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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #101
September 22, 2009

Psst...Your Inner Child Ran Off to the Fair

Big + A County Fair

The morning after a 13 year-old boy tells a strange fortune teller that he wants to be "big", he wakes up in the body of a 35 year-old man. Tom Hanks plays the adult with a boy's soul so perfectly, that Big has remained one of our most beloved comedies. With the delivery of every line, the articulation of every gesture, Hanks captures the yearning and delight of Josh who - as a grown man -- is mistaken by his mother as a burglar and chased from his own home with a carving knife. Josh runs away to NYC where he lands a job testing toys for a boss who is pleased as punch to have someone on his creative team who actually likes to play with the toys. The film's most memorable scene, of Hanks and his boss (Robert Loggia) playing FAO Schwartz's floor piano symbolizes the whimsical genius of this film's message - that those of us who hold the child within us close to our hearts will be the happiest. And, perhaps the most successful, as well.

Why not connect with your own inner child this month by visiting a County Fair, or an old fashioned-amusement park? We're not talking about a fancy roller coaster-oriented establishment, but the simple rides and thrills that satisfied you when you were small. Sure, our kids are used to Disneyland or Six Flags but a ride is a ride; just as they could get lost in a cardboard box when they were small, they love to pay their ticket and climb aboard those beautiful antique carousels - riding unicorns and giraffes and horses until the promise of cotton candy distracts them to another adventure. Best of all, these amusements remind us of our childhood - and our nostalgia seems to inject the day with a more relaxed energy. We visited more than one Agricultural Fair over the summer, and our County Fair is in full swing this month - we love that we can get more than just thrills by learning about vegetables or meeting a farmer. So whether you win big prizes on the arcade games, catch a campy music performance at the venue stage, or simply savor a mouth-watering cotton candy while you get up the nerve to take your kids on the Ferris wheel, a visit to your local amusement park is sure to help you convince the kids that you're not as much of a grown-up as you pretend to be (most of the time!).

Film Title: Big
Directed By: Penny Marshall
1988, Rated PG, 104 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why it's Worth It: Hank's performance sells this now-familiar concept and cemented the film as one of the AFI's top 100 comedies (weighing in at number 42). It's a good film to watch together as a family, as it can be a little slow for kids on their own.
  • Red Flags: There is the requisite coming-of-age sexuality scene, but it's played for sweetness and we really feel for Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins.
  • Other Viewing: Other memorable films films on or around the pier include The Sting (scene in the carousel) and Forrest Gump.

Our Tips for Talking with your kids about this film:

  • Wish Savvy: Ask your kids what they would ask Zoltan for.
  • Cinema Savvy: Does the body-switching plot of this film remind the kids of other films? Why do they think this story concept makes for so many comedic moments?


Visiting your Local Amusement Park

Learning about local history & get in touch with your inner kid

Age Recommendation: All ages

Time Allotment: Pretend you are on vacation and spend the day (or, at least half of it!)

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • What Worked for Us:  Get off to an early start early so that you can beat the crowd... not to mention work up an appetite to munch on the comforting, and oh-so-indulgent, carnival snack food.  With so many options, it's important to shave your agenda down to a few key points so as not to overwhelm the kids. Little kids can spend hours on the magical carousel  - but be prepared to stand in line in the later hours of a weekend day! For our group the absolute musts were a historic walking tour, a few arcade games (and prizes), a slice of pizza and a churro, and of course, not one--but two--cycles on the ferris wheel for a eye-opening view of our beautiful coastline. 
  • Just Like in the Movies: In the film, a young Tom Hanks makes a wish on an old fortune telling machine that becomes the fateful centerpiece of this hilarious coming of age, and then going back again, tale.  Keep your eyes peeled for a real live gypsy fortune teller, maybe even holding a glowing crystal ball, who will see into your future for a price!.  Amusement parks and arcades are treasure troves of antiques and authentic artifacts if you look closely, so pay attention to any original pin-ball machines, intricately carved wooden carousel horses, and even the impressive frames of roller coaster rides that are still often displayed in their original form. 
  • Historic Walking Tours: We wanted our trip to tour local landmark to be both enjoyable and educational.  Before you go, do a little bit of research and find out some fun facts about your local amuse-monument.  Our fair's website featured a downloadable guide to a Historic Walking Tour Guide, so that we could know just how many years of Californian history we were getting our sticky caramel encrusted fingers all over.  Sometimes getting our kids to walk is a chore, but when it's sprinkled with tid-bits of trivia like what celebrities have performed on that very pier and what famous movies were shot there, our kids were not dragging their feet.

Our tips for Extending this Adventure:
  • Rooted in History: Every city has its own set of legends and stories that make it unique.  In Big, Tom Hanks escapes to the iconic Coney Island, where his journey begins.  Does your city have any landmarks like that are deeply intertwined in its foundation?  Is there an arcade or amusement park with a ride that's been there for several decades.
  • Fair Advice: If you visit the county fair, you have the advantage of meeting farmers up close and personal. Let the kids do the talking - that memory will be indelible!

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

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