From Pixar and Disney+ to the magic of Studio Ghibli, here are the animated films for families to turn to when homeschooling and the bickering gets too much…
Robin Hood, Disney+
As families across Britain find themselves stuck indoors, Disney+ has arrived in the nick of time. The streaming service boasts Disney and Pixar’s big hits, with Toy Story 4 certain to be on heavy rotation for weeks to come (It’s worth noting that Frozen 2 isn’t released until July, though).
Disney+ also carries the studio’s extensive back catalogue, giving parents the chance to show their little ones the films they grew up with (and sneak a watch of Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, in the evenings). My old school Disney of choice is Robin Hood, a beautifully drawn and brilliantly voiced adventure story. Peter Ustinov is especially wonderful as the dastardly Prince John.
Bee Movie, Amazon Prime
In 2017, it was reported that one Netflix customer watched Bee Movie 357 times in one year. This could easily have been my household as at that stage my oldest boy was obsessed with this film (now on Amazon Prime) about a young bee wanting to break free from his monotonous life in the hive. The fact that Jerry Seinfeld voices the main character and co-wrote the script means there’s more enough in it to keep grown-ups entertained. There’s a memorable cameo from Ray Liotta, too.
One of Netflix’s best moves has been to acquire the rights to more than 20 films by Studio Ghibli, the legendary Japanese animation studio. Ponyo is a perfect movie for adults to watch alongside young children. It’s a wondrous take on Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, starting with a boy finding a goldfish trapped in a jar floating in the sea.
He takes her home and names her Ponyo, with the pair of them striking up a touching friendship as she decides she wants to become a girl. In true Ghibli style, Ponyo is visually dazzling, full of flights of narrative fancy and is packed with witty and touching moments. I absolutely love it – and when I showed it to my four-year-old this week, he fell for it, too.
Song of the Sea, Amazon Prime
In the spirit of Studio Ghibli, but with a sensibility all of it’s own, this charming Irish animation received critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination when it was released in 2015, and deserves to be seen more widely.
Trolls World Tour, Various
With cinemas shutdown, film studios are scrambling to get their movies in front of audiences in their homes. Trolls World Tour is being given a big marketing push and has been made available on a range of platforms, including Sky, Amazon Prime and Google Play. If lockdown is with us for a good while longer, expect other new releases to follow a similar path.
The Wrong Trousers, Netflix
It’s been a joy to revisit the Wallace and Gromit films with my kids, and Netflix has the lot. Their debut adventure, A Grand Day Out, in which our heroes fly to the moon (which is made of cheese), holds up fantastically well, while The Wrong Trousers remains the best of the bunch. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that the latter’s plot about a criminal scheme hatched by an evil penguin might prove a tad frightening for some little people.
The Gruffalo, Amazon Prime
If you are getting bored of reading the same old books at bedtime to your kids, have the night off and turn to Amazon Prime for the animated version of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s classic story.