We all had something that we repeatedly watched as children. Something that probably drove our parents mad. SpongeBob SquarePants, anyone? Maybe it was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? Or Barney & Friends? Here at Impact, we decided to embrace the nostalgia and share with you some of our childhood obsessions.
The Forgotten Toys (1997):
The Forgotten Toys packs a pretty big emotional punch… It preaches kindness and acceptance.
Like most kids, I went through a few phases during childhood. There was the Arnold Schwarzenegger phase: me and my brother obsessively watching action flicks from the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Michael Jackson phase. The Simpsons phase. The Tekken phase. My point is, for a while, we’d be fixated on something to an oddly extreme degree.
Turning back to the age of around four or five however, there was the one phase that strangely shaped my childhood. And the chances are, you’ve probably never heard of this.
The Forgotten Toys. Anyone?
I’d thought not.
The Forgotten Toys was a TV series that premiered in 1997. It starred Joanna Lumley and Bob Hoskins as two toys that’ve been abandoned at Christmas – replaced by newer, flashier action figures. They spend the series searching for new children to love and care for them. I promise you – this isn’t Toy Story. Though I fear that Pixar’s 1995 powerhouse is the reason that this show has been buried for so long.
Anyway, The Forgotten Toys packs a pretty big emotional punch. Lumley and Hoskins are excellent, and the show still holds up today. It preaches kindness and acceptance. It was a staple in my household, and frankly, I’m surprised more people haven’t watched it.
If you get a chance, I’d seriously recommend this.
‘Aladdin? Again? Okay…’
Between the ages of two to four, my dad and I used to get up every morning before play group and watch Aladdin. He would read the paper and I would watch the film while we ate toast for breakfast. He’d have marmite and I’d have peanut butter. I don’t remember the film so much, but I remember the toast.
I still love Aladdin, probably because I was so young when I watched it that I never really got bored of it. Although my dad loves Disney, I don’t think he could stomach watching Aladdin again, after watching it almost every day for two years. Apparently, he used to ask me what we would watch every morning, suggesting different films, but I was a very stubborn child.
‘Aladdin? Again? Okay…’
He says that he loved the genie’s humour because, while Robin Williams’ energy was so entertaining for kids, the actual content of the jokes is very much aimed at adults. However, after 600 times, I’m sure they still got boring.
I cried all the way through the remake.
What I find most funny about my childhood obsession with Aladdin is that, when I was 15, I discovered ‘Miss Saigon’ – which has always been my favourite musical ever since. Lea Salonga originated the part of Kim and it’s her voice on the original cast album. But she was also the voice of Princess Jasmine! I think it’s really weird how I seem to have gone full circle! Maybe it’s because the sound of her voice is so imprinted onto the early development of my brain, I’m subconsciously attracted to it – or something like that.
I cried all the way through the remake. But I kept getting angry when lines weren’t delivered the ‘right’ way. ‘Who disturbs my slumber?’ and ‘Abu! No!’ were particularly disappointing. I thought people were too hard on Will Smith. He wasn’t Robin Williams, but he wasn’t trying to be. I liked that he had his own interpretation of the part that was too different to even try to compare to the 1992 version. I also appreciated them making Jafar hot.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008):
… Avatar became my first binging experience.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) is the greatest American cartoon of all time. It’s set in a fantasy world divided into four elemental nations (water, earth, fire, air) where some people can control – or ‘bend’ – their native element. The series follows Aang, the latest reincarnation of the Avatar – one who can bend all four elements – as he travels the world with his friends, training to defeat the imperial Fire Nation, who have been waging war on the rest of the world for a hundred years.
I was introduced to ATLA via M. Night Shyamalan’s awful 2010 live action adaptation. After that I’d catch random episodes on school nights, faking illness so I could skip clubs and keep watching. That Christmas my parents bought me the boxset, and Avatar became my first binging experience.
It can’t be understated how much better ATLA is than its movie adaptation. Its sweeping lore pulls respectfully from Eastern cultures, introducing and articulating spiritualism, Buddhist philosophies and more to a young audience.
Do you know another show that effectively explains chakras to an eight-year-old?
Avatar creates a complex, adult world and tackles dark, adult subject matters … but it never, ever gets mired in that darkness.
The animation is breath-taking, with some of the most creative action choreography ever put to screen. The world-building is culturally and politically dense (pick your flavour – indoctrinated, industrialised imperialists vs a police state with an immigration crisis vs a tribal society marred by institutional sexism and arranged marriage) and the characters go through staggering personal growth. Prince Zuko’s redemption arc is legendary.
So, Avatar creates a complex, adult world and tackles dark, adult subject matters (PTSD, child abuse, prisoners of war, genocide – y’know, kids’ stuff) but it never, ever gets mired in that darkness. It is still, fundamentally a hopeful family show with a great sense of humour, tons of anime-inspired visual gags and silly hybrid animals (platypus-bear, anyone?)
Avatar has the character arcs and payoff Game of Thrones wishes it had, and the show’s morals and messages were fundamental to my growth as a kid. The best part is, it’s so good I can re-watch it now and still find layers I’d never noticed before. I’ll be forever grateful to this show.
Monsters, Inc. (2001):
… it remains my favourite animated film of all time.
Monsters, Inc. was the first film I ever saw in the cinema. I was three years old and my Auntie drove me to the local Showcase after we picked the film from the newspaper listings. We did this on multiple Saturdays when I was young but the only film I remember seeing was Monsters, Inc. And to this day, it remains my favourite animated film of all time. If you asked me to recite the entire opening sequence (surprisingly, no one has yet) I would be able to do so without hesitation. It’s a film full of laughs and full of heart, which I’m sure at this point in its cinematic lifespan I don’t have to tell anyone.
From Randy Newman’s classic You’ve Got a Friend in Me to the instrumental sequence at the start of Up, the films all have their stories amplified by music.
When I watch it now I can’t help but tear up at the end scene – a trait that Pixar has perfected over the years – not only because any whiff of childhood nostalgia brings a lump to my throat, but also because the story is accompanied by an amazing musical score. One of Pixar’s greatest strengths is its music. From Randy Newman’s classic You’ve Got a Friend in Me to the instrumental sequence at the start of Up, the films all have their stories amplified by music. And Monsters, Inc. is no different. Although it might not be as well remembered or recognisable as some of the others, it’s still brilliantly composed to bring people (like me) to tears.
I can’t talk about animated films without giving a nod to Shrek 2, arguably one of the most sophisticated pieces of cinema our generation has seen (and I’m only half joking). The inclusion of so many pop culture and fairy-tale references really is masterful and again, it’s a film I have watched many times since childhood. Although the messages in Shrek 2 still resonate within our filter-obsessed, insta-ready society: it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And yes, that’s cheesy, but this is a kids film after all.