Children’s Film Features Kids Who Roam Unsupervised, Trespass, Get Dirty.

Based on our enjoyment of Ponyo, Netflix thought that our family “might also like”  Kikkerdril, a Dutch film about an adorable little boy named Max who wanders around the Dutch countryside in search of frog’s eggs. 

Now, the original Dutch title translates as “Frog Spawn”, which I guess the American distributors felt wouldn’t go over well here, so they renamed it Max’s Magical Journey.

Whatever.  As a person interested in both nature and children — and in films that present nature to children — I found this film to be delightful.  It’s a refreshingly simple and earnest depiction of a kid discovering nature.  Totally low-budget.  No CGI.  No amazing macro photography.  No underlying environmental message. 

And I love how Max just wanders around with no accompanying adults —  through meadows and woods, riding through town on a bike, sneaking onto a public bus to get back home, encountering strangers with dirty teeth and making friends with them, messing around with irrigation equipment, milking other people’s cows —  all stuff that, if an American parent allowed their kid to do, they’d be investigated by Social Services.  

Max has the kind of childhood that I wish my son could have (except for the weird blue jumpsuit he wears all through the film…must be a European thing)….the kind where a kid is free to roam as he pleases and expected to get dirty,  the kind where he can approach strangers with a trusting heart instead of fear and suspicion, the kind where his parents let him outside and then (OMG!) sort of lose track of him. 

I should tell you, the little musical numbers in this film are awful (almost like the actors improvised them right on the spot) and the English voiceovers are stiff and awkward.  But if you have a kid between, say, 3 and 8, they might surprise you by getting totally absorbed in this simple, sweet little film. 

And even if you don’t have kids, but want to remember what it was like to roam through fields and woods, looking at bugs and trespassing on others’ property, you should watch this film, too.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell.

4 thoughts on “Children’s Film Features Kids Who Roam Unsupervised, Trespass, Get Dirty.

  1. When I was a kid, I lived in central Michigan, and I was lucky enough to go to an elementary school that had just about everything on its playground. The whole playground was atop one of the biggest glacial morraines on the planet, so you could find any number of interesting rocks any place you cared to stop. One corner of that gigantic playground had a big chainsawed dead tree that we gradually tore apart (that’s how I learned about everything from wood grubs to inky-cap mushrooms), and pieces of that tree, becoming gradually rounded from use, were used to build forts every recess. The big draw, though, was that the opposite corner of that playground had a rather impressive pond. It dried up every summer, but it got plenty of use during the school year.

    Now, during a typical Michigan winter, it was just the perfect size and depth for kids in search of ice sports: I actually fell through the ice once, and blessedly discovered that it was all of three feet deep at its deepest. Michigan winters being what they were, that usually meant that the pond froze completely solid by January. However, what really interested me was spring, when the local toads returned to breed. If listening for the males calling in the middle of the pond wasn’t interesting enough, it was gathering literally hundreds of tadpoles, and watching them metamorphose throughout the spring, that still sticks with me. By the time the pond dried up, the toadlets were leaving the pond area for their own new territories, and that coincided perfectly with the beginning of summer vacation.

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m going to have to check out this film, because I suspect that it’ll bring back lots and lots of good memories.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Paul. Can you imagine a school playground today with dead trees and a POND? All the parents would be up in arms about how horribly dangerous it would be for their precious kiddies. My parents grew up in Michigan, too — Detroit and Saginaw. My mom talks frequently about the ice rink they’d make in the vacant lot next to her house. Sounds like good times.

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