Growing up in the early 2000s meant growing up with live-action films based on cartoons and shows from the decades of my parents and grandparents that were considered classics. While my knowledge about these characters or the world they inhabited was limited to the TV Land channel and Boomerang, there was joy in the beautifully absurd yet grounded worlds of Cat in the Hat, the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and 1992’s Beverly Hillbillies

In an era of gritty remakes and reboots becoming the Hollywood standard, what seems to be the lack of creativity has some reflecting on a time when remakes and reboots were bright, satirical, and campy. 

Kinder camp, a genre difficult to define yet undeniably recognizable, emphasized the importance of set design while the film’s messages were clever critiques on society easy enough for all ages to understand, according to ModernGurlz. Her video breaks down the characteristics of kinder camp during its rise and fall in cinema.

Check out her full video on the niche genre below.

What Is Kinder Camp? 

Kinder camp films are like a walk down memory lanes with characters you know and love from sitcoms or cartoons from your childhood clashing with the current culture. Often regarded as a kid’s movie or a comedy that doesn’t reinvent the wheel of humor, kinder camp pushes the envelope to make a statement. 

Camp is anything that is deliberately amusing, theatrical, exaggerated, and riddled with irony to make a statement among its audience. Unfortunately, the word "camp" has transformed to describe anything so bad that it's good, when really those movies are considered "kitschy" films.

"Kinder" comes from the childlike whimsy of the world and the story, creating a nostalgia-fueled response to the film’s characters and their behavior in their world. 

Where parody aims to point out the flaws in the genre of work they are replicating, and satire uses humor to point out flaws in human culture and behavior, kinder camp marries satire, parody, and camp together to create a story with intention rather than setting up a punch line.

Josie_and_the_pussycats_kinder_camp'Josie and the Pussycats'Credit: Universal Pictures

Kinder camp is over the top on purpose to prove a point. Since the films in the genre were primarily based on family-friendly media, the hints of playfulness and silliness were often unavoidable and decided to lean into the outlandish worlds through its uses of cartoonish set pieces, practical effects, colorful costume designs, and over-the-top performances. 

To contrast this kid-friendly world, paradoxical humor that was a metacommentary on the source material was written, often making the characters self-aware parodies of themselves. The subtext of characters like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was dramatized, turning Shaggy from a laid-back dude from the 60s to a full-on stoner in the early 2000s. 

The one rule kinder camp films tend to follow was creating a message that all ages would understand, seeing the dark underbelly of all the colorful set pieces. Many films focused on anti-capitalist ideas and the explosion of workers and child labor. These messages don’t drag the story down or feel preachy, but, instead, highlight the shortcomings of the culture while paying homage to a time of blissful ignorance. 

Chick_shaggy_in_scooby_doo_2Matthew Lillard as Shaggy Chick in 'Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The History of Kinder-Camp 

Kinder camp began to appear in the early 90s as an experiment to profit off of nostalgia in a time full of cynicism. In 1991, a contemporary adaptation of The Addams Family was released, putting the off-kilter family from the 1960s in a modern world. The original series was created as a commentary on the hypocrisy of the nuclear family dynamics in the mid-20th century, carrying over into the 90s film which found that the bizarre Addams family was far more grounded than their 90s neighbors. 

Although the film received mixed reviews from critiques, it struck a chord with audiences, and a sequel was produced and released two years later, finding more success through cutting-edge commentary on conservatism and societal flaws through macabre humor.

The success of The Addams Family franchise inspired more Hollywood executives to finance projects with a similar tone and visual language. Most of these films were not able to perfect the tone of kinder camp, creating shifts in tone that could give audiences whiplash. 

Yet the proven success of the satirical and nostalgic-fueled formula, Hollywood knew that this genre had potential greatness. The result was that the remake machine went into overdrive, pumping out newer adaptations of films like Flipper and Beverly Hillbillies that were incredibly straightforward in their interpretations, which made the films lackluster and poorly received by critics and audiences. 

The_beverly_hillbillies_kinder_camp'Beverly Hillbillies'Credit: 20th Century Fox

As the 2000s rolled around with its naturally ironic and eyebrow-raising style and sensibility, kinder camp made a comeback with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The live-action film received mixed reactions on its release with some saying the film’s message was too dark and mature for its targeted audience. However, the production design was showstopping, reflecting the kooky, whimsical, unsymmetrical world that filled the pages of Dr. Suess’ books. 

Then, Shrek, one of the greatest animated movies, came out four months later with the familiar sprinkling of fairytale visual language mixed with that iconic adult humor. The film not only shook the industry but helped find a place for adult humor and satirical commentary in children’s media. 

With these two films, Hollywood pushed for adult-friendly takes on children’s movies once again. 

Although many kinder camp films were adaptions of past material, some films with original ideas like Down with Love, Zoolander, and Sky High were able to replicate the tone and aesthetic of the genre. Eventually, the oversaturation of the genre caused viewers to look for something darker that didn’t make fun of the problems in life but faced them head-on. 

Sky_high_kinder_camp'Sky High'Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

As someone who grew up with kinder camp films, there is something simple and wonderful about the blunt humor met with strange looks from the characters and some of the audience members. Kinder camp helped shift humor into the bizarre isolation meant for the people who get it—and those who don’t are overwhelmed with feeling out of step with the times. 

While the gritty reboot and remakes are still dominating our screens, we can appreciate the nostalgic attempts to blend our childhood with our adulthood without changing the characters to become edgy, dark, sexy teens trying to solve a mystery.

The gritty era of shows and films is coming to an end. What new style and genre will be for us on the other side? 

What do you think of kinder camp? Let us know what your favorite film from the genre is in the comments below!

Source: ModernGurlz