In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Films for Children

  • Introduction
  • Mapping the Field
  • Family Films
  • Children’s Film and Adaptation
  • The Fairy Tale Film
  • Representation in Children’s Films
  • Femininities
  • Masculinities
  • Parenting
  • Ethnicity
  • Nationhood
  • Children’s Cinema Histories
  • Consumerism and Globalization
  • Death and Darkness in Children’s Films
  • Children’s Films and Ecology
  • Children’s Engagements with Children’s Film
  • Children’s Film Industry Associations

Childhood Studies Films for Children
Becky Parry, Sonia Ghalian
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0207


For many children, films are a primary means of introduction to the “world of stories,” and thereby to the world. Despite competition for attention from television, games, and social media, film continues to receive high ratings in surveys of children’s cultural participation, and many of the highest grossing films each year are made for young audiences. Today, children’s films feature in children’s talk and play and are aspects of their emerging literacies and identities. Usually, in film, media, and cultural studies, much of the focus of research and analysis has been on children in film or the representation of childhood in film, rather than on children’s films themselves. Where studies on Hollywood and Disney in particular have been undertaken extensively, positioning children’s films as instruments of ideological socialization, film is usually constructed as a cause for concern in relation to children’s behaviors and values in a way that children’s books are not. There remains a need for further research focused not just on films in which children are characters or as examples of representations of childhood, but also on films made for children and on children’s engagements with them. Currently, interest in children’s film emerges from a range of disciplines, including the field of children’s literature, which predominantly focuses on adaptations, or literacy, where children’s film is researched as a significant cultural resource in relation to children’s play, literacy, and identity practices. In psychology, children’s films are studied in terms of their impact on behavior, whereas film and media studies focuses on issues of gender, race, and class. What is needed is a new interdisciplinary field leading to new research paralleling the rich body of interdisciplinary work that has emerged about children’s literature—or perhaps better still, a combined focus on children’s fictions. In the spirit of this aspiration, this bibliography hopes to contribute to the building of that academic community interested in understanding, researching, and impacting this important medium for children. Importantly, the bibliography has been prepared to be as inclusive as possible, recognizing important and innovative national cinemas for children. We may well stray into the realm of other highly useful bibliographies listed here, particularly those focused on Disney, children’s media cultures, children’s television, and children in film. However, in collating this bibliography we look beyond work that constructs the child as an entirely passive consumer of problematic ideologies. We do not shy away from critique of children’s film, but select works that are, at least in some way, from the perspective of children. We have not included research focused on film education or children’s film production, as we are aware that these are features of other exciting forthcoming bibliographies. We also acknowledge the importance of looking at other moving image texts for children, including games and social media, and we believe these warrant their own specialist listing.

Mapping the Field

These volumes have been selected to represent the emergence of a distinct scholarship focused on children’s film, attempting to establish definitions, histories, genres, and national approaches. Importantly, although emerging from different disciplines, these volumes take the study of children’s film seriously and distance themselves, to differing degrees, from the emphasis of existing psychological and sociological studies of films for children that characterize children as victims of either consumerism or ideological corruption. The edited collection of essays Beeler and Beeler 2015 focuses on the changes that have come about in the children’s film industry in the wake of the digital age, while Mallan and Bradford 2011 includes scholars using various theoretical lenses to interpret children’s literature and films. Brown 2017 defines and examines national approaches to children’s film, while the edited collection Brown and Babington 2015 analyzes non-Disney family films. Herhuth 2017 looks at the productions of the popular Pixar Studio, and Ratelle 2015 makes a case of both animal’s and children’s rights and agency as represented in films.

  • Beeler, Karin, and Stan Beeler, eds. Children’s Film in the Digital Age: Essays on Audience, Adaptation and Consumer Culture. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015.

    Chapters in this volume deal with the impact of changing children’s film industry production and marketing practices in an increasingly global context. The volume usefully contributes to debates about the dual audiences of children and adults in contemporary times in relation to transmedia experiences of narrative and convergence cultures.

  • Brown, Noel. Children’s Film: Genre, Nation, and Narrative. New York: Wallflower Press, 2017.

    The first systematic and highly useful attempt to define children’s film, identifying genres and subgenres and examining distinct national approaches to children’s cinema. The work draws predominantly on a critically engaged approach based on film theory and perspectives, and it represents a significant breakthrough in scholarship in this area.

  • Brown, Noel, and Bruce Babington, eds. Family Films in Global Cinema: The World beyond Disney. London: I. B. Tauris, 2015.

    A well-researched examination of films for children and families in the global context, but focusing on non-Disney live action and animated film productions from countries such as England, Australia, East Germany, Russia, India, Japan, and Brazil.

  • Herhuth, Eric. Pixar and the Aesthetic Imagination: Animation, Storytelling, and Digital Culture. Oakland: University of California Press, 2017.

    An examination of Pixar Animation Studios’ films, since the release of Toy Story, to appraise the aesthetic experience they have on audiences with respect to the changes in culture, environment, and technology. The book utilizes relevant theories from philosophy, animation, and film in order to argue that the computer worlds in these films problematize the domain of aesthetics.

  • Mallan, Kerry, and Clare Bradford, eds. Contemporary Children’s Literature and Film: Engaging with Theory. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2011.

    Integrating the voices of many scholars, this collection offers perspectives from across disciplines, including feminism, postcolonial studies, ecocriticism, and post-structuralism, that emphasize the significance of theory in order to read and interpret children’s texts. This work primarily focuses on children’s literature rather than film.

  • Ratelle, Amy. Animality and Children’s Literature and Film. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

    This work brings into focus the rights and agency of children as well as animals through its focus on representation of animals and children in popular works of children’s culture. The books employs both a post-humanist and animal studies lens and revolves around questions of identity construction with regard to both child-adult and animal-human binaries. Popular texts like Black Beauty and Charlotte’s Web are analyzed.

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