A Tribute to Robin Williams: His Most Endearing Children’s films
The recent news of Robin Williams’s death has affected many of us, moviegoers and strangers, on a deep level. For those of us who grew up on his hilarious, heartfelt films, it feels like an unshakeable loss, and we will miss his presence greatly.
As an actor, he excelled in so many ways but was often at his best when appealing to young audiences. Here, a list of some of Williams’s best children’s movies, each one a lasting tribute to his life and lustrous career.
Williams plays Peter Banning, a grown-up Peter Pan who has forgotten his childhood. A successful corporate lawyer with a wife and two children, he is forced to return to Neverland and reclaim his youthful spirit when Captain Hook kidnaps his children. A man whose relationship with his family is strained by overwork and broken promises, Williams’s role not only garnered Academy Award nominations but showed viewers the glory in staying young at heart.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
Though overshadowed by Aladdin, FernGully is a movie I will never forget watching. It was the first of many of Williams’ electric animated performances. In it, he voices Batty Koda, a silly and uncoordinated fruit bat that has been experimented on by humans. The film, deeper than its cover conveys, is really about bigger issues like conservation, environmental protection, and, as Batty Koda shows us, animal testing.
Williams changed the way animated films were made. His voiceover work for the Genie was so spectacular that Golden Globes made up an award just to recognize his work in the movie. Until the Genie, moviegoers had never witnessed such an impactful, hilarious, unscripted vocal performance in an animated film before. Improvising scene after scene rather than sticking to the script, Williams’s performance set the standard for Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar films to come.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Even as an adult, I have hankerings for Mrs. Doubtfire. It’s timeless, the film every human with a funny bone and a soft spot refuses to forget. Williams is Daniel Hillard, a recently unemployred voice actor living in San Francisco. After asking for a divorce, his wife Miranda (Sally Field) is granted custody of their three children. Knowing Miranda is hiring a housekeeper, Williams masks himself as a Scottish nanny, Mrs. Doubtfire, in an attempt to be with his children again. Showing off Williams’s strengths as an actor, Mrs. Doubtfire also focuses on the unshakeable devotion and love of a sometimes-flawed father.
Jumanji centers on 12-year-old Alan Parrish (Williams), a boy trapped in the game Jumanji while playing it with his friend Sarah in 1969. Many years later, siblings Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) play the game only to unwittingly release the now-adult Alan. The trio tracks down Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) then resolves to finish the game in order to undo the chaos it has caused. this is a wild and adventurous tale about the release of a man trapped for years and what happens when everything comes full circle.
Patch Adams (1998)
Based on the story of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, Patch Adams is about a man who finds his calling in life: After commiting himself to a mental institution, he discovers that humor helps and gives purpose to his fellow residents. Deciding to go to medical school (where he is the oldest first-year student), Adams clashes often with doctors who believe patients must be treated as patients, not people. What he wants is to treat patients with kindness, compassion, and humor, which he does when he and a fellow student open a small clinic. A PG-13 movie, it does address heavy topics like death and suicide, but Williams as “Patch” is a performance that will strike right at the heart.
Happy Feet (2011)
Winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Happy Feet is a rolicking animated musical about a young penguin, Mumble, unable to sing—which, it seems, is a necessity, as penguins rely on “heart songs” to attract mates. Mumble, instead, is a tap dancer. He’s got the best dance moves. But that doesn’t prevent him from falling for Gloria, one of the most beautiful and revered singers around. On a journey to accept himself and the love he deserves, Mumble stumbles across a variety of characters—including the wise Lovelace and the dramatic, exuberant Ramon, both voiced by Williams—who are happy to accept him just as he is.
Andrea Fisher is a Triad-based writer, movie lover, and content specialist for Dish2u. She has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider. Read more of her work @andreafisher007.