What is Happening to the Films of our Childhood?

Ceara Danaher


Last Friday night, my teammates and I crowded around a hotel television the night before a race, scanning the channels for any show to pique our interest. As we idled past the usual menu of sitcoms and reality shows, a vision of Technicolor glory burst upon us. “The Wizard of Oz!” we cooed. With no further deliberation, a consensus was met.

We eagerly discussed old memories of the movie. It felt like the sudden discovery that, years earlier, we ha all shared a mutual friend. Our reunion was interrupted when our coach’s eight-year-old son walked through the door. “The Wizard of Oz?! I’ve never seen this!”

As Nick settled between us, we exchanged glances. How was it possible that this boy hadn’t experienced one of the staple films of our childhood? Were we so old? Had the movie’s timelessness been lost? Sadly, the movie did not stand up anymore in a technological sense. The Emerald City, we saw to our dismay, was not actually a glittering bastion of green, but little more than a fuzzily painted image on a curved backdrop, mere feet from the actors. Would Nick, ensconced in a youth of Pixar animation, recognize these flaws? We never had.

The Wizard of Oz stood its test. Nick assumed the same slack-jawed position as the rest of us and watched in rapt awe as the witch threw a blaze of fire at the skittish scarecrow.

The Wizard of Oz is not alone in the field of overlooked classic films. As the movies of today grow more advanced, I fear that the films we grew up with are being left behind. Sure, it’s impressive to have the ability to create a lively, tap-dancing penguin on a computer, but what has happened to the good old cartoons of our day? What has happened to drawing, to human handiwork, to adult characters that don’t look like glazed-over, three-dimensional cyborgs?

I am all for the improvement of art through technology. Admittedly, the children’s movies of today are masterpieces of digital animation. But I urge that, in the push forward, we not leave behind the icons of our youth. There is comfort in movies like Peter Pan and The Lion King. There is value in the stories. There is humor in the characters. There are friendships to be forged with these animated beings, and, years later, with the people who worshipped them in the same way that you did. What’s more, when we dismiss the hand-drawn or live-action movies of our past, childhood aspirations are lost. Although kids can dream of becoming animators or actors, it is far more difficult for them to comprehend how to digitally engineer the flipping of little Nemo’s fin. When my childhood friends and I weren’t arguing who sang most like the Little Mermaid (answer: none of us), we imagined being Disney artists when we aged. Computer animators? Not so much.

For generations now, Disney cartoons and The Wizard of Oz have been enchanting children. It worked for our parents, for our siblings, and for us. Why stop at that? The movies of today are well and good— accept them if you like. But don’t forget where we’ve been. As for me, I’ll take old-school movies any day.


2 Responses to “What is Happening to the Films of our Childhood?”

  1. 1 D. Roberts December 13, 2007 at 2:18 am

    Great job, Ceara. Fabulous point– no films of today rival the emotion, character depth, and affection we all feel for Smee in Peter Pan, Pongo in 101 Dalmatians, or, say, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast. These are timeless films that we identified with and still feel nostalgia for.

    Here’s a thought, though… might it just be a generational thing? That is to say, yes, WE think, “How could these fancy-ass new Pixar movies ever achieve the same effect of the classic hand-drawn Disney movies?” But it could just be that we think this BECAUSE we were children when those movies came out. Now, with these Pixar movies such as Ratatouille or Finding Nemo, perhaps (and I would bet) there is a new legion of kids who are loving these films, watching them over and over as they eat their afternoon snack, etc. A new legion of kids who, when THEY are in college, will be saying the same thing as this, lamenting the loss of the “classic CGI animation” of these modern movies? Because by then, the animation will have progressed yet again!

    Endless cycle, I suppose. Kind of a strange/interesting thought if you consider it from that angle, the angle that technology will always just keep progressing, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Eventually even these Pixar movies will be “old school” to some people.

    Great article.

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