Fantasia ★★★★★

Even though I will have things to say about the film, this will be more an anecdote than anything else, so if that's not your thing, I'd skip it.

There is one thing I really hate and that is lazy parenting. More often than not I see adults around me who treat their children as a burden and just let them be. By that I mean that the option most often chosen when interacting with their children is that of disinterested consent. Just give them what they want, they'll shut up. These children often grow up thinking that this way of communication and treating each other is normal. Which it isn't, at least that's what I think.

There is one occasion where this phenomenon often pops up and that is at children's birthday parties. My oldest daughter is now of the age that she gets invited to them and most of the times the kids get picked up from school by grumpy parents who dump the kids in some sort of indoor playground where they HAVE to play for five hours straight while the parents sit down somewhere drinking coffee. My daughter and most of her friends love the first hour or so and after a while they start to get bored, want to do something else and when they complain they are told to 'go and have fun'.

I hate that type of disinterest. It is creating an even worse self centred society than we have today. Parents don't bear sole responsibility, but they do have the lion's share and they're failing miserably.

Before I go on, let me make one thing clear. I in no way mean to imply that I am a perfect father. I make mistakes every single day, say stupid things to my kids that a regret later and make questionable parenting decisions. My father died when I was five, so I have no example on how to be a dad and that scares the shit out of me on a daily basis. But my mum raised me well and I always keep what she taught me in the back of my mind.

So, my daughter turned six this month. I asked her if she had already thought about her party and she told me that she didn't care as long as her four best friends could come and that we celebrated it at home. So be it. After a bit of a brainstorming session with my wife we decided that the theme would be magic. There is one thing that is hidden within each and every young child and that is the urge to create something. Give a kid some arts and crafts stuff and that urge takes over everything eventually. So, I found some papier-mâchiér books with a hidden compartment, bought some decorating stuff, secretly found out what each visiting kid's favourite colour was and gave the books a base coat of paint in that colour and hey presto, we had magical tomes to be earned in an epic wizard school quest. My wife made some fantastic wizard hats and wands, I brushed up on my magic tricks and gave a (stunning I might add) magic show after which the kids were told that hidden within this school of magic books were hidden they needed to become true wizards. For that they had to pass various magic tests (the simplest and silliest games imaginable) to get hints as to in which magical room in the house the books were hidden. After this epic quest they could personalize and decorate their spellbooks and wizard hats. Kids are brutally honest, so when I, with no small amount of trepidation, asked them if they had enjoyed themselves and the answer was a resounding YES!, I was very relieved indeed.

So. Fantasia then. There comes a point when kids are all hyped up and giddy that the energy starts to flow away from them, so while dinner was being prepared for them, we allowed them to watch a film. And in keeping with the theme, I decided to show them the Mickey Mouse Wizard's Apprentice scene followed by the ballet scene with the hippos.

Transfixed they were, cinema magic indeed.

It is hard to describe the unbridled wonder in they eyes of a kid that is lured into his own imagination, and that is what this film and these two scenes accomplish. A perfect amalgamation of sensory input makes what unfolds on screen impossible to resist for the open mind. And THAT is what kids need, an external creative impulse to open their worlds to others and share in that experience. They can't do that on their own, they need a gentle nudge in the right direction. Disney got that and while Fantasia might not be considered the studio's greatest achievement, it is a personal favourite of mine, a feeling cemented in the eyes and faces of my daughter and her friends.

To some of you this may all come across as pedantic and pretentious. So be it. I mean every word of it. The way we treat our children, all children really, is what decides our future. We are the ones that have put them here and that gives us an undeniable responsibility. We are the ones that have to show them the world, open their eyes and scrape the barrel of their childhood for each and every bit of fun, carelessness, amazement, creativity and joy. They cannot do that on their own.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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