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Bedtime stories: Pixar's Coco and 5 other family films that linger after lights out

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From the game-changing Toy Story through to this summer's Cars 3, Pixar's family-friendly classics have consistently hit the sweet spot with kids and adults alike.

With their new movie Coco this tradition continues as Pixar give us a timeless Mexican tale of family feuds and ancient tradition stretching back generations.

So with that in mind here are five family friendly favourites which rewrote the rule book on animated movies, and which we can't shake from our minds.

Alice In Wonderland (1951)

Written by Lewis Carroll in 1865 Alice in Wonderland hides many things underneath its fairy tale exterior. Disney's animated take (remade in live-action by Tim Burton in 2010) addresses class and gender oppression, scientific importance versus individual achievement, but does so beneath a magical veil of mad hatters, red queens and white rabbits.

Both poignant and madcap this Alice maintains a place in our hearts due to darkly comic overtones and contemporary relevance. Ultimately it's so much more than just a children’s story.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

Mythical fawns and battles for an enchanted land form the backbone for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

However beneath the surface of C.S. Lewis' timeless novel lies the stark reality of an island nation fighting for survival. Focusing on the Penvensie children who are sent away from a Blitz-ravaged London, Lewis gives us in the form of Narnia another world that is leaderless and in need of saving.

Adapted many times for television and film, it’s the Andrew Adamson version that many see as the definitive one, starring James McAvoy, Tilda Swinton and a young cast of newcomers. Foot battles, otherworldly encounters and majestic set pieces enthral, thrill and astound bringing Narnia to life, while Adamson lets adult themes play out in the background.


Labyrinth (1986)

Amongst the glass orbs, mischievous goblins and hand puppets of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth there are darkly adult truths.

Missing children, teenage angst and rejection of responsibility are all themes which colour the film hailed by many as a beloved family classic. The late, legendary David Bowie’s Jareth is temptation offering freedom from ties and an invitation into his world where Sarah’s (Jennifer Connelly) baby brother can be forgotten.

However, beyond the catchy tunes and innocent creatures are challenges which play upon an insecurity, responsibility or fear Sarah is not ready to confront in this Labyrinth. Jareth for all his flamboyance represents everything dark, deceitful and devious in a world where he reigns supreme.


Time Bandits (1981)

Loopholes in space and time thieves robbing historical figures blind make up this children’s fable from famed Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam.

A boy’s-own adventure that's part kidnapping plot, part familial dysfunctional fable, the movie also centres around those perennial themes of of good vs. evil. Featuring a stellar cast including Sean Connery, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm and John Cleese makes this veiled abduction story less than straightforward.

Visually stunning even today, truly off-kilter and asking more dark, difficult and dangerous questions than most family films before or since, Time Bandits remains a one off.


The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This family masterpiece is worthy of an article to itself, not least down to its infamously troubled production including multiple directors, stories of mooning munchkins, not to mention death through lead poisoning of lead actors. As Judy Garland's Dorothy says, we are not in Kansas anymore.

However quite apart from the transition from black and white to colour, wicked witches, charlatan tricksters and yellow brick roads, there is more than meets the eye.

Ruby slippers, hearts, brains, courage and emotional maturity sit in the midst of the story. We are dealing with themes of escapism, economic crisis, class distinction and animal cruelty all before Technicolor takes over. That The Wizard of Oz is still considered wholesome family entertainment nearly a century on is quite miraculous. 

It remains to be seen what life lessons Coco will be importing on its release next January. But rest assured that Pixar will deliver another richly emotional experience for all ages.

Don't forget to check out our list of this summer's must-see family blockbusters.

Martin Carr is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.