Being a responsible parent: Bumper 6 months unemployed edition! Part 1- Animation


The only benefit of long-term unemployment is that I’ve been able to spend an awful lot of time with Finn while he’s growing up. Other than that, and I do not say this lightly, this has probably been the most miserable 7 (count ’em) months out of work that I’ve ever had. However, keeping a happy smile firmly plastered to my face, I’m going to look at the bright side in that I’ve managed to indoctrinate watch a lot of stuff with the little ‘un. So, here’s a brief round-up of some of the many films that we’ve sat through.


The Studio Ghibli Collection: Consisting of Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and Princess Monokoke

The films:

It’s hard for me to objectively rate these films, as I saw them in different times of my life initially, and they, thus, had different impacts and responses in me. However, the gentle pace, deceptively adult material and delightful animation of Miyazaki is virtually guaranteed to wow adults. But would it work for a rambunctious little one who thrives on mindless acts of destruction?

If I were to rank these 4 films, which I’m going to, I’d go with Ponyo as the worst of them, then Howl’s then Princess Monokoke then Spirited Away, with a 2 Chang rating for Ponyo (Leeson’s dreadful voice acting and the frankly icky true love message- the characters are clearly kids- simply overwhelms the wonderful animation and score) rising up to a maximum for Spirited Away.

I can watch these (bar Ponyo) any time. And I didn’t really feel an overwhelming need to watch a Japanese version of the Little Mermaid anyway.

What the authorities say (Spirited Away):

I’m not doing this for each film, because it’ll take ages.

Nevertheless, here’s the nice people at common sense media on Spirited Away:

Parents need to know that Hayao Miyazaki’s magical adventure is widely considered an animated masterpiece, but it can be a creepy and frightening experience for younger viewers.

They’ve also whinged about one character smoking and given it 3 out of 5 for violence. Which is a bit daft.

Jarv’s Opinion:

Fine for kids. Simples. Whether or not they’ll “get” the thematic issues and sit through the Japanese weirdness is a different question.

Finn Appropriate:

Funnily enough- not all of them. Spirited Away is, definitely, in that it didn’t worry him in the slightest and he finds it mesmerising- even if a coming of age story is a bit over his head at this stage. He has absolutely no time for Ponyo, being the first recorded instance of him pointing at a screen and saying “NOT THAT”. I don’t know what it is, because I’ve had a few more goes with him, but he just can’t stand it for any length of time. Howl’s also, much to my surprise, bored the arse  off him as well- which is strange, considering that it’s arguably the most action packed of them, but he was absolutely fine with Monokoke, and I would have bet large amounts of cash on that to be the one he reacted badly to. As a result of this experiment (conducted in March of this year), Spirited Away has been on heavy rotation at Casa del Jarv, and I’m beginning to get a bit sick of it.


It’s Studio Ghibli. They’re clearly a class apart from most and outside of Pixar, I can’t think of anyone else as consistently excellent as them. Even if thematically it’s beyond most children below a certain age, the animation is so gorgeous and there’s so much weirdness on display that they really are a winner for almost any age group.


In no particular order: Inside Out, UP!, Ratatouille, Toy Story 1-3, Monsters Inc, Monsters University, and The Incredibles

The Films:

It’s Pixar. I physically cannot be arsed to give in-depth reviews of these as everyone has seen them. Particularly if you have kids. They’re all clearly brilliant- bar MU, which is still OK, and Inside Out.

Inside Out, funnily enough, is probably the most insanely overrated film that I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad per se, but I find Joy such an unlikable sociopath that I struggle to get through it. I am also not sold on the character design on the emotions (Joy in particular when in the memory dump looks kind of fuzzy). Finally, I’m convinced that it’s the first Pixar film that works better for adults than it does for kids, whereas the rest of them had a balance making them a joy for everyone.

What the authorities say (Inside Out):

Although most of the content is appropriate for elementary schoolers and up, younger kids may need a bit more explanation about what’s going on, since there are references to abstract thought and the subconscious, and it can be a little confusing when other characters’ emotions are shown.

Common Sense Media Again. and weirdly they’ve given it 1 out of 5 for sex. I’m almost certain there was no concealed sapphic lesbianage between Joy and Sadness, but hey, they’re the experts. Interestingly, they don’t have a “crime” rating, which would fuck this film as Riley robs her mum’s credit card to pay for bus tickets.

Jarv’s opinion:

Goddamnit. It’s a cold day in hell. Common Sense dickheads are right. Well, they’re wrong too, obviously, but they have a point. Inside Out does, for the entire plot and run time, deal with issues that would have meant less than fuck all to me at an elementary school age.

Finn appropriate:

The rest? Absolutely, Inside Out, absolutely not.

Bear with me on this, but remember that he’s 2. Inside Out doesn’t have anything he can latch on to to interest him, and as a result it bores him.

This is where Common Sense media are right. It’s not just a little bit confusing, but it’s massively confusing for kids below a certain age to have high brow psychology concepts foisted on them. Take the abstract thought sequence- sure it’s very fucking clever, and is probably my favourite bit of the film, but do you really want to have to explain deconstruction to a 10 year old? The film is so fucking pleased with its own cleverness that Pixar seem to have forgotten that they primarily make kids movies.

But hey, Bing Bong is in it, and he’s cute, so shits and giggles all around.

For me, appropriate doesn’t just boil down to the usual censorship touch points but also has to include a “will he watch it” factor. In the case of Up!, for example, which deals with some very depressing themes, he still loves it because it’s visually engaging and varied, the score is nice and so on and so forth. In the case of Inside Out, however, this simply isn’t true. Much of the run time, for example, takes place either in Headquarters, or wandering around in the memory dump (big corridors with balls on shelves). While imaginationland, abstract thought etc do break the pattern, it’s not enough for him.


See above. It’s Pixar. While I’m not a fan of Inside Out, I will concede that these are all exceptionally crafted films and all clearly of significant merit.


Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and Minions

The Films:

Ugh. Talk about diminishing returns.

The first DM movie is a lark, it’s not the best animation of the last decade, but it’s a jolly enough time charting Gru’s adventure and relationship with the girls. It’s meant to be a jolly time (and it’s worth noting that the minions are meant to be an amusing comic break, like Skrat in the Ice Age films), which, for the most part, it is. The sequel, however, is a bit creepy and not in a good way, charting Gru’s continuing adventures and the re-emergence of an old villain, while mostly being pretty fucking boring.

Then there’s Minions.

What the authorities say (Minions):

e other Despicable Me movies, the story can be seen as a celebration of villainy (though much of it is intended to be silly/funny) — but the long-term take away is hopefully more about how loyal the Minions are to one another and to their masters.

It’s reviews like this that really make CSM a laughing stock. They’ve also given it 2 for sexy stuff, an inexplicable 3 for violence but only 4 for consumerism.

Jarv’s opinion:

It’s not that the story “can be” seen as a celebration of villainy, the stories are celebrations of villainy. Or anti-heroes at the very least. In the case of Minions, it’s actively said that unless they get the most evil, despicable, boss they can then the tribe is going to go extinct.

However, this doesn’t matter. There’s loads and loads of great material for kids and adults that celebrate villainy, and massive violence (Tom and Jerry being the overused example), so this isn’t a reason, per se, to have a downer on the films.  As mentioned the first DM film is a lark- it’s essentially a ludicrously overblown caper movie with a tug on the heartstrings cynically added. The second doesn’t recapture the magic, but does pass the time. Then there’s Minions.

I would, with a song in my heart, Orangutan of Doom Minions. There is not one redeeming feature to this film- it isn’t cute, it isn’t funny, Sandra Bullock’s voice is completely wrong for Scarlett Overkill, and her performance simply blows (the bit where she enunciates “Banana” makes me want to set fire to her). It’s another example of elevating a supporting character to the main stage that simply reveals that these characters can’t support an entire story. I suspect that this was known in advance, which is why it’s a prequel.

Looking at this, I could have just said “it’s a prequel” and left it at that, but that doesn’t get across how fucking irritating the minions are, and (more pertinently) what a goddamned cynical and lazy marketing cash in the whole rotten experience is. If you want my advice, which you obviously do, just buy the minions shit for the kid and pretend that the film doesn’t exist.

Finn suitable:

Revoltingly. Yes. Not only is there nothing in these films that upsets him, but the bright and colourful Minions with their horrid made up esperanto speech really engage him. In fact, it’s that he finds them that amusing that’s the giveaway that it’s a fucking cynical exercise.

I hate Minions.


1 OK to good film, one mediocre film and one enormous turd. The only plus point of him breaking the PS3 is that I never have to watch Minions again. Bear in mind that I’m unemployed, so I don’t say that lightly.


Nu-Disney (Frozen and Tangled)

The Films:

These are basically the same film. It’s surprisingly that nobody has picked up on this, but it’s the Disney formula (animated fairy tale/ famous story with big ballads and comedy sidekicks) for the new generation. When I saw Tangled, I assumed that it was another shot in the arm for Disney’s animation wing, whereas I was wrong: it’s establishing a template that Frozen follows almost exactly. Incidentally, Frozen is the second most overrated film I’ve seen in a long time.

What the authorities say (Frozen):

Parents need to know that Frozen is a Disney animated musical that’s likely to appeal to families with children of all ages. As in many Disney movies, the parents die, here leaving orphaned princesses who must find a way to survive. There are a few other violent scenes that involve men with weapons, snarling wolves, a scary snow monster, a severe storm, and a character who nearly freezes to death. A character falls in love — twice — and ends up sharing two kisses at the end of the story. Messages include unconditional love between sisters after a long estrangement, being true to yourself, recognizing your gifts, and not being afraid of your power.

Strangely, it gets 2 for violence. There’s no consistency to their ratings although I do find it highly amusing that it gets 3 for consumerism and 1 for substance abuse.

Jarv’s opinion:

That is a completely accurate description of Frozen from a “shit to watch out for” point of view. The “falls in love” twice thing is nonsense, obviously, but even then it’s Disney and there’s nothing that is likely to offend anyone. In any case, the vast majority of fairy tales etc have handsome prince rescuing damsel and earning a kiss for it. So fucking what.

As films, these are both obviously OK. Tangled is the “riskier” proposition, in that it’s setting up the new template, but it feels a bit fresher than it’s more celebrated younger sibling. Nevertheless, these are cookie cutter films so formulaic that even Marvel would blush slightly at them.

Neither of them are bad, but neither of them are world beating. However, if I really want to watch a Disney film of this ilk then I’m not going to watch either of these two- when you consider that this is the studio with Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Beauty and the Beast in its back catalogue. all of those are “classics” and all of which have not only stood the test of time but knock spots of these efforts.

Finn appropriate:

Sadly, yes. Frozen in particular has been on almost constant rotation and I now feel the same way about Let it Go that I feel about Coldplay. He even likes Olaf (the most annoying comedy sidekick in a long time)


Meh. This is something Disney did a lot better back in the day, but as Frozen was successful, I’m sure they’ll go back to the well and do another cookie cutter film using whatever fable/ myth/ story they haven’t done yet. Again, neither are bad films, but I’d really rather not watch them.

the lego movie

The advertisement Film

Charting the story of Emmett, The Lego Movie is an inventive and entertaining (if a bit cynical) adventure story with a surprisingly heartwarming central message.

What the authorities say:

Although there’s nothing overly objectionable (a few mild exclamations like “dang,” “heck,” “stupid,” and “darn”), there’s definitely a lot of action and peril, plus quite a bit of violence with the villain’s security forces shooting at the good guys, and a character getting “beheaded” (since minifig heads pop off) or erased (with nail polish remover). Kids will love seeing some of their favorite minifigures come to life, but of course they’ll probably ask for the tie-in Lego kits after the movie.

Includes a 5 out of 5 for consumerism. How Minions didn’t get the maximum is completely lost on me. It’s every bit as much of an advert/ marketing exercise as this.

Jarv’s opinion:

This is a good film, but better advertisement. The animation is smart, the voice acting decent, and it’s highly, highly entertaining. On first watch, I actually really enjoyed it, with enough smart jokes laced through (the jab at TV is a cracking satirical insert into the film) to keep me going.

But, at the end of the day, it’s a giant toy ad. I bet, although I haven’t checked, you can buy everything that they make in this film.

And that bloody song is a right earworm. Altogether now “Everything is awesome”…

Finn appropriate:

Yup. Just. He hasn’t the slightest clue what Lego is, still being at the “smash shit up” phase with actually building stuff a completely alien concept. He’s happy enough to watch me build stuff (in Scotland recently this was sand castles) but deserves the right to level it in seconds like some kind of baby Godzilla. And then have me build it again. Any piece of Lego (or Duplo for that matter) to go anywhere near him is either going in his mouth or getting thrown.

Therefore, the fact it’s a giant ad is neither here nor there, and so, thankfully, it’s fine for him.


Bright, colourful and inventive, this is a good ‘un, even if it is aimed squarely at your wallet. Even if I do find Will Ferrell’s character slightly tragic- it’s not like he’s even building anything interesting. The sad fucker is constructing a boring cityscape diorama, that deserves to be trashed with monsters, pirates, Batman and all manner of other shit.

There has been other animation in the last 6 months, but I’m bored of this now. I haven’t decided which group to go with next time, but I promise it’ll be more timely than my last post.

Until then,



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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

13 responses to “Being a responsible parent: Bumper 6 months unemployed edition! Part 1- Animation”

  1. M. Blitz says :

    NOT THAT! So funny, a child of strong tastes! Wonder where he gets it.

    So, havent seen any of these except the ghibli ones. Have you seen Grave of the Fireflies? Been procrastinating on it.

    • Jarv says :

      GoF is great but depressing.

      You must have seen the Pixar?

      Other rejected by Finn films include Beaches and Philadelphia.

      • M. Blitz says :

        He hates Beaches??? YES! A baby after my own heart. Wretched fucking movie that has only proved useful for sussing out incompatible female friends over the years. If they try to force me to watch it, tells me what i need to know. Philadelphia appeals to my aids crisis obsession and misery addiction i have to admit.

        Ive so far been subjected to the Frozen soundtrack, but havent caught the film. I saw a little bit of something with minions though and enjoyed their ihop promotion. Cinnaminions…yum. Might check out Inside Out but i suspect it will provoke internal ranting.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Good on the wee lad for rejecting awful Oscar bait flicks.

  2. M. Blitz says :

    I actually just watched Beaches a few weeks ago, for the first time in, oh, 15 years? After the Orlando shooting, logo (channel here) decided to torture everyone with 24 hours of beaches. So it taped instead of Rebel Without a Cause, which is what had been scheduled. Bah. I hit play and ughhh. Figured I’d check whether it still sucks and it DOES!

  3. Xiphos0311 says :

    Here’s a suggestion. Show the boy the great 1977 Ralph Bakshi roto-scoped post apocalyptic cartoon Wizards. That mother is freaking great.

  4. just pillow talk says :

    My girls love how to Train your Dragon flicks and the corresponding series. They watched Frozen a lot, but not recently. My youngest loves Minions too, because, well, she is a minion.

    • Jarv says :

      I didn’t include the Dragons films, but he loves them. I hate Minions so much, almost as much as I hate the Kung Fu Panda TV series or Penguins of Madagascar.

  5. tombando says :

    This was fun. “FINN appropriate? Sadly Yes-“. The joy of having Let it Go playing nonstop. I seem to remember we foisted the Disney Robin Hood, Pete’s Dragon and the Rescuers soundtrack on unsuspecting family gobs of times back when. It’s a good time.

  6. Continentalop says :

    Time for Finn to watch VICE SQUAD.

    You’re never too young to learn about pimp sticks.

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