The National Film Board of Canada maintains a large online archive of its films, with many high-quality shorts that offer young viewers a rich alternative to the YouTube rabbit hole. You can stream most of the content for free at nfb.ca; small fees are charged if you want to actually download a title. Whimsical videos for young children are available, but the site is strongest on material that might appeal to tweens and teens, particularly those with an interest in film or animation.
Here are a few classics – or just try searching the “cartoons for kids” channel for animation, or the “kids movies” channel for a selection of live-action and educational films.
The Tooth (2017)
Part of the Comic Book Chronicles series dedicated to moving the work of graphic novelists into animation, this three-minute treasure features a delinquent dad and a kid who is expecting a visit from the Tooth Fairy. The simplicity of line drawings by Quebec graphic novelist Guy Delisle belie the tricky narrative. (Not recommended for those still young enough to believe in fairies.)
The Danish Poet (2006)
Torill Kove’s delightful version of the old How I Met Your Mother narrative, this Oscar-winning 15-minute film tells a deceptive romantic tale about a Danish poet and his infatuation with a Norwegian writer. Kove’s wordless Threads (2017), about the relationship between a mother and an adopted child, is also available.
The Girl Who Hated Books (2006)
A fabulous piece of animation by Jo Meuris in which Meena learns to love books – just so she can get some pesky monkeys, an inconvenient elephant and lonesome wolf to climb back into their stories.
How Do They Put the Centres in Chocolates? (1997)
Part of an educational series – you can also learn how they make money, potato chips and oatmeal cookies – this wordless live-action short features hypnotic footage shot inside a chocolate factory.
How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly (1995)
Who doesn’t love dinos? This utterly fictional bit of evolutionary history by Munro Ferguson should appeal to all ages.
The Cat Came Back (1988)
Set to the 19th-century comic song, Cordell Barker’s Oscar-nominated animated short imagines the increasingly desperate action when old Mr. Johnson cannot get rid of a small yellow kitten.
The Sweater (1980)
This is an animated adaptation of the classic Roch Carrier story The Hockey Sweater. In the most mortifying episode of his childhood in rural Quebec, the young narrator receives a blue-and-white Maple Leafs sweater from the Eaton’s catalogue instead of the red, white and blue jersey worn by “les Canadiens” and the legendary Maurice Richard.
Log Driver’s Waltz (1979)
With a whimsical segue from live action to animation and the McGarrigle sisters on the vocals, this sweet cartoon animates the song about the young woman who would rather dance with the sure-footed log driver.
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