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Rated G: Does it work for you?

As a mama that loves movies, I have been itching for quite some time to get my 4 and 6 year old sons to a movie theater with me.  I envision it as a fun activity that the three of us can do together (the dark theater, the popcorn, the previews!) since my husband couldn't care less about what's on the big (or little screen).  But the problem has been finding a movie that I feel completely comfortable in taking them to.  I never imagined that it would be this hard.  It seems like every "kid movie" out there has some sort of plot line that is over their heads, aimed at entertaining the parents in the theater. 

I just wish that they would make a movie that is truly for kids.  One that doesn't use potty talk as humor (really, it's enough of a problem in our house as it is), teasing, rudeness, or violence.   I've been hopeful a few times in the last year when a couple of rated G movies have been released (WALL-E, Earth), but when I take a peek at Common Sense Media, other parents have commented in ways that have made me decide the movie wasn't for my kids, right now anyway.

Maybe I just need to lighten up and take on some of the rated G movies as having teachable moments.  But I'm curious...how do you handle film content and your young kids? Do you take them to the theater or just say home and watch a video?


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I took my 3 year old to Horton Hears a Who last year at Mommy Matinee and had to walk out about 1/4 through because it terrified her. I just don't understand why kid movies (rated G) have to have villians or scary people or plots about killing the good guys! We watched Matagascar this week and loved it, and it's actually rated PG! There was one scary plane crash, and my well-traveled almost-4-year-old was full of questions about that, but otherwise, it was such a feel good movie. I think ratings are over-rated.

Looking forward to hearing what others say. G (and some PG) works for me and my four year old. Part of the fun of movies is talking about what is happening and incorporating ideas and concepts into our everyday lives. Who is a “good guy” (Buzz Lightyear), who is “sad” (Wall-E), who are friends (George and Ted, aka Man with the Yellow Hat), what is a family (Dinosaurs), who is special (Dash, from The Incredibles).

A resource I like is Kids in Mind (http://www.kids-in-mind.com/). From the web site: “The purpose of kids-in-mind.com is to provide parents and other adults with objective and complete information about a film's content so that they can decide, based on their own value system, whether they should watch a movie with or without their kids.”

The site disregards the ratings and instead rates and details the movie in three categories: Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore and Profanity. I find it helpful to review a movie I find very acceptable under those categories, for me it is Curious George, and then compare that to other movies.

I think you just have to watch some with our without your kids, read information, talk to parents and do what is comfortable.

On a practical note: The best movie experiences for me and my son have been G movies at a pizza/movie place. The Mission (NW), Kennedy School (NE) and Valley Cinema Pub (Beaverton) are our favorites. This allows some wondering and moving around without interrupting people. Not as expensive as regular movies so if we need to leave, I don’t feel too bad about it. These theaters are also not as loud as regular theaters and there are few, if no, previews. And we can have dinner and mama can have an adult beverage.

My almost-5-year-old can't seem to deal with the tension/scary factor in practically every g movie. He watches short cartoons every now and then- curious george and bob the builder but that's about the extent of it. He's not a particularly timid or scared kid but movies do him in. I look forward to the time when we can at least watch the occasional Pixar movie together but I have a feeling it's another few years off. If there really is a completely non-scary kids movie I would love to hear about it!

I just get mad that there are not more G movies. My almost 5 year old LOVES to go to movies and so does my Mother-in-law. They end up going to PG movies against my better hopes, because G movies are so rare.

When my kids were very little...one of us would just go see the movie first. Kids in Mind is doing a pretty good job with deciding on movies for my big kids. I haven't checked it for little kids movies. But yes, I feel your pain. My dd was terrified at the "boy overboard" scene that Pocahontas starts with. And my poor son ran screaming from the theater with one terrible scene in Monsters, Inc.

Dvd's help because you can pause and talk or just skip certain bits. I also find that watching the very old movies ditches the issue altogether. Pollyanna, Shirley Temple movies, Captain Courageous, Old Yeller, Heidi, Little Women, Lassie, The Yearling, etc and such. Happy viewing.

Lassie and Old Yeller would completely put my child over the edge. So, I think you have to know your kid. He can watch Wall-E and Star Wars, but situations that he can see himself possibly in, more reality based movies, he cannot handle at this time.
We tried to see Cars when it first came out and we made it 5 minutes in. The problem at that time was the dark theatre and the extremely high level of sound. Ridiculously loud. He watched it at home with no problems. I have a friend who takes his boy to see all kinds of so called kid movies and his boy loves them. Mine would not be able to handle most....you just have to know your child.

To Mama without instructions, I so can relate - my 6 year old simply can't handle 99% of movies because of the "bad guys". He has a vivid imagination so even the most harmless movie has him in nightmares for weeks (though he loves Tom and Jerry cartoons - go figure!) Sometimes I worry, when I see his peers watching fare like Star Wars and he is out of the loop on their conversations but you know, he has a lifetime to desensitize himself to the violence of the world so why rush it? Like you though, I have trouble finding really innocous fare for us all as a family to enjoy - go Pooh movies!

I also think it is interesting how Walt Disney or Disney in general seems to hate Mothers. Mean Stepmoms, Moms always dying. Terrifying stuff.

Hello Mama-

I couldn't agree more. I'm a Parent Coach and Nanny, a few years ago I took my schoolage charges, (6, 8, 9 years old) to see Monster House, thinking it would be great fun for all of us. Boy was I wrong. The entire movie was horribly inappropriate and even the kids hated it. We stayed to the end, because I was hoping for some sort of redemption, there never was any.

Instead of blocking the last 2 hours from our minds, we used that as a discussion opportunity.

My suggestion as a Parent Coach and a development expert is to use the plots of the movies you watch as a way to discuss the issues presented. Grimm's Fairy Tales were originally used as warnings for children, don't talk to strangers or the big bad wolf will eat you. Don't walk in the woods alone or you'll get lost, and so on.

At 3 & 6 you can teach a lot through these plots.

Good Luck-


Rebecca Magby
Parent Coach
Everything Baby, LLC

If the movie was "horribly inappropriate", why would you continue to allow the children to watch it? I appreciate what you're saying but it sounds like a pretty reactive approach instead of being proactive in parenting when you might do something like checking out movies that would be entertaining/developmentally appropriate/educational ahead of time. I understand you're trying to advertise your business but I think your advice may be better presented as opinion.

I think it totally depends on the kid, like most parenting stuff. A friend of mine has a 3-year-old who will happily watch anything, and a 7-year-old who gets scared watching even the most benign G-rated movies. I took my then-3-year-old to watch "Wall-E" last year, and while she didn't understand it all, and got scared a couple of times, she enjoyed the movie (especially the space ballet - we still talk about that). We talked about it a lot afterward to work out her questions and concerns.

The key thing about it, for us, was that it was a Big Event, so it wasn't so much about the movie itself, but the whole adventure. It was her first ever movie-in-a-theater, we enjoyed the movie together, we bought candy, etc.,and we'd been looking forward to it for days. It was special. The follow-up discussion was part of that.

I found it helpful to talk her through the experience in advance, and make it clear that if she wanted to leave at any time, we could just go. Also, my husband took her to see it again some six months later(at PSU, second-run), and she loved being the expert on the movie, explaining to him what happened in the movie and how the whole movie-watching thing works.

On the other hand, she's terrified of the buffoonish policemen in "Pippi Longstocking" and can't watch that video all the way through. Kids are weird.

I'm in.

For me it's not the scary stuff so much that irks me. I just find most movies aimed at kids to be incredibly tacky and vulgar. The "wink-wink" jokes aimed at the parents, the potty humor, the teen slang out of the mouths of 5year olds, the garish, ugly, plastic-looking animation (I loathe all things Pixar). I must sound curmudgeonly, but that's how I feel.

I rarely look for movies in the theater to take my kids to anymore. We have movie night once a week at home. My boys are 6 and 9. They like movies with "bad guys" but of the slapstick variety. We watch a lot of live-action older Disney movies: Escape to Witch Mountain (the original!), Candleshoe, Apple Dumpling Gang, Swiss Family Robinson. Others they like are anything by Miyazaki, Sound of Music, Muppet Movie, The Secret Garden, Wizard of Oz, Lassie, The Black Stallion, etc. And they adore the Buster Keaton silent movies.

In other words, I feel that, with a whole world of classics for them to watch, why settle for this modern trash? Because I honestly don't think - from the reviews I've read, anyway, that many of today's "kid movies" are going to turn out to be the classics of tomorrow.

Yes, I agree I am tired and weary as well of the film industry making movies for children but with all the innuendos for parents. Come on, give us some credit that we can enjoy a movie made solely for children. Personally I enjoy them much more. As a child one of the best gifts my mother gave me was the love of old movie classics. I still remember her taking us to Saturday movies at an old theater in Bellevue where we saw Little Women (with Katharine Hepburn) and The Wizard of OZ. My boys love all of those old Disney movies. I just rented from Netflix the original Escape To Witch Mountain and my 5 year old son loved it.

Darn, I was hoping I'd see some ideas for what to watch in this thread! (-: It appears I am not alone in my dilemma of trying to find movies (or even just a cartoon series) for my 3-yr-old that isn't full of shrieking voices, rudeness, or just plain scary moments. My daughter can't even tolerate upset facial expressions. Sigh.

Right now, we're sticking with the wonderful Kipper the Dog (gotta love that British accent) and Pocoyo, both of which have super simple plotlines and are relatively short.

However, we're trying to plan a backyard movie night, and I cannot for the life of me figure out a full-length feature film that both grownups and kids (ages 2 and 3) could watch and enjoy.

I don't have movie recommendations but for series, our two favorites are Peep and the Big Wide World (was on TLC - maybe now just on video?) and Martha Speaks (PBS Kids at 11am). They're both clever, funny, educational and not scary.


I actually think that my kids (4 and 6) are just getting old enough to watch a feature-length film. Although I've been wanting to watch some with them for a while now, I don't think they really need to be staring at a screen for 90 minutes. That said however, the 2006 Curious George movie was rated as appropriate for 2 year olds and up by the majority of parents that posted to the site.

I agree, it's easier to find quality TV programs than movies for small children (plus, they're shorter in length). My 3 year old daughter enjoys Curious George and Dragon Tales and they are acceptable to me as far as no violence, positive messaging, etc. Of course it's annoying that they're licensed characters with tons of merchandising, but we've been able to avoid all of that stuff in stores and we don't watch commercials.

K, your family might enjoy the movie Homeward Bound- The Incredible Journey. It's a sweet story about friendship, my husband and I enjoyed watching it with my daughter.

I guess we'll be starting to pick up a few more of some of the movies mentioned here as our tv won't be moving into the digital age tomorrow. Netflix, here I come! We haven't done a theater movie yet, for many of the reasons mentioned above. I'm hoping to try it sometime this summer, but it will all depend on the offerings. Thanks for the link to the kids-in-mind site. We'll be checking it out.

Some of my favorite shows for preschoolers are Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, 64 Zoo Lane, The Upside Down Show, and of course Little Bear. All really great with using imagination and good lessons and I think you can get all of them through netflix (maybe not The Upside Down Show- which is super fun for me to watch, too!)

You can check them all out on www.noggin.com

I share the pain here, as my 3 and 6 year old girls love movies, but get scared pretty easily and I really can't stand the tacky humor and obnoxious tone and language in much of the main stream G rated movies. We've done movie nights at home and our favorite of all times are the Miyazaki films--for little ones, Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service are great. For older kids, his other films like Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle are wonderful. I wish some local second run theaters would play these movies....

As for family fun, my 3-year-old loves musicals. The only theater movie he's been to was the Sing-Along Sound of Music at Cinnema 21 and we watch it a lot at home too. Other current favorites include Mary Poppins, Music Man and Pete's Dragon.

I think the OP was on to something when they wrote..

"Maybe I just need to lighten up and take on some of the rated G movies as having teachable moments."

No movie is going to provide the perfect mix of what you want to teach, whatever that is. (And most movies are going to have scary parts -- because frankly people are just hardwired to listen to scary tales.) But I think the way you talk about the movie afterwards can really provide a give and take that is better than any perfect message.

For example: what is Kung Fu Panda trying to do? What would really happen if you got hit like that? And hey, how could Kung Fu Panda's father be a goose?

You can get onto some pretty serious topics (the reality vs. the fantasy of violence, the meaning of family, etc.) using one of these movies as a lead-in. A smaller kid isn't going to get the subtleties of it, and that's ok, but they will start realizing there are distinctions there.

All that being said, some movies are better than others. Two favorites from my house are "Homeward Bound: the Incredible Journey" -- a very gentle film with some realistic life or death hazards -- and "Matilda" -- a Roald Dahl fantasy about some very bad parents. Both are very good films, and very good for talking.

Enjoy your popcorn!

We had a funny experience this winter during the snow storm. We had "Do not adjust your set" from the library. It was the precursor to Monty Python, and it was originally intended as a show for kids. Initially I thought it was not appropriate for kids, some of the jokes and that weird British humor. But after 4 days stuck inside it didn't seem so bad. We edited out parts that were not appropriate. My 9 year old, who has just recently started watching movies and was like the child who was terrified of scary faces, (I liked that description from an earlier post), thought it was great. We also have shown them sections of The Triplets of Bellville, which has some great parts that kids get, however the beginning is not appropriate.

I was hoping to see a variety of comments on here, but it seems everyone is of such the same mind that nothing is really being shared. Does anyone feel even the teeniest bit guilty of "over-parenting?" I am not trying to be abrasive, but why are so many children running screaming from theaters during bad or scary scenes? Are they being overprotected? I remember being scared during scenes in Bambi and The Fox and the Hound when I was a kid (and I was a slightly nerdy, careful child...) but I didn't start bawling or running frantic from my theater seat.

It's my very humble opinion (and my children are under 2, so I'll learn later what you all are already going through I guess) that your kids probably need to be exposed to more things and then just sit and have conversations (however basic) about the things they just saw.

I really am shocked at how many of you are trying so desperately to shield your children from ultimately pretty benign stuff. Let them live a little and see it all.

I agree with Kim, and my kids are 9, 6, and 3...with another on the way. Although we limit the amount of television and movies they watch, and we definitely screen what they watch for what we deem inappropriate material, they have all watched the Harry Potter movies, Princess Bride (xoxo), ET, Annie, Matilda, School of Rock, and various animated movies.

Certainly, ET made them cry and feel nervous, Harry Potter scenes made them squeal with fear, Annie being chased up a tower by a bad guy was watched with hands over the eyes, and Trunchbull on Matilda scared the bejeezus out of them. What is valuable to me is that they have the opportunity to experience a wide range of emotional responses - from fear to empathy - in the safety of their homes, with their parents, and with an opportunity to talk about it.

Goonies didn't go over so well, sadly. Maybe another time.

I don't understand the thinking behind "exposing" young children to things that you, as their individual parent *know* would frighten them. Exactly what would be the point of that? It seems to me that most of the parents in this conversation have young kids. Kids who have an entire lifetime ahead of them in which to learn about (and watch on film) kidnapping, murder, the death of a parent, people and buildings being blown up, etc.

All kids are different. Mine don't mind some of that stuff: a few of the Miyazaki movies are scary. (As I mentioned earlier, I have other objections to most "kid movies"). But the point is, people know their own kids. I see no need to chide them for acting on that knowledge.

Believe me, kids "have the opportunity to experience a wide range of emotional responses" to stuff simply through regular life (stop by my house sometime). Personally, I don't see the point of "exposing" them to movies that will "scare the bejeezus" out of them on the theory that it's better to be scared at home, or for any other reason. When they're older I'm sure they'll enjoy that type of film. But why rush it?

My five year old girl has seen all the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies start to finish several times, all of the classics like, A Princess Bride, Anne of Green Gables, Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth, The Last Unicorn, Annie, Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music, and she also loves Pixar and Miyazaki films as well. We also read chapter books together like Harry Potter and The Spiderwick Chronicles. She's not bothered by much and she has developed a pretty sophisticated taste in movies and stories as a result. The movies her father and I draw the line at are not the scary ones, but the teenage ones. We may take her to see a PG-13 Harry Potter movie, but there's no way she'll be watching any of the High School Musical movies or Hannah Montana, no matter what the rating. They're too scary for me! Besides, she doesn't need any pointers on sass, being clique-y or how to land a boyfriend. There are countless "teachable" moments in the movies she does watch, but it's also just a personality thing. When I was her age, I was having nightmares nightly about flying monkeys, but her dad was sneaking out of bed to watch vampire movies on cable, so maybe it's genetic ( ;

My kids, 6 and 4, are solidly in the PG camp. They've seen most of the Star Wars movies, all of the Indiana Jones, most of the Marvel movies (the Spidermans, Iron Man, some of the X-Men movies, etc.), the Harry Potters. We've hit some PG-13s too, the Lord of the Rings, I think is PG-13.

They're occasionally down with "G" movies, but really they're all about action and, basically, better (or at least, more exciting) story lines, which is why the prefer the PGs.

Really, though, I don't pay much attention to the ratings. My husband and I will either see the movie before the kids, or get a few trusted reviews of a movie and take the kids and hope for the best. Comic book-type violence and other less gorey forms of violence don't bother my kids, and I don't really mind if they hear curses and potty-jokes, so we have a fairly wide (and liberal) selection of movies from which to choose.

Kim has a point. I think I was overly sheltered from anything scary or adult in movies as a kid, and it actually made it really traumatic and shocking when I finally was exposed to even mildly scary stuff as an older kid. Like, psychologically scary, because I'd been primed to feel profoundly disturbed by that kind of entertainment and was unable to take it lightly. I have the instinct to protect my kid from all the things I consider tasteless and gratuitous and ugly and so forth... but I also think it benefits our kids to a certain extent to be comfortable with stuff that is pretty normal in the culture they live in.

Zinemama, my post was simply a contribution to the thread, not an indictment (or chiding) of others' parenting. Apparently we have different ideas about movies...no need to criticize.

Both of my boys are very clear with me about letting me know if a certain children's movie looks too scary to them. This helps in eliminating certain movies. My sons have seen the Star Wars movies, Spiderman, Monster House, Coraline. I certainly don't try to shield them from every emotion but I do feel that I have a responsibilty to protect them from certain things that even a 15 year old should not be seeing. My parents took me to see some very scary movies when I was little and it did not prepare me for the realities of the world. What it did do in fact was cause a great deal of fear in me as a child. Finding a balance between childlike innocence and superheroes is my challenge. So my question now is, What's wrong with letting the individual child choose for themselves what they want to see?

I always thought that I wanted to take my kids to the movies, as a fun treat or activity, but they never got into it. My older child tried to go first at age 4, then again at age 5, but the darkness and the sound intensity is too scary for her. Our younger daughter has thicker skin, but I think they've still only seen less than a handful of movies at the theater. So, this is less about the movie ratings and more about the (dark, loud) experience of going to the movies.

Regarding the types of movies they are drawn to, my girls (now 5 and 8) get scared by the slightest bit of suspense. (They get it from me.) They cover their eyes at any violence. At this point, we don't try to police movies too much in the G or PG categories, but we take their cues as they go through the DVD. I don't feel as if we're overprotecting or overparenting if we are just listening to what they may feel uncomfortable about. If they are scared, we let them walk away and then we'll turn it off. It's more self-protecting than us over-protecting. I think that's a good skill for a kid to have.

Wall E made one of my daughters very sad. It was good fodder for conversation. The Incredibles made them scared. And they don't like being scared (nor do I), although I think that there are many people who enjoy the fear factor in a film. My kids just can't take it, and we don't make them sit through something they can't stomach.

More scary to me than violence or meanness is the constant messaging of underlying romance or this boy-girl tension. One of our favorite family flicks is Shrek, but even that has these heavy heterosexist subtexts that just irritate me, personally. High School Musical made its way into our house via a school friend, and we had to just let it run its course (months of infatuation and posters on the walls now to complete ignorance of the story). I'd personally rather my kids watch some suspenseful flick with a touch of fighting versus pre-tween pop drama like HSM.

I agree with the other Mamas on here about the inappropriateness of most kid movies these days. I do not see the point of including a scary part or a "bad guy" or "evil stepmother" or for that matter, potty humor and slapstick violence. It is simply not appropriate for young children.
My 6 year old daughter is quite scared of most movies her father or grandmother have taken her to (including Earth and Despereaux and especially Up). (I have never taken either of my children to a movie) My 3 year old was scared throughout most of WALL-E (his first film, at home). I use both KidsinMind.com and commonsensemedia before I let my children see any movie, but even those that are deemed appropriate for 6 and up scare my daughter. I think part of it is her personality and part is her "inexperience/inexposure" to very many movies. But I see no need, nor any good in exposing her to things that I know will scare her or that I think are inappropriate to merely desensitize her. I want her to be sensitive to the bad things that are said or done in movies not to shrug it off because she's seen it so many times.
The videos we watch mostly at home (on the rare occasion we watch anything) are the Little People (Fisher Price) claymation VHS tapes that came free with our FP toys (each episode is 5 min long and the voice over literally TELLS the viewer what the moral message is) and Clifford or Sesame Street videos. There is a Clifford film even: "Clifford's REALLY Big Movie". None of these have ANY scary parts, death, potty humor, slapstick, violence, etc whatsoever.
I do plan to eventually share some of the classics with my kids. We have already watched Mary Poppins.

We also use Kids in Mind. It helps me make an informed decision for myself. The letter ratings are too simplistic.

We watch the Blue Planet and Planet Earth series with our two year old and she enjoys them. There are some parts that are visually a bit intense, and could be scary but she seems okay with it. She asks a lot of questions about what things are or what is happening, so I tend to watch it with her. Either of these could work for the mom who was looking for a adult/child friendly movie for the backyard. They are really good, but alas, there is no plot.
I have been considering showing her Charlotte's Web or Babe. Not sure if they would hold her attention since they are full-length and not animated. Other suggestions of little kid appropriate stuff that we watch regularly include Teletubbies and the World of Pooh (when we were kids era) videos. Another great kid/adult movie is Microcosmos, about insect life in a meadow.

She is pretty sheltered from Disney/Pixar type movies. I don't like these for the speed and intensity of the pace and images, not to mention the obnoxious tone of the humor. We have tried these but she has not reacted too well, and has even had nightmares, so we are holding off till she is older to try these types of movies.

My daughter is filled with sympathy for people or animals who look sad in her picture books, even if it is just because their balloon popped or their ice cream fell. There's one sweet Puff the Magic Dragon book that simply scares her. She refuses to look at Where the Wild Things Are - she calls it a "mean" book and closes it after looking at the first page or two.
We own these books and they are on her shelves, so I'm rejecting some of the "humble opinions" here that she is being overparented. It seems a little more rational to say that kids are tuned to different wavelengths at different times, and some kids at certain points in their lives are going to feel connected to and affected by the emotions being portrayed on the page or the screen.
This is a bad thing?

I can pass on a lot of movies out there, for many of the reasons already mentioned. I just want to chime in and say that I think it's great that so many parents are willing to slow down exposure to stuff like that. Someone said it already, but it makes so much sense to me. They have plenty of time to watch this kind of stuff. Mine are young, and I plan on just letting them be young for awhile.

if potty humor is a "problem" in your household, then probably mainstream anything is too much for you. loosen up! (as you asked, do I just need to loosen up? I think, yes...just try out some stuff, walk out if you need to. Find out what your kids are into.) My two and one-half year old loves WALL-E though I certainly find it plenty dark. So many "traditional" kids stories are plenty scary. You and your kids will be exploring this for awhile - time to jump in and test the waters.

I disagree with the thought that I should be purposefully scaring my kids by taking them to poor Disney productions. Why not just jump out from behind a bush with a scary mask on, and then have a "discussion" about life issues? There are plenty of great non-Disney-style (read: bad guys, adult humor, trauma, poor female role models) things to watch.

My kids especially like Pippi Longstocking (the tv show not the animated movie), Children of Noisy Village, Aristocrats, Totoro, etc. If we as parents love going to the movies, let's keep going to the movies, as parents. I don't need to freak my kids out just to have a discussion about things. I'd rather do what pleases them most; pop some popcorn, snuggle in, and watch something they actually enjoy watching.

Regarding the idea of oversheltering kids: I, being the youngest of 5 kids, got to see some pretty inappropriate stuff on TV as a kid. And it freaked me out. Even in middle school, I remember being show a video about the Holocaust that included some incredibly graphic images. I still remember feeling sick and horrified that I was being shown this stuff, without my parents knowing about it (this, after my parents had to sign a permission slip for us to see the "Romeo and Juliet" movie with Juliet's breast flashing across the screen for 2 seconds!).

Even as an adult, I still do not like to watch any movies or TV with any kind of violence in them -- it doesn't matter what kind. I am just sensitive to visual images. They stick with me, and I can't wrap my brain around them.

So, I guess my point is that I don't think that exposing kids to scary stuff will de-sensitize them, if they are just born to be sensitive individuals. It will just freak them out.

I agree with SJ. Just like with everything else about parenting, you have to gauge your own child and tailor your approach. Honestly, I think little kids have so much to process in the real world (relationships, emotions, motorskills, etc!), exposing them to overly complex plots, humor, aggression, etc. is unnecessary. If we're looking for ways to entertain them (and believe me, I'm all for distractions that will let me get dinner on the table), there are gentler (and less obnoxious) options than Shrek or whatever.

Of course, my 3-yr-old daughter is deeply bothered by the Troublesome Trucks in Thomas the Tank Engine, so the leap to Pixar, for our family, is huge.

k, the Troublesome Trucks are nothing compared to Diesel 10. If you haven't come across him yet, don't! He even scares me!

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