VIDEO: Jurassic Park, and when kids' movies had teeth

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Joshua recently saw the re-release of Jurassic Park, and was left with one question: Remember back when kids’ movies had some of the scariest moments in film history? Whatever happened to that?

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  • Master of Fear

    For me when it comes to being disappointed in a lot of kid’s
    movies these days it’s not so much them not being scary, but lacking emotional
    weight. Many kids movies just seem to be going through the motions with cookie
    cutter plots, humor ranging from okay to awful out of date pop-cultural
    references, and no real stacks involved. The kids movies that stand out to me
    these days are the ones willing to put emotional weight in their story or at
    the very least an artistic creativity that feels personal rather than being cooperate
    mandated (recent examples including Rango, The Adventures of Tintin, Fantastic
    Mr. Fox, The Secret of Kells, Coraline, Paranorman, any recent Pixar movie excluding
    Cars 2)

    I think it’s the sense of danger (and not necessarily) which
    adds a lot of palpability and determine which kids movies stand out. For
    instance in Rango easily the most memorable scene in the movie is the introduction
    of Rattlesnake Jack and the weight comes not from Jack being scary (although I could
    imagine younger children finding him scary) but the fact he takes control of
    the movies narrative away from our hero and we feel that if Jack wanted he
    could kill Rango. Or even looking a slightly lesser example in Kung Fu Panda 2
    in the flashbacks we see the villain Lord Shen leading a genocide against the
    Panda’s and this allows the final battle against his armada a greater impact as
    we know the danger of what he is willing to do to amass power. Probably
    clearest example would be the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie, verse
    its sequels. In the first movie despite having silly moments and jokes, still
    had moments of darkness and danger and I believe it is because of this that the
    first movie is still fondly remember. In comparison the sequels gave into the complaints
    from parents about the films violence (a charge I found laughable re-watching
    the film recently and comparing to other recent films) and became completely
    silly and fluff movies that had absolutely no lasting impact on the greater public
    mindset.

  • Thomas Stockel

    Excellent points, man. I can remember back in the day one of the best scary kid’s movies on HBO rotation was Something Wicked This Way Comes. Jonathan Price was amazingly menacing as Mister Dark and it was great the way a place like a carnival look menacing.

  • Jack Shen

    The push to sanitize North American children’s entertainment has been there since the days of Howdy Doodie. But in 1990 is started to go off the rails when the 1990 Children’s Television Act was enacted. The act demanded a certain percentage of educational content per week. But since no one besides PBS could make anything educational and worth watching, they resorted to segments like “The More You know” and made sure they ran for a total of 3 hours per week. The segments at the end of G.I.Joe also counted.

    Then came Captain Planet. Now the networks had something that they could run for 30 minutes each weekday that more than satisfied the requirements and got the FCC off it’s back for as long as the show ran every weekday. Now, lots of people KNEW about Captain Planet, but it was a show few really enjoyed (not like TMNT or Power Rangers), but it ran seemingly forever despite having little core audience. This was why. This is also why there was a sharp decline in segments like “School House Rock” and “Now You Know” style breaks. They were now eating up valuable time that could be spent selling more commercials. But who cared? Captain Planet satisfied requirements, so they were educating kids right?

    On top of this, parents groups went on a RAMPAGE in the mid to late 80’s about the violent content of childrens cartoons, convincing the next generation of children’s entertainers to tone down violence. Everything had to be like Raffi. Compare the average modern kid’s cartoon movie to 80’s The Care Bears Movies. Even the fucking CARE BEARS MOVIES had their legitimately intense and somewhat violent moments. Death was a real possibility, characters are in shock and crying in terror. While I’m loathe to defend Care Bears movies it illustrates the way things were done then. Hell watch the beginning of that Rainbow Bright movie. You are not gonna see a scene like that done in a kid’s film today.

    The funny thing is, America is obsessed with the messages in media in a way that few other cultures are. We worry so much about what it tells people about themselves, that it leaches away entertainment. Goto Japan or Taiwan and see how they deal with this stuff. It’s much more reasonable. Those cultures don’t obsess on this like we do and as a result their entertainment takes more creative risks.

    • Tim Terrell

      “Even the fucking CARE BEARS MOVIES had their legitimately
      intense and somewhat violent moments. Death was a real possibility,
      characters are in shock and crying in terror… You are not gonna see a
      scene like that done in a kid’s film today.”

      Except in movies like:

      The Incredibles (2004)
      Monster House (2006)
      Wall-E (2008)
      Super 8 (2011)
      Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit (2001-?)
      Harry Potter series (2001-2011)
      Pirates of the Caribbean series (2003-2011 and continuing)
      The Golden Compass (2007)
      The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012)
      Finding Nemo (2003)
      Up (2009)
      Frankenweenie (2012)
      The Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
      Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2010 and 2005)

      And yes, ParaNorman and Toy Story. (2012) Just because Joshua mentioned and blew it off doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. And I suppose the monsters and life and death situations in The Avengers, the Spider Man, Iron Man and Batman movies, as well as no doubt the upcoming Man of Steel don’t count because *no one* takes their prepubescent kids to see those movies. Except they do.

      Some of the movies I listed may be ten years old, like Finding Nemo, but those are the movies kids today see. There are so many recommended movies, and they stay in the popular conscience. Kids watch the old stuff. My nephew is four and on kid’s Netflix, he skips the new stuff in favor of the old TMNT.

      You and Joshua the Anarchist are also discounting the possibility that 1) kids find the most seemingly innocuous movies and characters frightening enough (the flying monkeys) and 2) a movie or two a year that fit your “scary” criteria is sufficient. Did EVERY kids’ movie that was released during our childhoods really feature death, creepy monsters and dark themes?

  • Sean Tadsen

    Regarding flying monkeys being scary, allow me to offer this rebuttal: Oz – the Great and Powerful. The flying apes in that movie were frikkin’ terrifying.

    People tend to see apes and monkeys as friendly, playful animals when in fact they’re, you know, wild animals that could potentially claw your face off. And giving them wings? Now they don’t even need you to get close to get to your face.

  • John Wilson

    Are we talking about kids,kids movies,or pg 13 kids movies. Pg 13 kids movies still have a lot of stuff. Look at pirates of the cabbain,the Advengers, Spider man. Jurriaic park was not made for kids. It was a mature adaption of a mature book. It just found a kid auduenice:).

    • Cristiona

      Yeah, the comparisons seemed a little unfair to me:

      Cop-and-a-Half: PG
      Free Willy: PG
      Homeward Bound: G
      Mr. Nanny: PG

      Jurrasic Park: PG-13

      • Jason Withrow

        The creation of the PG-13 rating probably had the biggest impact on this element of “scariness” in kid’s movies more than anything else. Once the rating was introduced you disqualify a lot of films, and introduce a mental barrier that begins to divide what is and isn’t allowed in a kid’s film. Jackula’s timeline below has a bit less wishy-washy presumptions than my paragraph here, though.

        That said, Josh’s comparison to Free Willy and Homeward Bound was to establish that those G-rated movies were unmemorable for being G-rated compared to the scary PG-13, so the comparison may be more fair than it first seems.

        • Cristiona

          That seems pretty likely, yeah. 1983 gave us Something Wicked This Way Comes which was unusually effective “horror” despite being PG. Nobody really seems to try any more.
          But I still think call Jurassic Park a “kids’ movie” isn’t especially accurate. Unless only R rated movies can be “adult movies”.

          • It feels like a kid’s movie to me because it’s so childlike in it outlook. Like I said it capture’s that mixed feeling of wonder & awe you have as a kid when encountering new things.

  • Alexa

    It was weird because as I was clicking onto this website and saw your video I was listening to songs from Brave Little Toaster, and remembering how creepy and tense it was. Also how I probably won’t see a movie like it for a long time, being what you said of how sanitized children’s movies are and how no one wants to do hand drawn animation anymore. So sad…

  • The_Stig

    Umm….Jurassic Park isn’t supposed to be a ‘kids’ movie. The book was pretty freaking intense and graphic. It ain’t exactly How to Train your Velociraptor. BTW, flying monkeys are SCARY, man! Flying monkeys will end you. My scary moments were Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the moment we finally meet the Gmork in The Neverending Story. I mean Heilige Scheisse.

    Oh, and I don’t know if I’ve ever asked this before, but do you read Sutter Cane?

  • Jason Withrow

    I’m with others in this in wondering if kids’ films have actually gotten lighter, or just our perspective as grumpy adults turning slowly against the young’uns as we crawl toward death.

    Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about what we assume and should cut straight to it. I see Tim Terrell down the thread talking about their nephew, so… does anyone else here have any kids? Parents, guardians and movie-going relatives of The Agony Booth: for science, what frightens your children?

  • Cyvaris

    Gotta say the top of my childhood “terror list” is Animorphs. Legitimately creepy paranoia fuel in that series and some MESSED up fight scenes.

  • JD

    Every Kid should see Old Yeller before the age of 8

  • Ian Hartman

    The harry potter movies can be pretty fucking scary. My mom took me to see the first one when I was six. I had run out of the theatre twice before they even got to Hogwarts.