A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fuzzbucket, The Wonderful World of Disney made-for-TV episode from 1986, features Mike, a 12-year-old boy about to start middle school, and his new friend named Fuzzbucket. The story of an imaginary friend who may not really be imaginary could have high appeal for kids making the transition from little kid to tween. Mike and Fuzzbucket help each other with their respective problems, making each of them feel needed and loved, even if they can't hang out together all the time because they come from different places and live different lives. A boy falls through a large hole in the ground where he meets large furry creatures who appear to be friendly.
What's the story?
The world of FUZZBUCKET appears to be partly real and partly fantastic. The title character (Phil Fondacaro) is invisible, putting us smack into fantasy land. Plus, he talks, but can only be heard by 12-year-old Mike (Chris Hebert), a bundle of nerves the day before his first day of middle school. When Mike is heard chatting with Fuzzbucket, his big sister and parents tell him he's too old to have an imaginary friend. Then, halfway through the action, Mikey feeds his pal a concoction whipped up in the blender and Fuzzbucket materializes before us, looking disarmingly like a 70-pound rat, complete with a long, hairless, rubbery pink tail. His voice is audible to the audience now and he explains that he went invisible because he'd stayed up too late one night. Somehow the blender drink brought back his visibility. His sweet nature matches Mike's and the two bond. But when he suddenly announces that he has to "go home," to a place that isn't good for boys, and hits the ground running, Mike gives chase, leading him through the local town and into the woods, where he falls down a deep hole. There he finds Fuzzbucket and his fellow fur balls. In the meantime, Mike's panicked parents round up a search party with police, but they don't find the boy until he and Fuzzbucket agree that they love each other and that they'll always remember they were there for each other when both were in need.
Is it any good?
This is a clear attempt by Disney TV to capitalize on the boy-and-his-creature vibe that made Steven Spielberg's 1982 mega-hit E.T.: The Extraterrestrial so popular only four years before. This made-for-TV episode is less than half the earlier film's length, so it's no surprise that it offers far less character development, a flimsier plot, and unimpressive special effects. Still, at 46 minutes, Fuzzbucket may be an amusing tidbit for younger kids. Older kids may lack patience for the old-fashioned production values.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of imaginary friends. Why are they so attractive? How do they help kids work out difficult obstacles they face?
Mike says no one ever listens to him. Do you think kids often feel this way at least partly because so much of a child's life is obeying parents and teachers who are are trying to teach them rules?
What qualities about Fuzzbucket make him the perfect friend? What qualities do we look for in friends?
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