Children going to the movies in the 1960s had a variety of film fantasies to entertain them. Long before the age of video games, DVDs and Internet access, kids got out of the house and gathered with their popcorn and candy at weekend matinees to enjoy the latest in movie entertainment. The most popular of these films still resonate in the hearts of adults today who made that pilgrimage to the darkened movie palaces of their day.
Films from Walt Disney Studios filled the cinema screens of 1960s America with animated and live-action movies for children. The animated films included "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" (1961), "The Sword in the Stone" (1963) and "The Jungle Book" (1967), but Disney found even greater success with live-action films. The "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), "The Absent-Minded Professor" and "The Parent Trap" (both 1961) were popular with young audiences, as was "The Love Bug" (1968). But one of Disney's greatest successes in the 1960s was "Mary Poppins" (1964). The film became an Academy Award contender, earning the Best Actress Oscar for Julie Andrews in the title role.
Kids could leave their pets at home and still be entertained by animals at the movies. "Lassie's Great Adventure" (1963) presented the clever collie in a Canadian adventure. For children interested in underwater creatures, the cheerful dolphin in "Flipper" (1963) and "Flipper's New Adventure" (1964) was a popular movie mammal. Elsa the lioness struggled to learn the ways of the wild from her human caretakers in "Born Free" (1966), while Rex Harrison starred as a veterinarian who could speak to his patients in "Doctor Dolittle" (1967). "Born Free" and "Doctor Dolittle" earned Academy Awards for Best Song.
Giants from Afar
Ray Harryhausen, recognized today as a pioneer in stop-motion animation, provided some of his most memorable work in "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963), with a giant bronze statue pursuing the heroes. Because of budgetary limitations, Japanese filmmakers at Toho Studios favored men in monster suits trampling miniature sets in such films as "King Kong vs. Godzilla" (1963) and "Destroy All Monsters" (1968), which proved widely popular with American children. Daiei Studios, another Japanese film company, provided a popular giant in the form of a turtle for "Giant Monster Gamera" (1965).
Other Child Favorites
Jerry Lewis was at the height of his popularity with kids and adults when he made "The Nutty Professor" in 1963. Building on their success from television, some popular characters made the leap to the big screen. Adam West and Burt Ward put on the tights for the big-screen version of "Batman" and the Munsters traveled to England in "Munsters Go Home" (both 1966). The latter film was often double-billed with "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (1966), starring children's favorite, Don Knotts. Knotts was also popular in "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" (1964), in which his character turns into a fish and helps the American forces by finding German targets at sea during World War II.
Lawrence Lannoo has served as editor of community newspapers in North Dakota and Manitoba. After returning to Canada and graduating from Vancouver Film School, he established Venus Probe Productions to write and direct independent film projects. Lannoo completed his master's degree in communications at the University of North Dakota, where he earned the Outstanding Graduate Student Award.