1994 Pick of the Year
1. The Lion King
In Disney’s most poignant animated feature since Bambi, a young cub comes of age while dealing with the death of his regal father and the machinations of his evil uncle. Magnificently conceived and executed — featuring expert voice characterizations from such Hollywood heavyweights as Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones — The Lion King (Disney, G) left moviegoers young and old humming catchy tunes with Swahili phrases and thinking of a dreamy life on the Serengeti.
2. My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, And Me Maya Angelou (Clarkson Potter, $16, ages 4 to 8) Poet Angelou’s impish narrative and Margaret Courtney-Clarke’s ravishing photos create an entrancing vision of an exuberant 8-year-old’s daily life in South Africa’s Ndebele tribe. This elegantly designed, heart-lifting book is an imaginative feast.
3. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Sega, $59.99, ages 4 and up) The year’s most anticipated and enjoyable video-game turns our hero into a pinball and moves cinematically, with Sonic and Tails tumbling from scene to scene.
4. I Got Shoes Sweet Honey in the Rock (Music for Little People, $9.98 cassette, $12.98 CD, ages 6 to 9) Who needs instruments? Not a cappella singers Sweet Honey in the Rock, whose second children’s album of rhythmic African songs and heartfelt American spirituals bursts with vocal energy. Cultural enrichment doesn’t come any more magnetic than this.
5. Tuneland (7th Level, $49.95, ages 3 and up) Howie Mandel stars as the voice of Lil’ Howie, kind of a hyperkinetic Pooh who plays hide-and-seek in a beautifully animated countryside. Aimed at prereaders, this CD-ROM provides easy navigation and lots of sing-along fun for kids who insist on playing on the superhighway.
6. Lassie (Paramount, PG) Yet another example of Hollywood’s ongoing obsession with turning babyboomer shows into movies, Lassie became the one convert whose appeal wasn’t lost in the transition from television to the big screen. Thanks to a fresh script, the familiar story of a boy and his dog still managed to moisten a few eyes and teach a few key lessons.
7. Zero Hour (DC Comics, ages 10 and up) 1994 marked the end of the world as we know it — well, for DC Comics anyway. By reinventing its superheroes (and starting all its new comic books at issue No. 0), DC gave them and their readers a whole new lease on life.
8. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (Walt Disney, $26.99, G) The queen of the shrinking violets became the kids video event of the year, with a digital face-lift the 1937 film that lived up to all the hype.
9. The Magic Schoolbus In the Time of Dinosaurs Joanna Cole (Scholastic, $14.95, ages 8 to 12) Those lucky kids in Ms. Frizzle’s class were off on another wacky trip — to prehistoric times. The book’s look is engagingly antic, but the facts are organized for impact.
10. What a Day! Fred Penner (Oak Street Music/The Children’s Group, $9.90 cassette, $16.98 CD, ages 1 to 3) The ordinary delights of a child’s day are put into exuberant song by Penner, who can’t help sounding like he’s dancing when he’s singing.