard) A tragic shipwreck bonds a young boy and the mysterious horse aboard the same vessel in a story helped immeasurably by its glorious cinematography.

Annie (1982/PG/John Huston) The Broadway musical was brought to over-the-top life on screen by Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Tim Curry, and a charismatic performance by Aileen Quinn as the title character.

Babe (1995/G/Chris Noonan) A mix of real animals, mechanical doubles, and computer animation creates a barnyard of talking livestock -and the surprise is that what they have to say will delight both children and their parents.

Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (1995 and 1999/G/John Lasseter) Two of the few truly grand films Disney has produced since its early heyday, the Toy Story movies contain a near perfect mix of humor, adventure, feeling, and technical wizardry.

Spy Kids (2001/PG/Robert Rodriguez) Spy Kids is one of the few concessions on this list to the high-speed, special-effects-driven entertainment that defines modern children's movies. In this case, however, the story is just as gleefully inventive as the gadgets and gizmos that spice it up.

Chicken Run (2000/G/Peter Lord and Nick Park) Spectacular Great Escape-style adventure, only this time it's claymation hens trying to make the break for freedom. If you enjoy this inventive feature, check out Mr. Park's even better "Wallace and Grommet" shorts.

Other good ones Aladdin, The Fox and the Hound, Stuart Little, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Heidi, A Bug's Life, Davy Crockett, The Absent Minded Professor, and Monsters, Inc.


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