In honor of this week's release of DreamWork's Monsters vs Aliens on both DVD and Blu-ray, we measly humans here at Cinematical have decided to wade through the hordes of monsters and or aliens in kid friendly films to find the cream of the closet-dwelling, slime-dripping, child-eating, smile-inducing crop of inhuman lovables. In doing so it has occurred to me just how hard it is for a film to make an iconic character for children.
Sure, it's easy to make something marketable for kids, but to make monstrous and unique characters for children to cherish into adulthood, not unlike the mutated heroes of MvA, takes a lot of talent.
I have no reason to lie to you. I'm a 24-year-old man and E.T. still scares me. He has ever since I was a wee little lad. I can't pinpoint the moment that instilled such a ridiculous fear of everyone's favorite horticulturist from outer space, but I think it's a combination of two scenes. The first being when ET tries to phone home and inadvertently causes hurricane winds, flying saw blades, and me in the fetal position. Then we have the seemingly innocent visitor gray, shriveled and dying in the creek bed, looking like the specter of death to a frightened child like me.
My kindertrauma aside, I can't help but respect the terrifying little dude. He holds a special little place in my heart, even if it's in a deep, dark recess that makes me long for my blanky,
Gizmo of Gremlins
Gizmo, on the other hand, is a cute little guy I've always loved. He's adorable, he may spawn not-so-cute mini-devils, but he does span two films, and when he does the Rambo sequence in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, I'm pretty sure my heart actually melts into a puddle. Considering I can't count how many times I've seen that sequence and I'm still walking around, I believe that makes me a medical enigma.
The Mummy vs. The Monster Squad
And speaking of monsters in the closet, Fred Dekker's The Monster Squad has maybe my favorite closeted monster ever. I speak, of course, of The Mummy. Sure, he's a walking corpse and sure he's trying to help Count Dracula kidnap and murder children, but he's still a docile bundle of rags you kind of secretly wish would be hiding in your own closet.
Experiment 626 of Lilo & Stitch
Ah, Experiment 626, AKA Stitch of Lilo & Stitch, one of the last great hand-drawn animations from Disney before the studio threw the majority of their weight into CGI and, now, the third dimension. Stitch himself (or itself) is a lovable little maniac that tears about everything when Lilo isn't around, but he does it such a charming, impulsive way that kids can't help but wish they had an escaped alien experiment of their own to call their best friend.
Plus, who can now ever forget that Ohana means family.
The Employees of Monsters Inc.
I thought about not including Pixar's Monsters Inc. in a list of great monsters in kid films purely because of how obvious a choice is, but I just couldn't bring myself to ignore it. Sully, Mike, the Abominable Snowman, Randall Boggs, they're all fantastic; plus Pete Docter's film shines a super-happy spotlight on the monsters in the closet we all imagined as children. And when Mary puts on her little monster costume and transforms into Boo, Monsters Inc. goes into absolute cuteness overload.
The Purple People Eater
I should only have to use this space to quote lyrics and you'd instinctively know why the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flyin' Purple People Eater is a definitive childhood monster. But I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm just going to list the cast, which includes, but is not limited to, Kareem Abdul-Jaabar, Neil Patrick Harris, Thora Birch and Dustin Diamond. Sure, they overshadow the alien itself, but then again, the alien's song will now overshadow every thought you have for the remainder of the day.
And, hey, he sure does still look strange to me.
Rockbiter from The Neverending Story
Flying dog dragons? Tiny people who ride racing snails? The terrifying Nothing and the wolf creature it sends after Atreyu? All take a back seat to Rockbiter, the mountain sized rock monster who rides a bike straight into my heart. The Neverending Story is overflowing with fun childhood fantasy moments, but it's always been the image of Rockbiter oh-so-slowly hauling mineral tush on his bike that puts a smile on my face.
Oh, Rockbiter, why couldn't you have had a spin-off film?