Millions of American kids are getting their first introduction to London these days via Cars 2, the popular, current Pixar-Disney animated film. In the movie, a major car race is held in England’s capital city, and various landmarks can be spotted, including Buckingham Palace and Big Ben (the movie’s heroes are held hostage in its clock tower).
It got us thinking about our favorite versions of London as seen in children’s films. Here’s a quick look at our Top Five:
· Harry Potter. Pick a film, any Harry Potter film. At some point you’ll likely spot either a London landmark or hidden alleyway. My favorite moment came during the opening of 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when the Millennium Footbridge, the gleaming metal, pedestrians-only one running across the Thames River, linking St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern art museum, was vaporized. I had just visited London with two 13-year old nieces and we had walked across the bridge multiple times. A day after our return, we saw the movie and one niece whispered excitedly, “We were just there!”
· Mary Poppins (1964). While the film about a magical, carpetbag-carrying nanny was shot almost entirely on a Hollywood back lot, what child doesn’t gain a healthy appreciation for Christopher Wren’s magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral, when it’s shown in all its magnificent glory as Julie Andrews sings “Feed the Birds”?
· The Great Muppet Caper (1981). If you’re seeing London for the first time, who better to serve as a guide than Kermit and Miss Piggy? In this crime mystery, the two furry favorites must capture jewel thieves. In addition to double-decker buses, local institutions on view include Diana Rigg, John Cleese, Robert Morley and Peter Ustinov.
· 101 Dalmatians (1996). The 1961 Disney animated film may be the real classic, but for looking at London, there’s no beating this otherwise ho-hum live action version starring Glenn Close as uber-evil Cruella De Vil. Near the end, it features a rip-roaring chase–think 99 puppies on the run–through the city, including going through Trafalgar Square and St. James’s Park.
· Oliver! (1968). While mostly filmed at the Shepperton Studios in Surrey, this musical version of the Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist, offers a small fry a solid introduction to the squalid side of Victorian-era London. And it teaches young viewers a valuable lesson even for today’s London: always be on the lookout for pickpockets.
What’s your favorite childhood movie featuring London?