Producer of Teletubbies bemoans state of kids movies


Yesterday we brought you an interview with Kenn Viselman, the man behind an interactive theater experience/movie called Oogieloves. Chances are you didn’t read it as it’s probably not up your alley. However, near the end of our interview Kenn and I started discussing children’s cinema in general and he delivered an impassioned response to my question of where children’s cinema is now as a whole.

It’s a nice long almost-speech, but if you read on you’ll be treated to Viselman tearing apart the current state of children’s cinema because, well, it isn’t really children’s cinema. It’s a really interesting take on what we find acceptable to show to our kids and how, according to Viselman, even fantastic films like Pixar’s aren’t really living up to their responsibilities as children’s films, and really shouldn’t be called that. I thought it was worth pulling out to make sure people saw it.

You mentioned Pixar earlier. What do you think about children’s cinema currently?

Kenn Viselman: To be honest I’m kind of revolted by it, which is what got me back into working. I was pretty happy just hanging in the house watch Jerry Springer (laughs).

I saw a preview the other day for an animated movie that’s doing well in the box office; one character slaps another and everybody laughs. I thought, “What’s wrong with our society?We’re dealing with bullying and all these issues. Don’t the creators know that a child is going to see this action in a movie theater, hear everybody laugh, and go out to the park the next day a slap someone. Then everybody’s going to scratch their head and wonder why that happened?

We don’t understand that children mimic adults in their lives. We don’t understand the impact that negative images have on children. We don’t understand why shootings happen in movie theaters. We don’t understand why we have these crazy events going on in the world. It’s because we aren’t taking any responsibility for them as adults. It infuriates me.

The other day I’m on a panel and the guy next to me, a lovely guy, makes a comment about how brilliant Pixar is for children. I think the Pixar people are brilliant, but he makes a comment about how Pixar is great for children because good always wins over evil in the end, and the audience applauds him. I’m sitting there going, “What’s wrong with all of you idiots?” Doesn’t anybody understand that we don’t need to show evil in the first place? Why can’t we show children at an early age that love is love for love’s sake? Be good because good is good. We don’t need to tell you to be good because if you aren’t you’ll fall into a trap and be eaten by an alligator. We don’t need to show them the negative responses, we just need to show them the positive responses of positive behavior. It really upsets me.

The Oogieloves — whether you like the movie or you don’t like the movie, I don’t care — children like the movie and I made this for them. And I made it for their parents so that they can have an opportunity to hang out in the same space having the same shared experience. The thing you will see at this movie is that you can have drama, and you can have consequence without having bad. I wanted to show that you don’t need to have evil in your movie to make your movie work for kids.

If you look in theaters you’ve got Madagascar, you’ve got Brave, you’ve got Ice Age. Every one of those movies has a scene that is too scary for young children and it’s completely unnecessary. It doesn’t move the story forward, it’s not a necessary component to the film. We just do it so we can up the rating to a PG or a PG-13 and get an older audience in there. Knowing, full well, that the caregiver of young children are going to bring their young children to the movie because there is no other movie offered for those children. It’s infuriating to me.

If you take our movie and back date it to when the last wide release G movie was it was 130 days before the Oogieloves came out. It was a movie called Chimpanzee, which was a lovely documentary, but it wasn’t a children’s movie. If you back that up you’ve got The Arctic, which was on IMAX and a limited number of screens. And if you back it up to then you’ve got Beauty and the Beast in 3D. There hasn’t been one original story, done for kids, that’s G-rated this entire year. I think that’s revolting.

Viselman goes on to discuss ratings and how well children understand what they’re watching. Check out the rest of our interview with Kenn Viselman.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.