The Imaginary parents guide

The Imaginary Parent Guide

Stunning animation almost compensates for a somewhat incoherent plot.

Overall B+

Netflix: An imaginary friend named Rudger is separated from the girl who imagined him and ends up in the Town of Imaginaries, where all forgotten Imaginaries live.

Release date July 5, 2024

Violence A-
Sexual Content A
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Why is The Imaginary rated PG? The MPAA rated The Imaginary PG for scary images, peril, thematic elements and some violence.

Run Time: 105 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Amanda (Rio Suzuki) spends hours every day playing with her imaginary best friend, Rudger (Kokoro Terada). But after a terrible accident, Rudger finds himself separated from Amanda and travels to the Town of Imaginaries, where other forgotten and lost Imaginaries go. As Rudger tries to adjust to his new life while still trying to get back to Amanda, he soon discovers a looming threat to all Imaginaries.

Imaginary friends are a fantastic conduit for storytelling because they open up unending creative possibilities, as does the medium of animation. What The Imaginary does fabulously well is embrace those possibilities and create a world teeming with life, color, and fantastical creations. I cannot speak highly enough of the animation and design of this film, which enriches and enhances the story far beyond what words alone could ever do.

Unfortunately, the story is where the film falters. It starts out well, with a great premise and character development, but somewhere in the second act it becomes increasingly convoluted and confusing. The plot itself is relatively simple, but the world building is complicated. There are all sorts of rules around the Imaginaries, which aren’t always followed and don’t make much sense. I had a hard time maintaining my focus because it felt like every few minutes there was a new rule introduced, which just made the world hard to follow.

That said, the writers tackle some important and mature themes around grief, growing up, loyalty, and finding your place in the world. I think it’s handled well, but perhaps too seriously for young audiences. My seven-year-old said the movie was “too sad” and some parts were boring. It’s not that this production is inappropriate for young children - in fact it’s one of the cleanest films I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s just focused on big ideas and character development, which doesn’t always provide the most exciting experience for younger viewers. For children who aren’t easily bored, there are great messages to be imparted, and adults will appreciate the artistry. I’m just not sure if those two things are enough to make this an enduring classic.

Directed by Yoshiyuki Momose. Starring Kokoro Terada, Rio Suzuki, Sakura Andô. Running time: 105 minutes. Theatrical release July 5, 2024. Updated

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The Imaginary
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Imaginary rated PG? The Imaginary is rated PG by the MPAA for scary images, peril, thematic elements and some violence.

Violence: A girl smacks a man in the face with a purse. There are moments of peril.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: None.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is mention of drinking beer but no on-screen consumption

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The Imaginary Parents' Guide

Why did Amanda create Rudger? How does he help her?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

There’s lots to choose from if you’re looking for kids’ books about imaginary friends.

In Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco, a young girl and an elephant do everything together. But everything isn’t as it seems.

Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones is a cat with an outsize imagination. In his pretend world, he’s a Chihuahua with other canine friends who fight bandits together.

As imagined by Sang-Keun Kim, Little Mole is lonely. In Little Mole’s Wish, he builds a friend from snow and shares his thoughts with it.

Dory Fantasmagory: The Real True Friend begins the titular series by Abby Hanlon. Dory’s siblings tell her to leave her imaginary friend at home but when Dory makes a real friend, her family think she’s fake.

An imaginary friend is so anxious to find a real person to be with that he leaves his home island and heads for the city to meet his perfect match. Written and illustrated by Dan Santat, The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend won the 2015 Caldecott Medal.

Older kids looking for more meat to their story will appreciate Crenshaw by award-winning author Katherine Applegate. In this tale, a homeless child finds a giant, imaginary cat to help him through difficult times.

And, of course, readers of all ages will have a blast with the Calvin and Hobbes comic series by the brilliant Bill Waterson.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

IF is a live-action film about imaginary friends which covers some of the same themes.

June and her mother have spent enjoyable hours dreaming up Wonder Park, an imaginary amusement park. When her mother is hospitalized, June can’t bear to return to their creation – until she discovers that it exists in the real world and has fallen into disarray without her.

In Christopher Robin, a man trapped in the demands of mid-life is recharged when the toy friends from his childhood come and find him.