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Just as the name suggests, a family film is a movie that is geared toward the interests and sensibilities of families.  The subject matter and the way in which it is presented make these films appealing and suitable for family members of all ages, from children to adults.

Subjects that are not considered appropriate for the younger audience may be included, but are generally presented by implication, which will be understood by the adult audience but not the children of the family.  Witty jokes and humor are often used to maintain the interest of the adults in the audience.  The plot is often simple, but contains an educational, moral or social theme.

Movies in the family genre can cover a wide gamut of other genres, including adventure, comedy, documentary, fantasy, musicals, and westerns.  A family film usually features child actors and quite often animals to hold the interest of the younger viewer.

A very early family film was 1903’s "Alice in Wonderland", directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow.  The film starts out with Alice falling asleep in a garden and she then wakes up to an agitated white rabbit all dressed up with a pocket watch, and continues to tell the famous children’s story.

In 1916 "The Heart of a Hero" was released.  Directed by Emile Chautard, the film presents a biography of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale as he joins the militia and quickly rises through the ranks.

Fun for all members of the family, the 1920's was the heyday for the Our Gang / Little Rascals films.  One of the first films in the series, "Derby Day" was directed by Robert F. McGowan and released in 1923.  With fifty cents burning a hole in their pockets, and scheming to get rich, the gang builds a lemonade and hot dog stand near a horse racing track.  Mary, the daughter of a one of the horse owners, who has the boys all in love with her, sneaks them into the racetrack to see the real thing.  With an even grander get-rich-quick scheme, the gang decides to build their own race track.  Sadly short of horses, the gang gathers any animals they can find and sets up their own race.  Things go haywire though because Farina has spiked the water, and the race between a mule, a cow, a dog, a goat, kids on tricycles, and others soon becomes a disaster.

A very popular early series of family films related the adventures of Rin Tin Tin.  "The Test", directed by Bernard Ray, was produced in 1935.  Rin Tin Tin is asked to guard the furs of his master, fur trapper Brule Conway.  When Rinnie is lured away by another dog, Conway's winter furs are stolen by Black Wolf, a henchman for the French-Canadian trapper Pepite La Joie.  After a series of adventures, Rinnie masterfully captures the evil doers and returns with the furs, winning the hearts of all.

Jean Hersholt and Fay Wray starred in the family movie, "Melody for Three", which was directed by Erle C. Kenton and released in 1941.  Jean Hersholt stars as Dr. Christian, the kindly general practitioner of the town of River's End, who takes an interest in young Billy Stanley, a violin prodigy, and soon after he dedicates himself to reuniting Billy's divorced parents, music teacher Mary Stanley and famed orchestra conductor Antoine Pirelle.

An early documentary family film is "Little Smokey", released in 1953 and narrated by William Boyd, aka Hopalong Cassidy.  The film tells the story of Smokey the Bear, from a cub in the woods to the Washington Zoo and the Forestry Service campaign.

Children’s stores and fairy tales offer great plots for family movies, and in 1958 Bretaigne Windust directed "The Pied Piper of Hamelin".  The film, starring Van Johnson and Claude Raines, tells the story of the singing citizens of Hamelin who hope to win a competition with rival towns for royal recognition.  To this end, the mayor outlaws play, which is a bit hard on the children, and refuses to help a rival town when it's flooded.  But rats, seen only as shadows, fleeing the flood, invade Hamelin in droves.  A magical piper, whose music only children, and rats, can hear, strikes a bargain.  But once the rats are gone, the Mayor and council renege on the agreement, to their subsequent regret.

Centering on the true story of a lion that is to be returned to east Africa, "The Lion That Thought He Was People" is a 1971 film directed by Bill Travers.  This family documentary film was produced to finance the project of sending Christian from London to the wilds of east Africa.  With the exception of the dramatized opening scene of Christian being introduced to Bill Travers, it was filmed as it happened.

In 1981 Demi Moore starred in "Choices", a family film about a young boy who is hearing impaired.  Struggling against the prejudices he encounters, he wants to play football and he and his friends fight to keep him on the football team, even though his father and grandpa want him to quit football and play in the school’s orchestra.

Family films have something for everyone, so pop some popcorn, gather everyone together, and sit down with your family to enjoy some good old family time.

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