Or, as I really wanted to title this: Why would you let a kid watch crappy animated “family” movies that are actually more disturbing because they’re movies imported from Hungary, the Netherlands, and Japan, poorly dubbed, and released straight to VHS?

Growing up in my house, Mom held all the cards as to what movies we bought and were “allowed” to watch. She had a tight rein on what we purchased and hated Hollywood movies. Something about them all being full of Godless sexual deviates, foul language, and subtly socialistic themes.

This was how I ended up watching a strange sub-culture of movies that nobody I knew had heard of. Tell me if any of these movies sound familiar:

If they do, then welcome brother/sister to the “straight-to-VHS-marketed-movies-club!” Many of these movies seemed very odd to me as a kid, but I kinda liked them. As an adult, I’m starting to realize why I liked them more than the normal Disney fare. Mom was trying to protect me from the godless Hollywood heathens. But these movies were actually more “free” with their content than the mainstream.

Mainstream, American animation didn’t really dare step outside the box much. It wasn’t the characters that changed; it was their surroundings. A lot of the themes and plot events were scrubbed clean for family audiences. You might be thinking to yourself, “That’s not true! Disney was daring.” There’s a reason the word Disneyfied exists. It means the original, very scary Grimm tale was made to “play nice” for families.

Because the straight-to-video movies were gathered from around the world, or at least had outsourced animation, there was no “standard”. They had very little American culture or taboo baked into them. Some were chopped up TV shows turned into a movie (Serendipity the Pink Dragon). Some were deliberately christian or some, overtly moral tales (Timmy’s Gift and Willie the Sparrow, respectively).

But no matter what, there was strangeness. I would watch characters die. I’m not talking implied deaths. I mean, watch a whale drown and die slowly. There would be strangely sexual topics. And often, main characters would grow up completely during the course of a story where their views, voice, and physicality would change. Check this out… from Samson & Sally.

 

What were they doing? Smoking pot?

I remember being bored with most family movies from the US because of how predictably “safe” they were. These direct-to-video movies treated my psyche like it was mature enough to handle hard topics, and in a way, even though I was a kid and a little confused by them, it was refreshing. Today, I’m a very direct person that likes to talk about and deal with things head on. No taboos. Thanks, strange direct-to-video animation for making me the person I am today!

Do you remember these movies? Was there something strange in your childhood that had a profound effect on you?

Nick Adducci

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Nick dreams up visual concepts as a story artist/animator. He's a toothless pyromaniac with a pathological hatred for onions.

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