You’ll scare the children!

February 7, 2009 at 12:55 pm 2 comments

My father and I have a long-standing feud over the merits of Gene Wilder’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” I think that it’s one of the most interesting kids’ movies ever made, just begging to be part of academic discourse about children’s literature and film (Don’t misinterpret, it certainly is a part of it). Dad, on the other hand, thinks, “Roald Dahl hates children” and that the movie was never meant to be watched by kids but isn’t good enough to be enjoyed by adults of non-sadist persuasion.

I’m willing to admit that Dad may be partly right on this one. The movie is creepy as can be, and if you’re seven and want to watch a fun film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is probably not the one to choose. But what about the book that it was based on? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is, also, a terrifying book, but one which I’d recommend to lots of children. Does making the story into a film add some extra creep factor that kids can’t handle? Or does it highlight what’s already there?

This is a debate that everyone seems to be having these days with the release of the film version of Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline” last Friday. For those who don’t know, the story is about Coraline, a girl who wishes she had more attentive and loving parents. Wishing fervently enough, she stumbles upon a sort of alternate world where she finds parents who absolutely dote on her. But (and there has to be a catch), she has to sew big black buttons over her own eyes. Yeah, pretty terrifying.

Personally, I love this story as much as I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I believe that most kids are ready to see this type of creepiness in films. There’s no doubt that whatever it does, it makes viewers think about the world as a multi-faceted and complex place.

However, the debate rages on, and the LA Times put together a great slideshow of some of the creepiest kids’ films. Take a look and see whether or not you agree that these movies are too scary. Honestly, most of the films they mention were staples during my childhood, and I’ve remained captivated by them ever since.


Interestingly, that slideshow taught me that the most feared character from any movie of my childhood, the Childcatcher (above) from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (watch it, seriously, it’s super-duper interesting and entertaining to boot), was actually the brainchild of none other than Roald Dahl. Darn, I think that adds more fodder to my father’s assertions.

Also, for those interested, there’s a great new kids literature “bloggers society,” KidLitosphere Central. A wonderful place to find all sorts of fun info on children’s lit!

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Fortune Cookies for Dickens Characters They’re learning!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ggw_bach  |  February 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    if you go back to some of the early days of cartoons, you’d be surprised at some of the imagery they used. Makes our era of children’s films look rather tame and prude.

  • 2. Things are Getting “Wild” « A Shrewdness of Apes  |  March 30, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    […] kids books turn out wonderful when they’re adapted (e.g. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), but I have a feeling this one’s going the route of […]

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