A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Once Upon a Forest is a colorful family movie that plays upon a child's deepest fears: the loss of a family or of home. This fact is glossed over while the friends are sent on an adventure. This lighthearted approach to mass destruction seems a little dated and may upset sensitive kids. The animals of Dapplewood forest start as an unruly bunch, but they come together to help a friend in dire need.
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What's the story?
Life in Dapplewood forest is full of adventure for the friendly critters who live there. Abigail (voiced by Ellen Blain) is a young rat who climbs branches and sneaks up on her father before going to school. Her friends Russell the hedgehog (Paige Gosney) and Edgar the mole (Ben Gregory) all meet her at school one morning for a fun outing that their teacher, Cornelius (voiced by Michael Crawford) has prepared for them. While they are enjoying their daily "ramble," an accident occurs on the nearby highway where a big rig loses its grip on the road, spilling a poison gas that devastates the entire meadow. The friends return home to find that their families are gone and that their classmate, Michelle (Elizabeth Moss) is suffering from poisoning. Cornelius instructs the friends to find specific herbs to heal Michelle, and the three pals go forth across hill and dale to save their friend.
Is it any good?
Based on a Welsh story by Rae Lambert, this mostly pleasant animated feature starts out as an idyllic depiction of forest life. The animal creatures go to school and learn fantastic things like building flying machines. But when human activity mars their environment, the story gets a little big for its britches. The subject of loss is largely glossed over -- and even though the classmates ask about their families, their curiosity is not pressing. Instead, they are instructed by their teacher to find the herbs necessary to save their friend.
The youngest viewers might be frightened by the devastation of the forest and the theme of mass destruction, though the adventure within the tragedy can be enjoyable and lighthearted. Considering the fact that the entire meadow was poisoned, a happy ending is in order. And in this regard, the movie delivers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's environmental message. How do humans affect the homes of creatures like rats, badgers, moles, and gophers?
How can we coexist with the creatures that live in our midst?
What forest animals have you seen? Take a nature walk and observe the different creatures you see.
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