From an entertainment standpoint, the 1970s was a great time to be a kid. Advances in special effects and animation allowed filmmaking to be more imaginative and innovative than ever before. Disney was in one of its heydays and created a prolific amount of animated and live action films. Other studios also released many children's movies that became beloved classics.
Lassie, the heroic collie, had been around for many years but was still an attraction in the '70s. That decade's version of Lassie starred in "Magic of Lassie" in 1978 with Mickey Rooney. The antithesis of the graceful beauty of Lassie was the lovable mutt, Benji. The 1974 film "Benji" saw the scruffy hero save kidnapped children. The 1976 movie "The Shaggy D.A." was about a district attorney that turned into a dog.
"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" was released in 1971. The magical factory was full of life lessons about greed and avarice that some children had to learn the hard way. The soundtrack included "The Candy Man," which Sammy Davis Jr. turned into a pop hit, and "Pure Imagination." That same year Disney released "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." The musical combined the magic of witchcraft with catchy tunes. One of its five Oscar nomination's was for the song "The Age of Not Believing" performed by Angela Lansbury. "The Muppet Movie" from1979 followed the Jim Henson puppets on a musical adventure. It produced a minor hit, "The Rainbow Connection," which was credited to Kermit the Frog.
Comedies mixed some of the era's top child actors with adults. Tatum O'Neal was just 10 in 1974 when she won the Oscar for best supporting actress for "Paper Moon." In 1976 she starred in "The Bad News Bears" with Walther Matthau. O'Neal played a star pitcher, while Matthau was the washed-up coach. "Freaky Friday" from 1976 paired Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris as a mother and daughter who switch bodies. "Meatballs" from 1979 had some mature elements, but was basically about a misfit kid trying to fit in with a summer camp full of other misfits. It starred Bill Murray as a free-spirit camp counselor.
Disney released many animated films in the '70s including "The Aristocats," in 1970. It starred Eva Gabor as the voice of a fancy kitty who, along with her children, are kidnapped by a greedy butler. She has to be saved by an alley cat and his friends. In 1973, Disney's version of "Robin Hood" cast Robin as a red fox and his merry men as a menagerie of other animals. "The Rescuers" from 1977 told of mice on a grand adventure. It featured the voices of Gabor and Bob Newhart.
No film from the decade did as much with the new special effects technology as "Star Wars" from 1977. For example, advances in animation and cinematography allowed actors to appear to hold glowing light sabers. "Pete's Dragon" from 1977 was about a boy and his magical pet dragon, but was notable for smoothly combining live actors and animation in the same shot. In 1978, the first big-screen adaption of "Superman" was promoted with the line "You will believe a man can fly." Star Christopher Reeve did indeed appear to soar as the technology made flying "lines" easy to edit out.
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