The study of children’s films is a complex and demanding issue, involving a range of critical, educational, psychological, cultural, institutional, and textual aspects. “Children’s films” can be a broad and ambiguous term; there are films aimed at children, films about childhood, and films children watch regardless of whether they are children’s films or films targeted toward adults. The rise of an expanding children’s film industry (including the accompanying merchandizing products) in the United States and many European countries presents a further challenge to the study of children’s films. In some countries, children’s films are included in the general school curriculum; this indicates that children’s films are a key part of children’s culture that requires educational attention. Another fact to which the inclusion of children’s films in school curricula points is the crucial role of these films in the development of media literacy, due to the fact that children come to recognize and understand the typical features of films by means of a gradual process which takes a substantial amount of time. The acquisition of a “film language” presupposes the ability to comprehend the symbolic meanings of images, the close relationship, upon which films depend, between a moving image, sound, and speech, and prototypical properties of films, such as shots, zooms, cuts, camera perspective, and voice-over.
New Perspectives in Children's Film Studies
This article demonstrates, on the basis of recent research in film studies and media literacy, that filmic paratexts play a significant role in contemporary children's films. It shows that paratexts effectively comment on feature films by, for example, anticipating the film's plot and characters in the opening credits, and by pursuing the film plot in the end titles. Thorough analysis of children's films reveals that paratexts stimulate the child viewer to develop a competency that might be characterized as “meta-filmic awareness”, which is the capacity to distinguish between different levels of plot, communication, or complexity within a film. In keeping with these findings, this article represents an exploration of what we might call a meta-critical approach toward children's films.
This article focuses on the intertwinement of the Romantic and the Jewish tradition in Maurice Sendak's picture book Dear Mili (1988) whose original text was based on a legend retold by Wilhelm Grimm, the German fairy tale collector. This picture book demonstrates precisely the extent to which the project of writing about Jewish children is influenced by elements of Romantic thought such as proximity to nature, the child as symbol of hope, the contrast between imagination and education, and the new concept of the “strange child”, created by the German Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann. Moreover, by juxtaposing Romantic images of childhood with the Shoah, Dear Mili works in multiple dimensions that transcend the meaning of the original story thus transforming it into both a timeless parable about the perpetual menace to children from war, violence and loneliness and a historicised narrative about the Holocaust.