We took the kids to see Toy Story 4 last weekend. While I was looking forward to it vicariously for them, I wasn’t particularly fussed about seeing it myself. I felt that Toy Story 3 was a sequel too far, so didn’t have much enthusiasm for another instalment.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t enjoy it. It had its moments, of course, but it met with my low expectations on the whole. What surprised me, however, was that the aforementioned moments were the only things the majority of kids in the auditorium really responded to.
Then, yesterday, I read this article by Emily Beecher which hits the nail on the head. This film, and many others like it, seem to have been made more with parents in mind than children.
I can see the logic of this with Toy Story 4, of course. The franchise is 24 years old and the makers obviously wanted its original audience to complete the journey they started in 1995.
But they neglected what surely should have been the key demographic: the children of today. And Woody, Buzz et al aren’t alone in doing this.
Thinking about it, the vast majority of films aimed at kids these days are hand-me-downs of sorts. Disney seems to be hell-bent on making live-action versions of its entire back catalogue.
Meanwhile, Marvel and DC heroes are rebooted every few years and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles keep reemerging from the sewers.
It’s not just a case of titles and characters being rehashed either. The narratives of some supposed kids’ films have become a lot more grown-up than necessary.
They have quite literally lost the plot. The subtle asides there to keep parents entertained have become a lot more prominent.
Look at Despicable Me 3. It lacked the warmth and charm of the first two films and largely relegated the girls and minions – surely the characters kids will relate to the most – to supporting cast.
It focused more on adult problems such as struggles with parenting and work, while the tidal wave of 80s references provided by the bad guy, Balthazar Bratt, means nothing to children today.
Then there are video games. LEGO Dimensions, in particular, was basically a love letter to the 1980s. Now don’t get me wrong, we loved playing it together as a family.
But, in hindsight, I probably got a lot more out of it than the kids did. The likes of Gremlins, E.T and The A-Team were aimed more at me than them.
It seems that original ideas and characters are becoming thinner on the ground and that’s really sad.
As Beecher points out, us Generation Xers and Millenials pine for the simpler times we grew up in. And it has to be admitted that there’s something very comforting about nostalgia. But it doesn’t do today’s youngsters any favours.
Going back to LEGO Dimensions the presence of another 80s icon, Marty McFly, suggests that we’ve turned our back to the future.
So, as kids’ films seem to have lost the plot, I propose another reboot of sorts. A reboot in approach to entertainment for kids. Who’s with me?