Smart Kids 2019

FREE & open to all!

Est. 2016, SMART KIDS is a free, family-friendly summer film series at the Art Theater. Smart Kids 2019 plays weekends in July & early August.

We are thrilled to announce the line-up for our 2019 Smart Kids International Children’s Film Series! As in previous years, the series is designed to bring you a selection of the best children’s movies from around the world while keeping admission free and open to All. From the UK & Brazil to France & eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland), the films in this year’s line-up are entertaining, unique, and guaranteed to engage the mind and move the spirit.

The program opens with the beloved PADDINGTON 2, which tells the story of a Peruvian bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) who lives in London and sets his eyes on a very expensive pop-up book that he wants to buy as a birthday present for his Aunt Lucy. He devises a plan to buy the book but there is a wrinkle, which sets off a series of adventures involving Hugh Grant as a has-been actor who now does dog food commercials, Aunt Lucy’s delectable marmalade recipe, and an unexpected application of candy apples. A movie you will want to hug, PADDINGTON 2 is brilliant, hilarious, and full of Chaplinesque visual gags set in a Wes Anderson-style universe. Boasting a phenomenal 100% critic score rating (Rotten Tomatoes) based on 229 reviews, it is the third best reviewed animated movie of all time (after Inside Outand Coco). You don’t have to have seen the first movie to enjoy it though we suspect you will seek it out afterwards. PADDINGTON 2 will be preceded by a secret animated short (just trust us on it).

TITO AND THE BIRDS is a gorgeous Brazilian animated film that blends oil-paining with digital effects to craft a unique and captivating visual style. At its center is an incredibly timely allegory about a world consumed by a fear epidemic that is fueled in no small part by news-media scaremongering. With thick, Impressionistic brushstrokes moving over a smooth digital canvas, TITO AND THE BIRDS will keep you in its thrall visually while telling a story that is as current and relevant in the United States as it is in Brazil.

In DILILI IN PARIS – the latest feature by acclaimed animated film director Michel Ocelot (Kirikou and the Sorceress) – a young French and Kanak girl named Dilili is on a journey through Paris during the Belle Époque era. Not all is well, however, in turn of the century Paris. Young girls are disappearing without a trace and Dilili and her friends set out on a quest to solve the mystery of who is behind the kidnappings. While on her mission Dilili meets some of the most notable artists, writers, sculptors, and inventors of the era, including Monet, Marcel Proust, Camille Claudel, Gustave Eiffel, Sarah Bernhardt and many more. Combining a brilliant and intrepid protagonist, a comprehensive glimpse of French culture and art in early 20thcentury Paris, and a powerful story, all rendered in exquisite visuals, DILILI IN PARIS is a rare feat of animated filmmaking that will leave you hoping for a sequel.

The animals of THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES tell three stories about their lives on a farm somewhere in the French countryside: a baby delivery goes awry when a stork breaks its wing and has to entrust the farm animals with delivering the precious package; after staging an elaborate heist from a henhouse, a fox is raising three chickens dreaming of being big bad foxes one day; Father Christmas has been befallen by an accident and three farm animals take it upon themselves to deliver presents to children and save Christmas! Full of wild imaginings that verge on the subversive, THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES is oodles of fun for the whole family.

We close Smart Kids 2019 with the documentary LIYANA, in which ten children (ages 9 to 12) living at Likhaya Lemphilo Lensha, an orphanage in eSwatini, come together to create a fictional character called Liyana and send her on an adventure. In that effort the children are guided by acclaimed writer and anti-apartheid activist Gcina Mhlope whose sensitive approach helps them transform traumatic memories into a tale of hope and faith in one’s community. With care and compassion the filmmakers (Aaron & Amanda Kopp) weave documentary footage of the children telling Liyana’s story with animation that gives it form to underscore the richness and complexity of the young narrators’ imaginations and the cathartic power of storytelling.

From pure fun to thoughtful & sensitive engagement with distant cultures, the films in this year’s series explore a variety of topics and visual styles while remaining respectful of both their subjects and you as the viewer. They are best seen on a big screen, in a dark theater, with a community of movie lovers. So whether you are a kid in an adult’s body, a coterie of movie buffs, or a family with children, mark your calendars and join us for Smart Kids 2019 at the Art!

Dora Valkanova
Ph.D. Candidate,
Institute of Communications Research @ UIUC
Smart Kids Guest Curator

For more information about suggested age for each film and full content disclosure visit Commonsense Media.

This program would not be possible without the support of our generous sponsors.*

Paddington 2

Recommended for ages 6+

PG, 103 minutes

While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s hundredth birthday, Paddington sees a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it. But when the book is stolen, it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief.

Tito and the Birds

Recommended for ages 12+

NR, 73 minutes

Tito is a shy 10-year-old boy who lives with his mother. When an unusual epidemic starts to spread, making people sick whenever they get scared, Tito quickly discovers that the cure is somehow related to his missing father’s research on bird song. He embarks on a journey with his friends to find the antidote.

Dilili in Paris

Recommended for ages 9+

NR, 95 minutes

With the help of her delivery-boy friend, Dilili, a young Kanak, investigates a spate of mysterious kidnappings of young girls that is plaguing Belle Epoque Paris. In the course of her investigation she encounters a series of extraordinary characters, each of whom provides her with clues that will help her in her quest.

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales…

Recommended for all ages

G, 83 minutes

The countryside isn’t always as calm and peaceful as it’s made out to be, and the animals on this farm are particularly agitated: a fox who mothers a family of chicks, a rabbit who plays the stork, and a duck who wants to be Santa Claus. If you think life in the country is a walk in the park, think again!


Recommended for ages 11+

NR, 77 minutes

LIYANA is a genre-defying documentary that tells the story of five children in the Kingdom of Eswatini who turn past trauma into an original fable about a girl named Liyana who embarks on a perilous quest to save her young twin brothers. The film weaves her animated journey together with poetic documentary scenes to create an inspiring tale of perseverance and hope.

*Special Thanks to:


MTD Logo Blue-Letters-Red-Swoosh
Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District


First Mid Bank
Prairie Farms and Creamery
European Union Center at the University of Illinois

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