The book of The Gruffalo is a modern classic, and this animated film adaptation definitely lives up to its potential. The story line has an impulsive rhythm and is beautifully narrated and acted by a cast of top names (Robbie Coltrane as the Gruffalo, Helena Bonham-Carter as narrator, James Corden as the mouse). And the illustrations and animations are exquisite - it's a loving (and sometimes dark) depiction of life on the forest floor.
What's the storyline? A mouse walking through the woods uses his wits - and his ability to empathise with his enemies - to survive the hungry jaws of many predators, including the dreaded Gruffalo himself. It's a triumph of David's quick thinking over Goliath's knashing teeth and somehow very comforting for that, especially in the company of young children.
At first viewing this may not seem ot be an empathy film because it's all about animals preying on each other. But children can only get in on the joke of how the mouse outwits his fellow forest dwellers once they have mastered the art of stepping into the shoes (or paws) of others. Two-year-olds go wide eyed at the appearance of the Gruffalo in the woods, but it takes a three-year-old to grin knowingly when the Gruffalo falls for the mouse's clever lines. If your kids 'get' The Gruffalo, they have understood the concept of other minds - and that is the gateway to developing empathy.
The book is great too, especially for reading aloud. I'd recommend reading teh book first so the story is familiar, then viewing the film.