When I was a kid, my introduction to classical music was via Bugs Bunny cartoons. That's where I first experienced composers like Wagner ("Kill the Rabbit!") and Rossini ("Although your face looks like it might have gone through a machine..."). And who can forget Michigan J. Frog's rendition of Rossini's "Largo al Factotum?" ("La, la-la-la-la-la-la LA la!")
For better or worse, kids aren't watching the old WB cartoons like they used to. Maybe they're not PC enough or look too faded next to the awesomeness of The Clone Wars. But kids still need to be exposed to classical music in a way that's accessible. That's why I recently took my son to an evening of John Williams's music, conducted by the maestro himself.
Besides the fun atmosphere (like a mini-Comic-Con, people were all decked out in Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Superman garb), my son really enjoyed watching and listening to the big orchestra play all his favorites: "Princess Leia's Theme," "The Imperial March," "Luke's Theme," and also the theme from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Having studied classical music in college, I was able to give him special insight and explain which instruments he should watch as different sections of the orchestra brought forth different parts of the themes. If a similar concert comes to your town, I strongly recommend it as a great intro to the symphony orchestra.
Two great things have happened since the concert:
First, I notice when I'm driving him to school in the morning and have the local classical station on the radio, he'll call out which instruments he hears playing. And while not always correct, at least we're not listening to The Backyardigans and Yo Gabba Gabba every day now.
But even better, once, on the way to school, the radio was playing "Habanera" from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen and my son called out: "Hey dad! It's the song from Up!" Indeed it was! If you remember the good folks at Pixar used it extremely effectively when Mr. Fredricksen was coming down the stairlift to get to the main floor of the house.
It doesn't get much better than that! Pixar will be his WB.