Scott Neumyer is the author of Jimmy Stone's Ghost Town. He's a publicist for Click Communications as well as a writer and photographer. You can reach him on Twitter and at www.scottwrites.com. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. You can read his Raising a Cinephile column every other Thursday.
I’ve always been a fan of films scores and movie soundtracks. No, no. Not the kind where the producers throw a bunch of bands together and create a group of songs that never once appear in the movie. No. I mean film music – songs and compositions that play during the film (we call that non-diegetic or extra-diegetic music, cinephiles!). Think John Williams or Danny Elfman. Yes, that kind of film music. I’d listen to it while writing (the wordless scores are perfect for concentration), while driving, walking, and doing housework. In all my years of listening, however, I never imagined all this film music would become a fantastic aid in raising a cinephile.
It probably never even occurred to me that music is one of the easiest things for children to learn and remember*. It certainly makes sense though. Why do you think nearly every show geared toward toddlers includes an enormous amount of singing? There are songs that teach kids how to eat, drink, go to sleep, and even use the potty. Imagine my surprise, then, when I started to notice The Wiggle Bear singing along to some of her favorite songs from her favorite movies and shows before she could even form a full sentence.
It didn’t take me long to turn the little one’s neat trick into something that could help me steer her in the direction of cinephilia. I quickly realized that the more often Wiggles heard the songs from certain movies, the more she enjoyed and wanted to watch the related films. By playing specific songs from specific movies, I could essentially brainwash her into watching the movies I wanted her to watch, right? It was like subliminal advertising for the toddler set.
Well, not exactly, but you get the general idea. The watching and the listening went hand in hand, and easily reinforced each other. I stated to pay attention to which movies (and songs within those movies) she was really into. The songs where The Wiggle Bear started singing and dancing were a pretty obvious indication. Before long, I had nearly every one of her favorite movies’ soundtracks and scores downloaded and on my iPhone for easy listening in the car or wherever we happened to be. On the way to Gramma’s, we would rock out to Mark Mothersbaugh’s score for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (especially the adorable end-credits song “Raining Sunshine”) and just about every tune on the Despicable Me soundtrack. In a matter of weeks, Wiggles could identify Up by the sound of Michael Giacchino’s score alone (I’m not kidding… she knows the film immediately when she hears it, with no visuals at all).
It’s one big cycle that only helps to flex the cinephile muscle. We listen to the soundtracks in the car and by the time we’re almost home, she’s asking to watch the movie. And it’s damn good music! I’d happily listen to Giacchino’s “Married Life” movement any day of the week. Some of the soundtracks have even helped me gain a better appreciation for some films that I might not have been sold on the first few times around. Take Rio for instance, a film that I was initially lukewarm about. After hearing “Real in Rio” and “Pretty Bird” from the soundtrack about fifty times, and memorizing the words to sing along with The Wiggle Bear, I’m now quite fond of the film, despite its inherent flaws.
And it works the other way around as well. How to Train Your Dragon was my favorite film of 2010, but was one that didn’t completely win over Wiggles (I think it may have been a bit too dark and more mature than she was ready for). A few spins of the score during our daily car rides and she’s begging me to see Toothless.
It’s a pretty amazing thing, this film music. It’s taught her more than I certainly could have without it. Seriously. Name me another 2 ½-year-old that can sing the entire “When Will My Life Begin” song from Tangled by memory alone. The Wiggle Bear can. I’ve heard her do it.
So maybe now you’re looking for a few good film music suggestions. That’s what I’m here for, people! Here are a few of my little one’s favorite soundtracks to get you going. Give it a try with your kiddo. You’ll be belting out the words to “Raining Sunshine” before you know it.
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- Despicable Me: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- Rio: Music from the Motion Picture
- Gnomeo And Juliet
- Yo Gabba Gabba: Music Is Awesome! Volumes 1, 2, & 3
- Monsters, Inc.
- Toy Story 3
- Santa Clause is Comin’ To Town / Frosty the Snowman: The Original Television Soundtrack
- Sesame Street Live: Elmo’s Green Thumb
- The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- Sesame Street: The Best of Elmo
- Sid the Science Kid: Soundtrack Volume One
- Jake and The Never Land Pirates
That should give you a good start. Now, if only Disney would release a soundtrack for Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue. They released soundtracks for the first two films, but not the superior third film. Fingers crossed we’ll see it one day. Happy listening!