Kids movies

The weirdest kids’ movies ever made

This Friday, Paramount Pictures is releasing what is sure to be the best family movie of 2017 so far: monster truckswhich prompted the studio to take a $115 million impairment months before the film’s release. (It’s shocking that a movie dreamed up by a four-year-old isn’t a guaranteed moneymaker!) While the premise – they are trucks, but with, like, monsters inside — is zany enough, it’s by no means the craziest premise a Hollywood studio has tried to impose on an unsuspecting kid audience. In (doubtful) honor of monster truckshere is our list of 10 of the most bizarre children’s films in history.

The witches (1990)
Directed by Nicolas Roeg

Roald Dahl’s books have long been the source of quirky children’s films. (Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory is quite bizarre with its nightmarish boat ride, and Johnny Depp’s Michael Jackson-inspired chocolatier in the 2005 remake is also very disturbing.) The 1990 adaptation of The witches is perhaps the strangest of them all, especially when you consider that it’s directed by Nicolas Roeg, of don’t look now and The man who fell to earth. It’s apparently the story of how a little boy uncovers a witches’ plot to turn children into mice, but viewing this adventure – replete with the off-putting cinematic style of Roeg and the unsettling effects of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop – is truly terrifying. Nothing against the Wonka movies, but Anjelica Huston’s transformation from sleek brunette to long-nosed witch still haunts more than 25 years later.

Back to Oz (1985)
Directed by Walter Murch

Beloved or not, there’s no doubt that The Wizard of Oz is an atypical film. Flying monkeys, hallucinatory flowers, a talking scarecrow; these are very strange elements. But the original ounces has nothing on Disney’s 1985 sequel, Back to Oz, directed by Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch. Murch has worked with Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas over the years, which is why Disney’s choice to fire Murch from the project was overturned. The film has a cult following and is very disturbing, both before and after Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) returns to the Land of Oz. Although the Scarecrow, Lion, and Iron Man appear briefly, characters like Jack Pumpkinhead and Tik-Tok (a robotic walking clock) are Dorothy’s quirky new friends. Back to Oz is messy, but it’s almost impressive Disney has released a movie as likely to cause nightmares as this one.

The black hole (1979)
Directed by Gary Nelson

The late 1970s and early 80s were a boom time at Walt Disney Pictures for crazy kids movies. Bette Davis, in the twilight of her career, starred in two such films, including the horrific The Watcher in the Woods. But for a glimpse of what’s truly inexplicable, watch The black holewhich ends with what can be gently called a tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey (in a kids movie!), and, among other things, features a wacky robot voiced by Slim Pickens. The plot – in which the officers of a spaceship investigate a black hole and discover an abandoned ship nearby – is dark enough before the disconcerting finale. If Disney Is remaking the film, as they’ve often hinted, it’s hard to imagine they’d stay true to the closure of the original. If they did, it would be a rare return to the surreal.

Pinocchio (1940)
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske

Disney’s Golden Age Animation includes just five of the company’s most beloved features. Let’s not forget that these are really weird movies; both Fancy and Dumbo were very close to making this list. However, Pinocchiothe 1940 animated classic, re-released on Blu-ray this month, is arguably Disney’s weirdest animated feature. Pinocchio not only serves as a (probably unintentional) anti-smoking leaflet, it’s a truly distinct coming-of-age saga and horror story about becoming a human while fighting a whale, almost turned into a moron stupid, and learn not to lie lest your nose grow several feet long. Pinocchio is a wonderfully memorable film, precisely because it’s strange.

The brave little toaster (1987)
Directed by Jerry Rees

Imagine a world in which inanimate objects travel through the big city to reach their teenage owner, nearly sacrificing their lives in a burning junkyard along the way. It might look like something from one of toy story movies; in fact, many elements of Woody and Buzz’s ongoing adventures are evident in the 1987 independent animated film The brave little toasterwhose co-writers include future Pixar filmmakers Joe Ranft and John Lasseter. The brave little toaster has similarities to Disney animated films of its day, with wacky comic relief, bouncy music, and memorable performances (Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz both show up). But the depiction of the city and the devices traveling to find their master is pungent and uncomfortable. Thanks to its independent roots, Toaster is coated with less sugar and coated with much sharper edges than Pixar’s later animated films.

where the wild things are (2009)
Directed by Spike Jonze

The 2009 adaptation of where the wild things are is not the first long version of a short children’s picture book. (Warner Bros. also released The Polar Express, in which a boy meets Santa Claus, a leering hobo, and an elf voiced by Steven Tyler. It’s confusing enough on its own.) where the wild things are is more than an expanded version of Maurice Sendak’s iconic story; it’s a Spike Jonze movie about how a family defined by divorce can toughen up kids. A little boy escapes to an island of mischief with life-size monsters, but this escape is tinged with the monsters’ regret and grief. where the wild things are is a remarkably singular mainstream film, where an overriding reaction has to be, “How the hell was this given the green light with such a big budget?”

The dark crystal (1982)
Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz

Jim Henson is synonymous with light family entertainment. But Henson’s non-Kermit movies are very weird, even with Muppet-like creations on display. The dark crystalthe 1982 fantasy film he co-directed with Frank Oz, is by far the strangest of his sadly truncated filmography. Many familiar names are associated with The dark crystal, including Muppet artists like Henson, Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire. But the film is essentially a grim vision of good versus evil with barely a human in sight, closer to the experimental puppet than “Pigs in Space.” There aren’t too many kids’ movies with the word “dark” in the title; as the title suggests, The dark crystal is a dark and quirky film.

The never-ending story (1984)
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

In addition to being the source of a very large gag on The simpsons1984 The never-ending story is one of the biggest movies on this list. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside the United States or the Soviet Union; in his native Germany, the film was a big hit. It was a minor hit in the United States, although it did lead to a few smaller sequels. Based on the novel by Michael Ende, The never-ending story is certainly a strange film, with an almost meta-story structure in a story about a magical land destroyed by something called The Nothing. The inevitable peculiarity is compounded by the obvious overdubbed performances of some of the actors in the American version. Maybe it fits, though: like Bastian reading the eponymous story, it’s like we’re hearing an unseen narrator’s version of how these characters should sound.

The NIMH Secret (1982)
Directed by Don Bluth

Don Bluth began his career working for the Walt Disney Company, but grew bored with what he saw as old-fashioned animation studio storytelling in the 1970s. a mini-revolt and went out with other animators to start their own studio. The NIMH Secret was the first animated feature his studio would make, an adaptation of a Robert C. O’Brien novel about mice and rats who are smarter and tougher than other such rodents because they have been the subject of scientific experiments. Sure, there’s comic relief (Dom DeLuise as the wacky crow) and magical powers, but the premise alone is darker than anything Disney had done. Bluth would make other confusing animated films – All dogs go to heavenas the title suggests, is quite disconcerting – but this one is still the weirdest.

The 5000 fingers of Dr. T (1953)
Directed by Roy Rowland

Of course, the only movie written by Dr. Seuss would be on this list. The 5000 fingers of Dr. T, despite Seuss’ reputation, comes from some non-family names. The film’s producer was Stanley Kramer of Judgment at Nuremberg and Guess who’s coming to dinner celebrity. The premise is seussian through The Wizard of Oz: A boy undergoes piano lessons only to dream himself into a nightmarish vision where his teacher, Dr. T (Hans Conried, the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan), imprisoned 499 other boys to play a huge piano. It’s an incredibly eerie film, with whimsical lyrics, dark undertones, and more. Even if it was not a success, The 5000 fingers of Dr. T is notable for having inspired certain elements of The simpsonsincluding the name Bart Simpson.

Can you guess the actor based on his incredibly inaccurate action figure?