R’s Childhood: Animated Movies

When you’re a kid, watching movies especially animated films provide that high-tech visual space where adventure and pleasure meet in a fantasy world of possibilities, which often the hard-nosed joyless reality of schooling lacks. Weekends in our home in the early 90s consist of a well-deserved movie marathon, while wrapped up in a blanket like a little burrito. The adults of the household knew my attachment to the T.V and anything animated so they showered me with VHS copies of any animated goodies and the much rarer ones come straight from my cousins in the States. Thankfully, there were animated films lodged in my memory that made an impression on me in my childhood during my early formative years now that I think about it. It was also important that during this time, my parents let me alone to entertain myself since Mother Hen was very much busy on the recent birth of my younger brother. I didn’t mind that little G would take so much of their attention; in fact, I was rather glad for it because no one was there to call my attention if I’ve been “watching too much T.V” and “getting silly ideas”.

I had plenty of Disney films to choose from back then and the more you watch several of time, I guess I was unconsciously familiar with the “style” already. They were entertaining definitely but it was unforgettable when I discovered other animated films which were visually different yet provided that same magical escapism you wanted as a kid.

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, The Brave Little Toaster and Bebe’s Kids—very different from each other yet still delivers that same happy wavelength it gave me years ago and they would be the movies I would gladly watch over and over again.

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was an animated film released in the early 90s and it was only later that I found out that it based on a popular long running comic strip from the turn of the 20th century. The plot concerns a boy named Nemo, the hero of his dream world Slumberland. The king of Slumberland King Morpheus sends for the dreaming boy to be his heir but he accidentally unleashes the Nightmare King which was held in prison. Morpheus is abducted by the Nightmare King and Nemo together with his companions travels to Nightmare land to rescue Morpheus and wind the hand of the lovely princess Camille.

The whole movie is a dream, allowing for wild surreal sequences and imaginative art direction. I watched the movie awed by the spectacle the movie gave to understand better the nature and appeal of fantasy put into animation. I completely envious of Nemo as a child—he’s a dreaming boy who wakes up every night to find dream reality invading his own and he gets whisked away to a wild adventure with dark dangerous overtones. His friends are also interesting too: Icarus the flying squirrel, the amiable Professor Genius and the trickster named Flip (who annoyed me immensely).

My favorite parts were the quest to Nightmare Land where they travelled by Nemo’s bed that flies and apparently walks via elongated legs. And the most vivid and scariest part I remember was the battle in Nightmare Land when the Nightmare King shows up. It’s one of those rare moments in your childhood when your grip on the pillow tightens and a feeling of apprehension welling up inside you. Plus, that moment will be forever highlighted and embellished by your imagination and will probably torture you for the rest of your life.

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I watched The Brave Little Toaster with much glee since it featured something quite different from the children’s fantasy films I’ve been accustomed of. You see, talking animals have been a mainstay of children’s fantasy since Aesop and his famous fables, but talking inanimate objects have been more than just minor elements of a tale. Brave Little Toaster, which was an animated film that was released in the late 80s (and I was able to watch in the early 90s), featured inanimate objects specifically electrical appliances imbued with different personalities as the main characters of the story. In fact, I think it was the Toy Story of that generation past.

It’s a tale of nostalgia that’s centered on electrical appliances: the titular brave and caring little toaster, the obnoxious radio, the loud and defiant lamp, a child-like electric blanket and the stubborn vacuum cleaner. The story is set in a world where electric appliances have the ability to move and talk and pretend to be lifeless in the presence of humans. The various devices, led by the toaster, are loyal to their young human master, who has apparently abandoned them in the vacation lodge where they reside. They are set out on a quest to find him, convinced that he would have returned if he was able to. Eventually we find out that their young master is now a grown young man, preparing himself for college. At the end of the story, they are able to rescue their young master from danger and are reunited in a surprisingly touching resolution.

There are a lot of moments in this films that tend to stick in young children’s minds (like me) and one of them was how the air conditioner, who turned sour and cynical as time passed, threw a fit hearing the proposition of the gang to find the master. He the throw a fit, ends up overheating and blows up, all of it reminiscent of a human heart attack. Other than this of course was my favorite part of the film where you can actually feel the danger is when the gang is taken by a machine parts collector and in his shop, they meet Frankenstein-ish gadgets who warn of being ‘extracted’ of their parts. And let’s not forget the clown, which severely freaked me out then.

But all in all this is one of the best and actual touching childhood films that I’ve watched. I’m not exactly sure how the critics found it but personally I don’t care. It defined me in a way that I became mindful how I treated my stuff especially my toys and showed them more gratitude for their inanimate company like no other.

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The film Bebe’s Kids is nothing like the other two films I’ve mentioned since it’s the first animated feature I watched as a child without the usual theatrical flair of a childhood movie. Certainly it didn’t contain a fairy tale plot line or funny talking animals or inanimate objects. I watched this in third grade and the whole film reminded of an extended television series episode since it gave a similar atmosphere like ‘Clarissa Explains It All’—it featured ordinary life and ordinary people put in not-so-ordinary (but not extraneous) situations that gave room for adventure. And also it featured a subculture of the African-Americans that I wasn’t entirely familiar then and I was clearly fascinated.

The story focuses on a guy named Robin who meets a beautiful woman named Janika and attempts to romance her. He asks her out on a date and allows Janika’s mild-mannered son Leon to an amusement park called Fun World. Much to Robin’s surprise on the day of the date, he’s also greeted by three kids who belong to Janika’s unseen friend Bebe, who left her kids with Janika for a day. Janika insists that the children accompany them to their trip and Robin hesitantly agrees. Needless to say, Bebe’s Kids turn out to be irrepressible kids and always into mischief and they foil Robin’s date, turning the trip to the amusement park into a nightmare.

We meet Bebe’s Kids— the eldest: skinny, defiant pig-tailed LaShawn, middle child Kahill who is gangster-rap attired and talks like one and the toddler Pee Wee who is incongruously deep-voiced and no less bratty as his older siblings. The three kids run amuck at Fun World with guards (who dress up like FBI agents) chasing after them and their messes. The character designs are stylized, distinctive and there’s a wonderful use of color all throughout the film. Robin’s character is different from the adults in children’s film that I’ve watched—he’s engaging and indeed but we are shown a rarely explored persona of an adult—an adult who daily struggles in life while drowning his sorrows through alcohol in a seedy bar. Nevertheless he remains likeable and importantly credible, and shows adult responsibility and care for Bebe’s Kids.

One of the films moments which stuck to me was when we are given a look at the backdrop and the lives that Bebe’s kids actually live. We are shown when the kids are taken home that they lived in a middle-class apartment in a not-so-safe neighborhood (we see burglars freely coming out a house carrying a TV set). Bebe is mostly out of the house, leaving her children to tend for themselves until night time which implies lacking appropriate adult guidance. Despite wrecking havoc and destruction, they are deep down still kids, craving for attention and an adult to properly care for them.

Fun-filled yet probably not exactly everyone’s cup of tea but still remains an important part of 90s entertainment and animation. And this is where I first encountered the “YO MAMA” game and the “snap” HAHAHAHA!

“yo mama so fat she on both sides of the family!”

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One response to “R’s Childhood: Animated Movies

  1. Pingback: Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989) | Old Old Films

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