Can I Take My Kid to Ghostbusters? A Parents’ Guide

Ghostbusters 2016 Parent's Guide

The original 1984 Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies of all time. So I was pretty excited to hear that an all-female reboot was happening, and I knew that I would be there opening night. Since both of my kids (Nate, 16 and Kitty, 9) loved the original we went as a family.

Kitty isn’t easily freaked out. She loves action and adventure movies and counts Terminator 2 as one of her favorites. She’s seen the original Ghostbusters on multiple occasions – this new Ghostbusters was too scary for her. Even teenager Nate found it to be a bit anxiety-provoking. Here’s why:

-The ghosts are different. While most of the 1984 ghosts were relatively cartoony and seemed to delight in malicious mischief, the 2016 ghosts were scary and wanted to kill.
– Special effects have come a long way in 32 years. While the practical effects in the original were cool, they have not aged well. That’s not super scary for a kid in 2016. While the ghosts in the new movie were made to match the feel of the original, they were scarier just because they looked more “realistic”
-There were a lot of jump scares. They were pretty easy to see coming, so we were able to brace ourselves, but there were a lot.
-We saw it in 3D. It made some of the gags pretty cool, but being in a dark theater with 3D made it that much more intense.

This movie is rated PG-13, and I think that’s a pretty good guideline. it’s not gory and the horror is definitely tempered by humor -but it will scare younger kids and even sensitive older ones. It’s unlikely that your kid is going to be traumatized by the movie; Kitty didn’t have nightmares and is planning on being a Ghostbuster for Halloween, but it made for some intense moments in the theater. I think that viewing it at home in the day on a smaller screen once it comes to home video is going to be much easier for many kids.

Some other things to look out for:

-There is some swearing (including damn, shit, and bitches)
-There a few sly references to the internet controversy surrounding rebooting the franchise with women.
-There is a character that is terribly stupid. It’s pretty funny, and none of it is mean, but he is really, really over-the-top stupid.

My review? I liked it. I wanted to love it, but I liked it. It seems to rely heavily on the ad-libbing of the stars, which made a lot of the jokes one-liners that could have been in any movie. That made it feel a little disjointed to me. It lacked the charm of the original, and I think much of that had to do with the huge level of fan-service cameos and in-jokes. I loved all of the actors in the film, Kate McKinnon really stole the show as the super-quirky Holtzmann, and Melissa McCarthy proved once again that she’s a great action-comedy star. I wish the whole team had been scientists, or they at least hadn’t thrown the immensely talented Leslie Jones into the same role that Ernie Hudson filled as “blue-collar minority who joins the team for some reason”. Some of the fan service stuff was totally hokey and took me out of the film, but some of the gags were appreciated. I loved seeing a team of women Ghostbusters, and I was so excited that Kit got to see it, too – though I wished I would have waited to show her at home.

Can I Take My 5 Year Old to Finding Dory? A Parent’s Guide

DoryFinding Dory is the much anticipated sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo.  This time around instead of a parent searching for their child, we have an (adult) child – Dory, the sidekick Blue Tang from Finding Nemo – searching for her parents.Dory Title

There isn’t much that’s objectionable in this film. There are no bad words, and no one is especially mean.  There are some daring escapes, and moments of peril, but they are resolved quickly and without too much scariness.  One scene that may be hard for viewers is a first-person shot of Dory as she is trying to make her way somewhere and gets lost when she forgets the directions. It was gut-wrenching, though it’s resolved quickly and rather triumphantly.

Like most Pixar films, you can expect some very emotional moments. Through a series of flashbacks, we see that Dory has dealt with her memory loss from a young age. We see the fear her parents experience as they wonder how their child will navigate in the world without them. As the parent of a special needs child, there were some moments that hit so close to home, it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. The filmmakers handled this sensitive subject with tact and care. While Dory’s disability is rightly a huge part of her story, it’s not the only part. She is surrounded by people who love her and care for her because of her optimism and ingenuity.  It’s a refreshing take on people/fish with  cognitive differences.
Kids of all ages will enjoy Finding Dory, which opens June 17th.

 

For a behind the scenes look at the making of Finding Dory, check out the Parenting Geekly interview with Supervising Animator Michael Stocker here.

Behind the Scenes of Finding Dory with Supervising Animator Michael Stocker

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Michael Stocker, Supervising Animator for the upcoming Disney Pixar film finding Dory, loves a challenge.  Listening to him talk about the speed bumps on the road to creating Finding Dory was as interesting as hearing him gush about the successes.  

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I got to spend a little bit of time with Stocker yesterday afternoon as he began his press tour for Finding Dory, which will hit wide release on June 17th.  His enthusiasm for the art of animation and storytelling in general, and for this project in particular, made this one of the most fun interviews I’ve done in a long time. He really opened up about some of the fun, behind the scenes making of Finding Dory, and Disney and Pixar in general.

Stocker attended Spokane Falls Community College, where he obtained degree in Commercial Art and Graphic Design. He took one film course while there, but says he was hooked and knew he wanted to work in film. While working at Boeing as an illustrator, Stocker saw a television commercial for the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit and knew at that moment that animation was where he wanted to be. He enrolled at CalArts (a school founded by Walt Disney), and secured an internship at Disney Animation as an “Inbetweener” on The Lion King.  The inbetweener, he explained to us, does all of the animation in between key frames that are drawn by the animator, and makes clean, sharp lines. “I would help the animator sort of put those drawings in and then I would put in this nice, clean line”.   He transitioned over to digital when he worked on The Incredibles at Pixar, which he said is one of his favorites because he had the opportunity to work with director Brad Bird for the first time.

When asked if he preferred hand-drawn animation or digital he replied “A good animated movie – 3D or Hand Drawn is a beautiful thing”  The story is the guiding factor, he says, and a good story can be achieved with both mediums.  He cites the beginning of Up, where we see Carl and Ellie’s story unfold, as a pivotal moment in animation “That is an amazing bit of cinema because it’s no words, it’s just music, it’s just images, it’s just animation. Up to that point I don’t know if people really thought we could tell a story about a subject matter like this, and then that happened. It was just beautiful.”

His newest project, Finding Dory is the much-anticipated sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo. The long wait between films created interesting technical dilemmas. The technology has changed so much in the past decade, that none of the assets from the previous movie could be used. The animators had to create the characters from scratch, a daunting task given how familiar people are with them. The animators would frequently get very close to finishing a character model, but realize through tests that something was just “off” and have to start again. On top of that, animating fish and other aquatic life was hard in and of itself. According to Stocker, every animator brought onto the project had to spend hours observing a real Blue Tang and Clownfish. They then had to create a small animated piece to show they grasped how the fish moved. Finally, they had to start completely from scratch and animate a line or two from the movie using the movements they observed.

FINDING DORY - HANK (voice of Ed O’Neill) is an octopus. Actually, he’s a “septopus”: he lost a tentacle—along with his sense of humor—somewhere along the way. But Hank is just as competent as his eight-armed peers. An accomplished escape artist with camouflaging capabilities to boot, Hank is the first to greet Dory when she finds herself in the Marine Life Institute. But make no mistake: he’s not looking for a friend. Hank is after one thing—a ticket on a transport truck to a cozy Cleveland facility where he’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful life of solitude. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

FINDING DORY – HANK (voice of Ed O’Neill) is an octopus. Actually, he’s a “septopus”: he lost a tentacle—along with his sense of humor—somewhere along the way. But Hank is just as competent as his eight-armed peers. An accomplished escape artist with camouflaging capabilities to boot, Hank is the first to greet Dory when she finds herself in the Marine Life Institute. But make no mistake: he’s not looking for a friend. Hank is after one thing—a ticket on a transport truck to a cozy Cleveland facility where he’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful life of solitude. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

One of the biggest challenges the Finding Dory animation team faced was creating a new character, an octopus named Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neil). Starting right from the design stage, Hank was difficult. Real octopuses have their mouths underneath them, not a set up that would work well in an animated film. Stocker also found himself using a hybrid 3D/hand drawn combination since creating Hank’s tentacles in 3D for every test shot was too time consuming.  The effect, makes Hank’s tentacles mesmerizing to watch, was born from frustration.  “I”m proud of Hank. I know how hard it was for the animators to animate that character and then make it feel organic and believable. When he’s on screen you can’t help watching him.”

Stocker sums up his job like this: “What we try to do is find those real moments. If you can capture them, regardless of fish, toys, cars, that’s kind of where you’ve invested yourself in these characters so much and then you hit a nerve. And there it is, like boom!”

 

Finding Dory opens in theaters everywhere on June 17th.