This week, Walt Disney Pictures releases The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. To some, it's special for its literary roots, but to others, I imagine it's a blast back to a time when Disney was all about throwing real kids into amazing adventures. These days, they don't do it very often, but Disney used to rule the world of family adventures that sparked the imaginations of kids everywhere. Sure, they put out a lot of classic animation, but they also released a number of adventure stories where kids got to do the unbelievable, whether that be death-defying adventure on the high seas, or slipping inside a cartoon.
In honor of the release of Prince Caspian, I give you seven great Disney films where real kids got to have amazing adventures. Some are new, and some are quite old, but all of them are quite memorable.
In Search of the Castaways
Based on a Jules Verne novel, the film follows the Grant children as they search for their shipwrecked father, who they are certain is alive. Their quest ends up pitting them against all sorts of dangers and adventure, from cannibals to earthquakes, alligators to floods.
I consider this the best kid adventure film of all time. I just can't get enough of it. The above clip shows a little peek into the wildness of the film, but what I really wanted to share was the crazy ice chunk-riding scene. It's so cool -- especially for back then. Castaways might be old (1962), but it's got action up the wazoo, plus great actors like Maurice Chevalier, Hayley Mills, and Wilfrid Hyde-White.
Much more recently, there was Sky High. A world full of superheroes might not be the same as ours, but the film still taps into classic Disney themes and delivers a live-action adventure that's fun for everyone. For the kids, there's the story: Will Stronghold, son of the best superheroes out there, is now in high school and struggling with the fact that his superpowers haven't kicked in yet (until, of course, the scene above). Once they do, he has to save the day from the Big Bad.
For the adults, there's so much more -- Kurt Russell, who used to be one of the young faces of Disney, Wonder Woman as a principal, Bruce Campbell as a gym teacher, and even a little Kids in the Hall.
Swiss Family Robinson
No live-action Disney film list is complete without Kevin Corcoran, especially in one of the company's classic films and theme park attractions. It's the story that made many a child, including myself years ago, yearn for a big treehouse -- not one that was just a few planks and railings, but a tree-villa. Better yet -- one that is nestled in a space where you can play with little elephants like Kevin does above. Lucky bugger.
Then again, I think the scene above is just about the only time that you'd see two dogs and a little boy easily scare away a big, snarling tiger without getting so much as a scratch on them.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Sometimes the adventure can happen right in your own front yard, like this flick from the '80s. Ah, the final years before Rick Moranis' face disappeared from sight. I'm not sure if it's due to this comedy's crappy remakes, or The Flintstones, but I still like this one. Apparently, his wacky scientist, Wayne Szalinski, didn't think about the potential dangers of a shrink ray (and didn't watch Babes in Toyland), and ends up creating one that shrinks his kids and a few others from next door.
Aside from the story of tiny, shrunken kids, and a lawn full of adventure, there's a bunch of faces to spot -- Max Headroom, Kristine Sutherland (Buffy's mom), Kimmy Robertson (Twin Peaks). And have you ever seen Thomas Wilson Brown (Russ) since? No? He's actually been working steadily since then, and he was a "Young Flier" in Pearl Harbor, and most recently popped up on Day Break and Steven Seagal's Urban Justice.
Oh, how nice it would be to grow up with your own Mary Poppins. While many adventures might be a little too scary to actually dream about experiencing, who wouldn't want some Poppins? Her magic cleans things up with minimal effort (my biggest dream as a child, and I wouldn't mind that ability now either). She serves sugar with the medicine. She knows really catchy songs like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." And best of all -- she takes you on animated adventures!
It also had Ed Wynn. And everything is better with Ed Wynn.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
She's not quite Julie Andrews, but Angela Lansbury still did a great job with this retro flick. Instead of magical musicals with mysterious Mary, there's a witch who puts a spell on a bedknob. It might sound strange, but is really brilliant -- making a bed into a vehicle for adventure -- certainly much cooler than a flying carpet, and a hell of a lot comfier.
Like Poppins, there is some animation in the mix, but it was quite a feat of special effects in its time -- with a traveling bed and all, which won the film a well-deserved Oscar.
The Bridge to Terabithia
I couldn't disregard this recent adventure, but I must admit -- I haven't watched this incarnation. Years ago, I had to watch the '80s film in school, which left me completely depressed and I vowed to never see it again. But for those of you free of Terabithia fear, the recent remake is worth the time for live-action adventure.
This is an adventure for the mind, focusing on two rivals who become the best of friends and create the world of Terabithia. In this remake, there's the wonderful Zooey Deschanel, plus some terminating Robert Patrick, Josh Hutcherson, and AnnaSophia Robb.