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Rikki Tikki Tavi/Yankee Doodle Cricket
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this DVD features two classic Chuck Jones animated specials: an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi short story from The Jungle Book, and Jones' own funny fable about how a cat, mouse, and cricket helped start the Revolutionary War called Yankee Doodle Cricket. The Rikki Tikki segment contains a couple of frightening scenes featuring a vicious cobra and his wife, and the Yankee Doodle section shows some illustrated scenes from the American Revolution. If they pay attention, kids will learn a surprising amount about the Revolutionary War -- from who wrote the Declaration of Independence and what the Gadsden flag looks like to who Paul Revere is and what the lyrics to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" mean.
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What's the story?
There are two classic Chuck Jones specials included in the DVD. The first is Jones' adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi, the short story from The Jungle Book that follows a British family in the subcontinent that takes a mongoose as a pet. The mongoose, Rikki Tikki Tavi, must figure out a way to rid the garden of a murderous pair of cobras. In the second segment, Jones reimagines the role of a cat (Harry the Cat), a mouse (T. Randolph Mouse) and a cricket (Chester the Cricket) in starting the American Revolution.
Is it any good?
Sometimes older cartoons are so dated their appeal is limited, but Jones, like Walt Disney, was a master of his craft. Since it's set in 19th century India, Rikki Tikki Tavi may not be familiar to kids, but the story is pretty universal: pet attempts to rescue his family by fending off a rival. Unlike the Disneyfied Jungle Book, this is a dark and moody depiction of what happens between the animals. But even though the cobras are ruthless killers, Rikki is an optimistic, charming protagonist with some sweet and funny scenes with his human family.
The Yankee Doodle short is signature Jones: the goofy comedian (in this case, the mouse) and the "straightman" (the cat) unintentionally and then wholeheartedly get themselves into a situation that's far bigger than they originally intended. Watching the various situations Harry, Randolph, and Chester navigate is a bit like watching Forrest Gump during the Revolutionary War: they're a part of all these major historical milestones. The trio helps inspire the Declaration Independence, pen the patriotic song "Yankee Doodle" and deliver Paul Revere's message. And finally, finally, kids will stop asking what the word "macaroni" means in its 18th-century context!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the two animated shorts would be made for television today. Do they seem dated?
Rikki Tikki Tavi is known for its serious, occasionally frightening mood. Are the cobras too scary for younger kids? Is it obvious the story takes place in India, like the rest of The Jungle Book?
Did you pick up on all the historical references in Yankee Doodle Cricket? What did you learn that you may not have known before watching the cartoon?
Compare the two short animated films. Which one do you prefer?
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