Every year a gazillion kids and family movies come out on Blu-ray and DVD. Here are some of the best new 2012 releases available for home viewing. This list will change over the course of the year, and by year end, we'll have a great compilation for gift ideas or just a trip down memory lane. If there are enough good ones this year, we may even have to break it into two lists: an animated and a live-action.
Narrated by Tim Allen, Chimpanzee is the fourth Disneynature film. The movie takes moviegoers deep into the Taï Forest of Africa and follows a lively young chimpanzee named Oscar, who leads the wonder-filled life of a growing chimp, until tragedy strikes. An amazing show of compassion saves Oscar, and his story will touch viewers as it did the filmmakers and scientists who witnessed the show of "humanity" first-hand. Download educational materials from the Chimpanzee website, and find out how to help save chimpanzees through the Jane Goodall Institute. You can also read about the making of the film in our interview with director Mark Linfield.
Colorful and whimsical animation, vibrant musical numbers and exciting characters make Dr. Seuss' The Lorax a a winner with kids and families. Dr. Seuss' classic cautionary tale comes to life when a boy named Ted sets out to find a real Truffula tree for his crush Audrey. He happens upon the Onceler, who tells him a sorrowful tale about the fate of the forest. The Blu-ray includes 3 all new mini movies as well as a wealth of bonus features for both kids and adults. (PG, Recommended for ages 3+)
Based on the beloved book The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty tells a charming story about Arrietty, a tiny young girl who from a family of borrowers (tiny people) who live under the floor of a country house. When a boy named Shawn comes to stay at the house, Arrietty is seen by the human boy, and her family's life is changed forever. This Studio Ghibli movie has a wonderful soundtrack and a gentle pace that seems very relaxing compared to the many loud, fast-paced animated movies being released regularly. (Rated G, recommended for ages 6+)
4. The Muppets
Wocka Wocka! The Muppets value pack contains the Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy and Soundtrack. The Blu-ray edition contains several bonus features. One fun addition is "Disney Intermission." If you need to pause the movie for someone to go to the bathroom for example, which happens at our house a lot, then an intermission sign comes down, and you can hear some jokes, Muppets poke their heads out, and sometimes bonus feature previews are played. The features also include deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and more. Best of all, the movie trailer parodies are included so fans can remember all the fun the Muppets had before their movie came out. (Rated PG)
Just in time for Easter, Hop is a basket full of Easter themed eye candy, silly comedy and rockin' music. The scenes in the Easter Bunny's factory, complete with jelly bean falls and chocolate bunny assembly lines, will be enough to make kids' heads spin, and even adults will likely find their sweet tooth is suddenly aching for something made out of marshmallow. The movie also has a decent theme about following your own passion and doing what you love. Bonus features include an all new mini-movie, games, behind-the-scenes features and more.
One of the most creatively and beautifully animated films ever made to date, The Adventures of Tintin reminds you of why you spent the money on the HD TV. The movie is a rousing adventure complete with a teenage ace reporter and drunken sailor. Based on the comics by Herge, the story does contain a lot of violence, so this animated flick may not be suitable for very young children, but for those who love the graphic novels, the movie is a real treat that pays tribute to an influential work. Bonus features on the Blu-ray feature a lot of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, which is awesome for fans. And, the behind-the-scenes features offer a more in-depth look at motion capture than any I've seen yet. (Rated PG)
Despite the phenomenal animation, this movie was not our family's favorite. Kids generally love the dancing and singing penguins, though, and excellent bonus features for kids definitely buoy the Blu-ray up. An educational and entertaining little documentary feature helps kids learn about all the different kinds of animals in the movie, and this is a very well done and informative piece that kids will enjoy. Kids (and adults) can also get their creative juices flowing with a feature that gives step-by-step instructions for drawing a penguin. How-to-draw instructions are always a big hit in our house, and all of our kids turned out adorable little penguin sketches. The title also offers sing-along features for the music in the movie as well as some great behind-the-scenes footage of the actors. (Rated PG)
Based on the unique novel by Brian Selznick. Hugo was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 5. This film is one of those that you can watch again and again. And, if you have kids about ages 6-12 who have not read the book, then go out and get it. Both the book and the movie merit high praise for innovation and artistry. Bonus features offer fantastic information about the making of the movie and the parts of the story that are historical facts. For fans who want to learn even more about the making of the award-winning movie based on an award-winning novel, check out the fascinating book The Hugo Movie Companion: A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture. (Rated PG)
This beautifully animated fairytale with Latin flare was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. Not only is the movie entertaining, but with the Blu-ray, you can watch it with three different experiences. The first is just the regular high-def movie. Then, there's the "Artists Corner," which features filmmakers discussing the film as you watch. In Puss and Boots, a lot of animation decisions were influenced by the characters and their personalities, so this feature points out some fun things that most viewers wouldn't notice the first time through. The other track is a trivia track, which pops up random facts about eggs, animals and more. Other bonus features and games are also included. (Rated PG)
10. The Lorax
The original cartoon The Lorax is now available on Blu-ray. The package also includes a DVD copy and UltraViolet digital copy. In addition to the feature film, there is also a few bonus features including a message from the Tree People and two additional animated Seusstoons: "Pontoffel Pock & His Magical Piano" and "Butter Battle Book." The cartoon stays true to the text and illustrations of the classic book by Dr. Seuss, and the movie provides a great opportunity for parents to get kids excited about reading, writing and saving trees. Read the book and then watch the movie together. Or, make a movie party the reward for a child who works hard to read some or all of the book on her own. You can also encourage kids to write their own rhyme about the characters in the story or the scenic setting.
11. Treasure Buddies
For little kids who love dogs, the Buddies movies produce sheer delight. Treasure Buddies also features a couple of fun new animals kids will love: Cammy the camel and Babi the mischievous monkey. As far as films for the family go, this Buddies film isn't going to delight adults and older kids as much. However, the five little pups with personality are great entertainment for little dog lovers who seem to go nuts for the Buddies no matter what movie they're in. (Rated G)
12. Real Steel
Nominated for the 2012 Academy Awards for its great Visual Effects, Real Steel packs a punch. The movie transports viewers to a very realistic, slightly futuristic and gritty world that is both believable and intriguing. The movie is rated PG-13, so parents should preview first if there is concern about content, but for older kids, the Blu-ray is an excellent gift option. The movie offers the Second Screen app which allows viewers access to a ton of additional content synched to the movie. Additional features include deleted/extended scenes, bloopers, audio commentary with director Shawn Levy, making-of features and a segment featuring Sugar Ray Leonard, who consulted on the movie.