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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Almost Angels is a 1962 Disney film focusing on a group of talented young singers in the Vienna Boys' Choir. It shows the friendships, jealousies, maturation, and professionalism among kids no more than 12, where the most heartbreaking but also inevitable moment in their young lives comes when their voices "break" as they approach puberty. When Tony is locked in a room right before he's due to appear on stage, he climbs out a window and slides his way across a high ledge to make it to his performance. While the singers must struggle with grades, rehearsals, and other difficulties, the movie focuses on enlightened and dedicated educators, caring parents, enormously talented children, soaring music, and boys who band together and stand up for each other.
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What's the story?
In ALMOST ANGELS, Tony (Vincent Winter) is a 12-year-old Austrian boy who loves to sing and wants more than anything to audition for the prestigious Vienna Boys' Choir. He and his musical mother must persuade his father that he can have a good life as a musician and that the choir and its school could be a good place for him to start. He quickly earns a place as a soloist but this proves difficult for Peter (Sean Scully), the oldest boy in their group, who has always performed the solos that are now too high for his voice. At first jealous and unwelcoming, Peter sabotages Tony, locking him in a room as he is about to make his entrance during a performance. When Peter realizes that he can teach Tony to be a better singer, they become friends. Tony returns the favor when he hears Peter cracking at his high notes right before an important performance. All the boys know that this means Peter's voice has "broken," making him ineligible to sing in the choir. To save Peter, Tony arranges for another boy to sing for Peter while he lip-synchs on stage. Peter walks off in the middle of the performance, risking his spot in the choir's upcoming tour to Australia. His choir master, Mr. Heller (Peter Weck), argues to the school's board that Peter is a talented composer and conductor as well as a singer and that he could come on tour as an assistant conductor. The soaring concert the choir gives in Sydney launches young Peter on the next part of his musical education.
Is it any good?
Although it's from the 1960s, this Disney movie has held up. The beauty of Almost Angels is that it not only shows the humanity and real struggles of young kids in a pressurized environment -- a prestigious music school and professional troupe of performers -- but it also models enlightened educators working to support their students as they grow. There are no ruthless punishers here, or uncaring teachers who toss boys out the moment their voices get too low. No one is expelled for mediocre grades. No one is punished for imperfect behavior. And the backdrop for it all is an inspiring soundtrack of Strauss, Mozart, Schubert, and other great composers delivered by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the pure voices of the world's most famous boys' choir. Parents and kids can enjoy this together and find lots to talk about regarding passion, talent, disappointment, and how to move on when things don't go exactly your way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Tony's father didn't want him to audition for the Vienna Boys' Choir. Why did the father change his mind?
As one of the older boys, Peter knew his voice was getting too deep to sing the highest solos. Why do you think he treated Tony badly at first? Why do you think he eventually changed his behavior toward Tony?
A teacher saw the boys having a pillow fight but he didn't stop them or punish them. Why do you think he acted as he did?
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