Complaints lead to rating change from PG to M.
Under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, if a film receives an unrestricted rating in Australia (such as G, PG or M) then it is automatically given the same rating in New Zealand. This is why Disney's A Christmas Carol was released in New Zealand with the rating 'PG some scenes may scare very young children'.
The film is a retelling of a classic Christmas story.
Disney's A Christmas Carol tells the story of an experience which changes a horrible, grumpy, mean old man into a kind and compassionate person.
Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells him that he will be visited by three more ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge visions of his youth and how he became greedy and obsessive about his own wealth; the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge that Tiny Tim, the son of his employee, is sick and will soon die; the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge the consequences of his greed.
Scrooge wakes to find that it is still Christmas Day. A changed man, he runs into the town giving donations wherever he can. With the guidance of the three ghosts, he has realised the importance of family, happiness and the Christmas spirit.
When Disney's A Christmas Carol opened in cinemas in December 2009, the Classification Office received complaints from parents who had taken their children to see the film. They told us their children were frightened by the film, and that the scary content was not suitable for a PG rating. Parents also felt that advertising for the film had been misleading as it did not show any of the scary or dark parts.
My children were reduced to tears and we left after about an hour of the movie. They have been anxious and not slept well since. They have seen numerous PG movies and some M... but have never been exposed to such disturbing and terrifying images. I am concerned that this film is marketed at young children and their parents, but is simply not suitable. I think this film may be doing real emotional harm to children 10 and under.Parent of 6 and 9 year-old children
This movie is not suitable for children under 9 at all. I was under the impression that, yes, there would be ghosts (I know the Dickens' plot) but that it would have good morals and be light-hearted. It is a dark movie with dark atmospheric music. It is also so realistic that the characters are more scary than your average animation. It is also not the sort of scare (like a sudden noise) that you get over. There were images in that movie that could stay with you well after you've gone to sleep.Parent of a 9 year-old child
A member of the public submitted the film for classification.
Because Disney's A Christmas Carol had been cross-rated, it had not been examined and classified using New Zealand's classification criteria. The Classification Act allows members of the public to ask the Chief Censor for permission to have cross-rated films assessed using our criteria. That's what happened in this case.
In his submission to have the film classified, the member of the public explained that the content of Disney's A Christmas Carol film was not of the same level as other PG films:
Despite the PG rating comparable with movies such as Alvin And The Chipmunks and other similar movies, this movie contains prolonged scenes of horror imagery. It is a disturbing and frightening movie and quite unsuitable for children. It is marketed as a Christmas family movie and this is most misleading. We attended the movie based on the benign trailer ad expecting it to be like other PG family films. [My children] were very disturbed and we left mid-film. I think this movie's classification should be raised to M given the violence and disturbing content.Parent's submission to have the film classified
Classification Office staff viewed the film and assessed it using the criteria set out in the Classification Act.
We considered the impact of seeing the film in 3D at the cinema. Seeing the film in 3D increased the impact of the frightening scenes. The classification decision on the film noted that:
After finishing work, Scrooge walks to his house. As Scrooge approaches the door he is startled by a green semi-transparent face with flowing hair in the place of his doorknocker. He reaches out to touch it and it screams at him. Several teeth fly out toward the viewer. This scene is among several that place emphasis on giving the viewer an unexpected shock, which is enhanced with the 3D format.Office of Film and Literature Classification decision
The film at times uses frightening images to tell the story. The Classification Office decision also noted that:
The film is reasonably frightening, with brief moments of pathos and humour to lighten the tone. There is considerable focus on Scrooge's terror and fear as he is led on an uncontrollable journey that includes, at one point, being shot into the stratosphere and then left to fall to earth. Scrooge's redemption at the end is uplifting but, overall, the film chooses to focus on the supernatural and frightening aspects of the tale.Office of Film and Literature Classification decision
The Classification Office concluded that the film was well-made, using cutting-edge computer technology to create a haunting, yet exhilarating, retelling of a classic story. However, it has elements that would scare children and material of an adult nature that children would not understand. These factors led to a New Zealand classification of 'M contains content that may disturb'.
'M' labels signal that a film has content that is more suitable for audiences aged 16 and over. 'M' is an unrestricted classification, so anyone of any age can still see the film. However, the 'M contains content that may disturb' New Zealand classification for Disney's A Christmas Carol will help people here decide if they want to see the film or show it to young children.
RP16: graphic content may disturb.
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R13: contains violence, offensive language, drug use, and sex scenes.
Initially classified as R16 due to the violent and sexual material, and the depictions of drug use. On appeal by United Pictures this was reviewed and re-classified by the Board of Review. Find out more about 8 Mile
PG: some scenes may scare very young children.
Originally cross-rated G, we received complaints from parents that their young children were frightened by the film. As a result, the Chief Censor called the film in to be examined by the Classification Office. Find out more about Happy Feet
M: contains offensive language and sexual references.
This film had received its PG rating through the cross-rating process. After complaints from the public, the Chief Censor called the film in to be classified. Find out more about Land of the Lost
RP13: contains violence, drug use and offensive language.
The unusual RP classification is used where a film presents ideas or issues that could challenge younger viewers but might still be valuable to them if they have support while watching. Find out more about Matariki
R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
RP16: contains graphic violence (video).
Different versions of the film have different classifications as the law changed between the release of the film and the subsequent video. Find out more about Once Were Warriors
R15: contains violence and content that may disturb.
The film is about the massacre of 13 people at Aramoana - a tragic event in New Zealand's history - and this depiction of real life events required special consideration by the Classification Office. Find out more about Out of the Blue
R16: contains horror scenes and offensive language.
Members of the public complained to the Classification Office about the film's unrestricted M rating. They felt that the film was very frightening and contained extremely disturbing themes. Find out more about Paranormal Activity
R13: contains violence, offensive language and sexual references.
The "highly offensive language, much of it sexual in nature" in the film contributed to the R13 classification, as did the film's "crassly homophobic sentiments". Find out more about Paul
R15: depicts graphic and realistic war scenes.
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R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
R16: contains violence, offensive language and content that may disturb (Blu-ray).
The Blu-ray edition has a higher rating as it also includes a short film, Manjha, that has the theme of sexual abuse. Find out more about Slumdog Millionaire
R16: contains horror scenes.
Members of the public raised concerns about the M rating on the film as anyone, including young children, could potentially watch it. They felt an age restriction would be more appropriate. The Chief Censor called it in for examination. Find out more about The Grudge
R15: prolonged sequences of brutal violence, torture and cruelty.
The Office was inundated with letters of complaint and support over its R16 classification, which had included public consultation. On appeal, it was re-classified by the Board of Review. Find out more about The Passion of the Christ
The real nightmare before Christmas - way too scary for the kiddies and not nearly warm enough for audiences of all ages.Richard Knight, Windy City Times