A recent post on parenting blog DaddyTypes noted that a video of innovative abstract films by Oskar Fischinger might be of interest to young kids. Fischinger was a German-born filmmaker and painter active from the 1930s to 1950s who had little popular success in his lifetime due to various setbacks and his own uncompromising vision of the role of abstraction in film.
Finding "adult" content that engages both parent and child introduces the idea of shared passions into your relationship with your kid, something that children whose TV time is dominated by Barney and the Teletubbies will never have. So the Daddytypes post got me wondering what other "arthouse" filmmakers' work might go over well with young audiences. This was not exactly the right question to ask, because some visionary filmmakers found animating for children to be a liberating experience - they faced an audience with fresh eyes, few preconceptions, a short attention span and a great tolerance for new techniques paired with a demand for clear communication strategies.
I found a lot of great stuff, and decided to post a series of recommendations of innovative animated films you probably haven't seen which are appropriate for young children. The filmmakers are American, Soviet, Czech, and Canadian; their techniques range from cel and stop-motion animation to film etching and live-action sequences. What they all have in common is the ability to dazzle toddlers with their beauty, mystery, and urgency in a way that is very much like the effect they are intended to have on adults, which makes watching these films with your child a much richer experience than snuggling up with yet another episode of some lame PBS cartoon. Although the content I will recommend amounts to a handful specific recommendations spread out over a week, many of these suggestions can lead interested viewers to a much larger field of possibilities.
I just posted my first recommendation, Yuriy Norshteyn's Hedgehog In the Fog, at Z Recommends. You can watch the film and read about it there. I will be publish a new film highlight there each day for the rest of the week, all of them with embedded film content from YouTube.
For more of my thoughts on YouTube and its role in toddler education, click here.