There are many fairy films collected in these pages, some horror, some comedy, most for children, the majority mediocre and a significant minority dreadful. However, if you a day in bed with flu which should you watch. In no particular order we would suggest Totoro (1988) a Japanese film for children from the extraordinary Ghibli studios. Ghibli films have been characterised in the last twenty years by difficult plots and fabulous animation. In Totoro the animation is toned down and the plot (if you can call it that) is as simple as possible: two sisters find themselves in a country district and make friends with a series of supernatural beings, including Totoro, a local ‘troll’.
The Smoke Fairy (1909): cinema-lovers pretend to like silent films, but how many could truly bear to sit through forty minutes of a melodrama from, say, 1913. The Smoke Fairiy works because it is so very short; barely five minutes long; because it is entertaining; and because plays with perspective. Beautiful for children or adults alike.
The Secret of Kells (2009) is without question the best cartoon to come out of Ireland and one of the great children’s films of the new century. Set in Dark Age Ireland during the Viking invasions, Secret describes the young monk Aidan as he helps his friend Brendan write the Book of Kells, Ireland’s greatest treasure. The fairy is Aisling, a local forest sprite with beautiful white hair who helps Aidan as he works in the forest and who eventually, the films is ambiguous, dies to save Aidan. The music and animation are extraordinary.
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) is another Irish film for kids this time set around selkie/seal legends. The film is sometimes a little bit too much like a Gaelic lesson from an earnest Irish nationalist, but it works and the finale is, against all the odds, moving. There is no mature content – unless talk about storms and tarring boats offends you – but for children brought up on a diet of cartoons this might be hard going. Probably best to wait to your children are at least nine or ten before seeing this.
Tinkerbell (2008) was the first of four prequel cartoons to Disney’s Peter Pan, following Tinkerbell in her adventures with friends in Pixy Hollow and clearly aimed at children. Reduced to basic plots the films sound unpromising and Disney’s record with fairies has not been great over the years. But the animation works surprisingly well and the script is often witty and sensitive to fairy lore. If you have a five year old in the house…
The Faery Faith (2000). One of several documentaries around the question of fairy belief and the most successful of these. The film begins and ends in Canada and includes a visit to Ireland (with Ed Lenihan!) and to England and Scotland. The director makes a case that perhaps does or does not work. But the fairy accounts he chooses, including an incredibly creepy description of fairies stealing a shadow, are vivid and memorable.