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Imagination Land

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Imagination Land Movie Poster Image
Amateurish animated animal stories for preschoolers.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 70 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Simple descriptions of storytelling elements (i.e., plot, characters, "beginning, middle, and end").

Positive Messages

Promotes teamwork, patience, optimism, value of storytelling.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are primarily happy, work on problem-solving, learn important lessons.

Violence & Scariness

No cartoon action. Verbal storytelling about "scary" alligator, dragon.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Imagination Land is an animated feature, with songs, about the art of storytelling. It's intended for little kids. The two central characters, a talking horse and a talking airplane, call themselves "Horseplay," the world's only super-duper story delivery service on the planet. They travel to various "lands" and meet other animals who pitch in to tell a number of simple stories, some of which have been derived from classic tales (e.g., "The Three Little Pigs"). Along the way, in just a few words, the filmmakers detail basic concepts of storytelling, including uncomplicated definitions of plot, characters, conflict, dialogue, and so on. There's no cartoon action or peril in this movie. The animals tell the stories; they don't act them out. So, when an alligator threatens a rat, a frog, and a horse, he only warns them, "Tomorrow I will eat you." Imagination Land should not be confused with Imaginationland, a movie that combines three 2008 episodes of the South Park franchise, which is meant for mature audiences.

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What's the story?

Barney the Owl is looking for a new story to tell a little boy he's encountered in IMAGINATION LAND. He finds "Horseplay" -- a super-duper story delivery service run by Scout, a horse, and Axel, a little airplane. Of course, the team can get Barney a new story, so off they go to Imagination Land where they'll dig up a new plot, a hero, and a villain, as well as a beginning, a middle, and a happy ending. Their first stop is the Isle of Flowers, where Bella Bee relates the tale of a bee who spins honey into gold. Then the journey takes them to Lava Land, where a dragon is bothering three fat hogs, who must build houses to withstand the dragon's fiery breath. Further tales involve a farmer whose vegetables are mysteriously disappearing; a grumpy alligator who won't let three hungry critters cross a river to a land of plenty; a cow and a bull looking for grasslands upon which to graze; and a cat and dog who must work together to survive a storm.

Is it any good?

Low-budget doesn't have to mean inept, but in this tale the animation is amateurish; the songs are dreadful; performances are perfunctory; and the stories themselves are either unoriginal or routine. In an effort to make its messages about the art of storytelling clear, the filmmaking team relies on repeating concepts and definitions. That works, to a degree, but when the animation, too, is repetitious -- the same shots replay over and over again -- it simply looks lazy and cheap. On the bright side, Imagination Land is a colorful movie, with a few cute, quirky characters, including Oink the Flying Pig and Henrietta the Hen. On the whole, kids spending more than an hour of time on this movie deserve better. Learning to value quality entertainment is an important component of media awareness, even for young audiences.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that there's no actual violence in Imagination Land. Characters talk about a dragon breathing fire, an alligator eating animals, a vulture hoping to cause trouble, but no one ever fights, attacks, or even chases others. Do you think that this kind of conflict is less scary than real action? Why or why not? Do you think a movie like this is OK for younger kids who aren't comfortable with pretend vs. real violence? Why is it important to understand the impact of violence on kids?

  • This movie states that the moral of a story is a lesson it teaches us. In the case of the three fat hogs, the moral is that it's important to be smart, work hard, and not be lazy. What's the moral of the story about Dee Dee the cat and Rex the dog?

  • Imagination Land introduces important elements of storytelling, like plot, dialogue, conflict, and character development. Try to work with someone in your family to tell (and perhaps write down) a very simple story that includes all three elements.  

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