Monday, 29 August 2011

Week 1 – The first film I remember seeing as a child

So, here's the deal. After doing the 50 day film challenge on facebook I had a few people telling me that they were following it (probably for cheap laughs but that's fine) and amazingly I managed to complete all 50 days (a record commitment for me). So I thought I'll resuscitate my blog and do the challenge on a weekly basis so I can have a proper natter about the movies I chose, or if I've changed my mind, now choose. I'll try my best to do this every week and we'll be done in just under a year..... oh my god..... that's rather a long time isn't it? Never mind. It'll be fine. I'm sure it'll be fine.

So, week number 1 - The First Film I Remember Seeing as a Child.

Originally for this question I put 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' which was the first film that I saw at the cinema. To be honest, I don't remember seeing it at the cinema. I do, however remember being petrified of Christopher Lloyd, you know that bit where the steam roller runs over him and then he curls himself off of the tarmac and makes that weird giggling noise? And then he inflates himself? AND HIS EYES DO THAT WEIRD POPPING THING??
Okay, just thinking about this is making me cringe so much that one side of my mouth is involuntarily stretching itself downwards in disgust. If anyone comes into my room at this precise moment they'd be forgiven for thinking I was having a stroke. But it's okay, it's not a stroke, it's just hideously scarring childhood memories. That's all. It's only memories of sleepless nights, huddled in the darkness, imagining that curly armed, giggling maniac wobbling towards my cabin bed. Yeesh!
So perhaps a more honest and less harrowing choice? The first film I REMEMBER seeing at the cinema was 'The Land Before Time'. That Don Bluth classic. Released in the UK in July of 1989. I was 4 years old. I think that we went to see it in August. I remember it was hot and I went with my sister, who was seven, and my Mum who must have been heavily pregnant at the time, although I was blissfully oblivious to this. I do not remember my Mum's belly swelling or preparations for my brother's arrival. I have only two memories of my Mum's pregnancy with James, the first, sitting on my parents bed with my sister and being told that we would have a new brother or sister, a great argument ensued between Emma and I as to which we would have. As usual, Emma won. And the second, being left in the George and Dragon Beefeater with my sister and our Grandparents when my Mum went into labour. My Dad finished his dinner before driving her to the hospital.
Anyone who hasn't seen the film; I pity you and you must go and watch it immediately. I mean it. I'll wait for you. Go on.
Done? Good. Isn't it fantastic? The adventures of Littlefoot, Ducky, Petrie, Cera and Spike, out in the wide world, separated from their families and trying to get to that Great Valley. Are you crying? That's my main memory of that cinema outing is crying all the way home from the ABC (then called the Canon cinema I think?) in Brentwood's Chapel High Centre. I remember walking along the railway bridge on Ingrave Road, balling my eyes out, my Mum shouting at me to "cut the waterworks". Sorry Mum. It was a sad movie.
I became quite obsessed with the film. I remember making my duvet into the shape of a dinosaur's footprint so that I could sleep in it like Littlefoot did, problem was I used to get cold on my exposed side and then get tangled up in the bloody duvet trying to get warm AND sleep in a footprint at the same time. I wouldn't recommend it. That Christmas I received the best Christmas present I have ever had in my life. It was a huge Littlefoot (it wasn't really that big but it was over half my height at the time). I dragged that thing around with me every where. There are photos of my family at weddings, all polished and hatted and proud, and that Littlefoot soft toy dangling from beneath my arm. Unfortunately, because I always held it in the same position, arm crooked around its neck just beneath the head, all the stuffing slowly ebbed from its long neck and if left unsupported the head would droop mournfully to one side. I loved that thing so much. Sadly my parent's dog, Loki, got ahold of it a year or so ago and ripped its eyes out.
I spent a fair amount of my time learning the proper names and what each dinosaur's 'skill' was. I collected those plastic, single-coloured models from the Natural History Museum and on my fifth birthday my Mum made me a dinosaur cake with coconut for grass, and we ate dinosaur footprint burgers (basically just burgers but between slices of bread that my Mum had painstakingly sliced into the shapes of dinosaur footprints. So cool).
Watching it now, I can't help but wonder if there isn't more to it. Perhaps the Great Valley is the after life, after all, as the audience, we know that the dinosaurs did eventually die out. Even as children we are aware of this. Perhaps the journey that the dinosaur children make is through purgatory and the film is an exercise in making children comfortable with the inevitable end. But then that may just be my obsession with the macabre. Who knows. Littlefoot's mother dying so early on in the film is not uncommon in children's stories. Sometimes it happens during the story and sometimes before the story's even begun; Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, Bambi. They just love killing off the Mums don't they?!
The themes of loss, abandonment and peril begin the story wonderfully. We are hooked from the beginning. We see the characters through earthquakes, tar pits, volcanic lava, starvation and besting Sharptooth who killed Littlefoot's mother. And as the film progresses we learn about dedication, survival and most importantly friendship. What a wonderful film. What a great animation. It's one of those films that has never left my mind and I still enjoy avoiding stepping on cracks, in case I should fall and break my back. Wise advice. *nods*