If you’re a parental figure casting about for summer videos of favorite movies of your youth to entertain the kids with, look not unto Walt Disney. The benevolent despot of animation had a taste for legislating our cultural boundaries which lives on in the Disney Home Video Company’s limited-time-only policy for films deemed “classics.” This April Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid (the latter has evidently been anointed an instant classic) were taken off the market, probably for at least five years; and finding videocassettes of Robin Hood, Cinderella, or Pinocchio is akin to unearthing buried treasure. (Bambi’s still available, if you can stand the terror of that forest fire.) The idea may be to preserve the “mystique” of the classic—but it sounds like the manufacture of scarcity to me.
CBS/Fox’s Playhouse Video jumps in with a range of BBC children’s classics (Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh for younger kids, The Secret Garden and Gulliver in Lilliput for older ones). A sure hit with all age groups is Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches, with Anjelica Huston as Superwitch. You can look into the ubiquitous kid-vid mail catalogs, and some video stores have newsletters with helpful suggestions, such as recommendations of child-friendly adult movies. (A friend found that Emerald Forest stimulated her eight-year-old daughter into self-starting endeavors with green paint.)
New movie-theater offerings for children tend to be dismal (the money’s in teen pics or those, like the smash Home Alone, aimed at the whole family), but the Disney parent company will re-release 101 Dalmatians, starring my favorite bad girl, Cruella De Vil, in July. If you want to take older kids to a movie you too can enjoy, Kevin Costner will star as yet another boy-hero championing the oppressed in Warner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (June). The movie may turn out to be as gloriously dumb and likable as his seven-time Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves. Or rent the 1938 Errol Flynn version. Failing all that, your children may wish to read a book.