So you’re looking to share your love of monsters with your four year old? You really have to choose carefully. A lot of the movies that you and I remember as great movies that we watched as kids… well, we might have been a little older than the preschool set. Movies that terrified my kids have included The Neverending Story (I just thought he’d like the dragon), Arsenic and Old Lace (a great comedy that’s a little blacker than I remembered), and The Frog Princess (those scary voodoo shadows were too much for my princess-loving preschooler). When we asked horror lovers, their suggestions included Monster Squad and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, both movies my six year old Monster Kid watched and liked, at least with Dad… but his younger sister refused to stay in the room (Coraline was also highly recommended, and it’s a fantastic movie, but I think the kids can wait a few more years before trying that out). I thought I’d offer a few here, though, that didn’t make my daughter (or son) run out of the room.
The Addams Family (1993)
Based on the delightful television series, this movie was a winner with my four year old. I’m not sure the kids actually understood the plot, but it was really beside the point, anyway. It’s the members of the Addams family who make it both creepy and funny. Anjelica Huston makes a great Morticia, but it’s Christina Ricci as Wednesday who really steals the show.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Who knew the monster in the closet was more afraid of you than you are of it? Monsters, Inc., is another gem from Pixar. This one did cause the kids to flee the room a few times and my daughter does not like the part where “the monster kidnaps the little girl” but it’s a good one to watch as a family.
Mad Monster Party (1967)
Mad Monster Party may look familiar to you- that’s because it’s brought to you by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, the team behind such classic Christmas specials as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town (which, by the way, terrified my kids- the Abominable Snowman and the Winter Wizard are scary)! I’m so glad they decided to take on Halloween. Mad Monster Party is one of MY favorites. Once I found it on DVD, I watched it every year on Halloween, and now my kids love it too. It’s more funny than scary, has some fun musical numbers, and is a nice nonthreatening introduction to the Universal movie monsters. Note, the Universal monster movies themselves are NOT appropriate for this age group.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? The Complete Third Season (1978)
This television series is a favorite here. The kids request the episodes, particularly of this season, over and over. I think the animated Scooby-Doo movies (like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island) get pretty scary for little ones, but the series is fun. And, of course, as with all Scooby-Doo shows, the monsters always turn out to be funny- and real people. I do not recommend the live action Scooby-Doo movies for this age- well, I’m not sure I recommend them at all- but the television show has actually inspired a lot of creative storytelling in our house!
Spirited Away (2003)
This Japanese animated feature from Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of Chihiro, a spoiled girl who is trapped, with her parents, in a surreal world of ghosts and demons. In order to save her parents and herself, Chihiro perseveres through many challenges, learning compassion and showing bravery. It’s both beautiful and terrifying, with a strange narrative and unreal atmosphere, and is unlike any other children’s movie I have seen. It won’t be appropriate for all preschoolers, and I suggest watching this as a family, and being ready for some interesting discussions afterwards, but it’s a fantastic and very memorable movie. Howl’s Moving Castle, also by Miyazaki, is one of my favorite movies, and my kids liked that as well.
Ruby Gloom (2006)
It’s unfortunate that Ruby Gloom is so difficult to find on DVD, because it’s a great show(luckily, it is available on Netflix). Yes, it’s a television show, but it’s definitely worth mentioning here. Ruby is a perky little goth girl who lives in a haunted castle with an assortment of so-called monsters, including Scaredy Bat, who’s afraid to fly; Boo-Boo, a ghost who can’t scare anyone; Misery, plagued with supernaturally bad luck; and Iris, a cheerful Cyclops. With a catchy theme song, fun animation, and silly plots, Ruby Gloom is an enjoyable little show that, while it does have some dark moments (particularly involving Misery) does its best to live up to its theme song’s words- “look on the bright side of the dark side”.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2006)
Wallace, a clueless scientist, and Gromit, his dog, are the Claymation creations of Nick Park. Already popular from shorts like “A Close Shave”, here Wallace and Gromit, who are running a humane pest-control service, take on a giant were-rabbit who threatens their village’s annual vegetable-growing contest. Like Mad Monster Party, it’s not really a “scary” movie, but it includes references to many of the classics, and is enjoyable for kids and adults alike.
Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktacular (2008)
This one we haven’t seen, but it’s gotten great recommendations. It’s an animated Halloween special from the Cartoon Network. I’ve been told it’s perfect for four year olds- a little scary, and very funny. Now that I know about it I’m sure we’ll be checking it out!
Next time you’re in the mood to share a monster movie with your little one, try one of these out! And if you have suggestions or opinions, I’d love to have you comment below!