It’s not that Frozen is bad, exactly. It’s just that if I have to watch it one more time, I might just commit hara kiri with the nearest icicle. Do I want to built a snowman? Sure. Right after I have finished pouring acid into my ears.

The most successful animated film of all time, with a box office tally of (to date) over one and a quarter billion dollars, the film has become part of the very fabric of our lives. Certainly it’s not the worst film currently out there. (That’s Pudsey The Dog: The Movie, in case you were wondering.) But I would argue that the ‘girl power’ message is somewhat undermined by the fact that female beauty is freakishly exaggerated – goldfish bowl eyes and button noses abound – while the male characters get to have normal proportions. It’s insidious, but it’s not toxic. You don’t feel that your child is being polluted by watching it. You do, however, wish to God that, just once, they would pick a different DVD.

The same goes for every childhood obsession. However delightful the film, it tends to pall after the gazillionth viewing. The trick is to wean them off with something close enough to their movie mania to feel familiar but sufficiently different to break the addiction. So here are a few lifelines for the parents of kids in the grips of movie mania.

However delightful the film, it tends to pall after the gazillionth viewing. The trick is to wean them off with something close enough to feel familiar but sufficiently different to break the addiction

The Obsession:

The Alternative:
Princess Mononoke (1997)

Strong female characters, an ecological message and some of the most achingly gorgeous animation you’ll ever see. This is one of the landmark films from one of the greats of Japanese animation, Hayao Miazaki, of the incomparable Studio Ghibli. It’s a gripping tale but the real strength is the moral complexity of the story – its a tale which credits its child audience to see things not just in black and white, but in a whole range of colours.

The Obsession:
Despicable Me

The Alternative:
Coraline (2009)

Fans of the macabre cartoon violence of Gru and his minions will find much to enjoy in this sublimely creepy stop motion animation. Directed by Henry Selick (Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas) and adapted from a story by Neil Gaiman, this is a complete one off. Coraline is an adventurous 11-year-old who is tired of the fact that her parents are caught up in their own lives. Then she discovers a parallel world, with alternative parents who have buttons for eyes, an endless capacity for fun and deeply sinister intentions. It’s properly terrifying, so perhaps not for tinies.

The Obsession:
Harry Potter

The Alternative:
Hugo (2011)

Martin Scorsese’s gorgeous fantasy is more than just a family film, it’s a love letter to cinema. Visually spectacular and utterly beguiling, it has the added benefit of educating children about the early days of the medium that they now take for granted. It may not have the sorcery and spells of the Potter series, but as a celebration of the magic of cinema, there are few films that come close.

The Obsession:
The Hunger Games

The Alternative:
Lord of the Flies (1963)

Peter Brook’s faithful adaptation of William Golding’s novel gives a chilling counterpoint to the dystopian survivalism of the Hunger Games series. Thirty school-aged boys are stranded on an island after a plane crash; slowly, the veneer of civilisation cracks and they revert to savagery.

The Obsession:

The Alternative:
The Iron Giant (1999)

Bit of a long shot, this one. The two films have little in common other than the fact that both have central characters made of metal. But I firmly believe that everyone should watch this gorgeous animated adaptation of a Ted Hughes story at least once. The Iron Giant is stunning, a thing of beauty which deals with quietly profound theme – the cold war setting has plenty of resonance for the world today.

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By , 4th February 2021
My third book - the last of three connected, stand-alone novels - is now available for pre-order