It’s often said that our earliest experiences greatly shape who we become as adults. With that idea in mind, I’ve recently been thinking back to my first experiences of going to the theater and how I reacted to them. I’m not exactly sure what brought this topic to mind. Maybe watching Toy Story 3 recently sparked some nostalgia in me. Or perhaps I’m just feeling older now and want to recapture a part of my childhood. Whatever the case, it’s needless to say that movies have meant a lot to me over the years, so I wanted to trace back to my earliest memories of movie-going to see what got me started on this path.
Interestingly enough, my movie watching didn’t begin as some obsession or fascination, at least not consciously. In fact, as a kid, I rarely went to the movies. My parents were protective of what I was allowed to watch and, as a result, there were few movies made available to me. This, I think, turned out to be a mixed blessing. Even though I didn’t get to go very often, the times that I did were made that much more unique. Since movies were lifted up more as special treats, I grew to consider them as such.
Looking back, I think there’s a fundamental difference in the way I watched films then as opposed to now. When I was a kid, I could get completely wrapped up in anything I watched, almost as if I was a part of the fictional worlds I viewed. Today, however, I struggle with that aspect of movie-watching at times. Instead of becoming invested, I think instead of behind-the-scenes factors of the production, technical details, story elements, etc. As much as I try to avoid those elements, sometimes they get the best of me and, rightly or wrongly, I’m taken out of the world a film has set up. I suppose there’s no evading it, as we grow up we become savvy consumers, and there is a price to be paid for our knowledge at times. That’s not to say that I can’t be caught up in films anymore. There’s just something unique about the way kids can involve themselves in stories that adults seem to lack for the most part. With that said, I’ll always enjoy the memories of my childhood, when I could view films on a “pure” level, without all the baggage.
All that preamble brings me to what I recall as my first theatrical film, Ducktales: The Movie – Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990). That might seem like an inauspicious start for a film-going “career”, but you could do much worse. For a film I first viewed almost twenty years ago, I remember the experience surprisingly well. The movie features an Indiana Jones-style opening as Scrooge McDuck takes his nephews to a temple in search of lost treasure. (They even have a crooked guide a la Raiders of the Lost Ark.) Our heroes avoid traps, battle giant scorpions, and evade a good flattening when the temple collapses. What more could a kid ask for? Right off the bat this sequence captured my sense of adventure and I was completely riveted. And that was just the beginning! The rest of the film involves genies, wishes being granted, plenty of action, and (naturally) a happy ending.
While watching Ducktales: The Movie, I didn’t arrive at some great epiphany that films would be in my future like they are today. I simply enjoyed the story being played out before me and there’s something to be said for that. Granted, looking back on the film, I know it isn’t the greatest thing out there. But, at the time, it didn’t matter. Sometimes I wish I would return more to this method of viewing films instead of being drawn into a jaded mindset, thinking of how a film doesn’t measure up. If I’ve realized anything looking back on this film, it’s that the unassuming nature of children can be a beneficial way of looking at things. Digging too deep into minutia can lead to losing sight of why we watch movies in the first place. Sometimes, you just need to get back to basics, take films at face value and enjoy the ride.
Can you remember your earliest theater-going experience and what you thought of it? How have your views on film changed over the years?