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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #62
July 23, 2008

Talk To The Animals

Babe + Animal Farm Visit

Some movies are like old friends; it's always good to see them again. Babe, a fairy tale starring a talking pig, is one of those pals that charms fans of every age -- after all, who can resist a pink, porcine hero with an ultra-expressive snout !?! When piglet Babe is wrenched away from his family (which turns out to be a good thing since they're all headed for the supermarket), he lands at the Hoggett farm. Once there, he upsets "the way things are" by convincing Farmer Hoggett to train a pig to do a dog's job. En route, Babe manages to foil an evil house cat, befriend a grandiose duck and bring out the best in solemn Hoggett. While Babe went about his business, our kids got a behind-the-haystack perspective on animal life, soaking up a lesson in compassion that is told without a trace of corn. The scenery is breathtaking, the talking animals are convincing, and the small, but significant dramas that unfold in the Hoggett barnyard strike a perfect balance between wit and heart. Warning: bacon will never look quite the same!

The furry, feathery cast of Babe is adorable, and got our kids all a-gaggle about meeting real animals. We spent a morning at our local Animal Farm, which is a sanctuary for creatures that have been snatched from cruel fates. Today, they get lots of affection, sunshine and exercise, provided by a cadre of volunteers. The farm helps humans as well as animals, by offering a friendly introduction to different barnyard citizens, and, hopefully, motivating us to treat animals with compassion. When a lushly-lashed cow sauntered up to our daughter for a back scratch and a snack of hay, a vegetarian was born. Her brother bonded with an enormous pig, who nuzzled him and refused to leave his side. The sheer bulk of a Brahma Bull impressed us, as did the antics of fowl scrapping over a water dish. For this parent, there's just something special about watching young ones interact with animals -- especially, when you have a camera! We took fantastic pictures, capturing the delighted smile of a kid freshly blasted by the sweet, steamy breath of a cow.

Film Title: Babe
Directed By: Chris Noonan
1995, Rated G, 1 hr. 32 m

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why It's Worth It: This animated tale was so impressive that it received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay -- this animated fairy tale had heads wagging -- soon, the Academy inaugurated a Best Animated Film category. Nobody doesn't love this pig - from small to tall, the cleverness and wry humor will delight.
  • Red Flags: The film presents a subtle, but frank, discussion about death, and Babe endures more than one significant loss.
  • Watch Your Mouth -- or Muzzle: The language in this movie is rich, elegant and completely skips curses, OhMyGods, and likeyouknows. Kids won't run to the dictionary, but it does offer a welcome holiday from Hollywood Brat Chat.

Our Tips for Talking with your kids about this film:

  • Award Savvy: "Babe" was nominated for an unlikely seven Academy Awards, and won for Visual Effects.  Ask your kids to compare it to other animated films and tell you why they think Babe won the award.
  • Sequel Savvy: Sequel "Babe In the City" is darker, more complex and more ambivalent.  Critics lavished praise, but it's more compatible with Tim Burton than Farmer Jones.  Only for people who love irony.


Visit and Animal Farm or Sanctuary


Age Recommendation: stroller babes and up

Time Allotment: 1-2 hours

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • What Worked For Us: This is a great outing for all ages. Our younger kids were happy just to get close enough to pet cute fuzzy creatures, while our older kids enjoyed hands on experiences feeding the goats and learning more about the animals from the guides. We brought a picnic lunch and enjoyed popsicles from the country store before heading home.
  • Before You Go: Animal farms are not sites for the dander-sensitive. Although hand sanitizer are usually provided around the farms, we were dusty and a bit ripe after our trip. Old clothes are best, and don't bring nice shoes.
  • How to Talk to the Animals: The farm animals are usually happy critters, but some are big, and most are sensitive. Our kids made us proud when they listened and observed safety instructions, but we did stress good behavior.
  • Queasy stomach? Super-sensitive visitors may find any stories of poor treatment disturbing. Feel free to tell your tour guide to take it easy. Our eight-year-old only got partway through the veal details when she firmly told her guide to stop.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:
  • Anywhere: Google your city + animal farm, sancturary or petting zoo. Check your regional or state park websites for farm sites.
  • Boston: Drumlin Farm, in nearby Lincoln, perfectly recreates life on a working New England farm, complete with pigs, horses, and cows and their babies. Your family can also explore a garden, browse wildlife exhibits or take a hayride.
  • New York: Visit farm animals without leaving the city!  Queens County Farm Museum is the only working historical farm in the City. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. The site includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles as well as an orchard and herb garden.  The Farm Museum is open year-round Mon-Fri 9-5 for outdoor visiting only and Sat- Sun 1-5 for tours of the farmhouse and hayrides. Animal feed is available for purchase in the gift shop. Admission is free. Check site for directions and special event days. If you want a smaller scale experience with farm animals, head to the Tisch Children's Zoo, which is a petting zoo just across 65th Street from the Central Park Zoo. For fifty cents you can get a handful of feed for the pigs, cows, sheep, goats and rabbits.  There are also some turtles and waterfowl in the mix!
  • San Francisco: Just because we live in an urban oasis, doesn't mean we can't show our kids a bit of life on the rural side. Animal farms abound in the outskirts of many surrounding towns, like Little Farm, nestled in the 740-acre Tilden Park in North Berkeley. The animal farm features an all-star, four-legged cast of creatures you can feed and pet, plus an Environmental Education Center next door. In Fremont, Ardenwood Historic Farm is a working farm with animals, a produce stand, orchard, house and gardens, cafe and blacksmith shop. Slide Ranch, in Marin County, lets you milk goats, visit chickens and an organic garden, or even sign up for summer camp programs.
  • Washington, D.C.: Star Gazing Farm, a sanctuary for abused, stray and neglected farm animals will open it's gates to the public as part of Maryland's Country Farm Tour. See the website for details. Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, MD is also having a special event as part of the Farm Tour. Poplar Spring is a refuge for farm animals and wildlife. In Fairfax County, Virginia, Kidwell Farm is a working demonstration farm recreating the farming era of the 1920s - 1950s. See pigs, cows, chickens, horses, peacocks and more. Out buildings and old tractors are also on display. Younger kids love to play on the tractors - bring your cameras! Tours and hayrides are available.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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