Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Maureen Fam, CEO/Founder, Baobab Studios – The World’s Leading Indie Interactive Narrative Animation Studio

March 28th, 2020

Today, it is our pleasure to introduce you to a female leader in animation film production. Maureen Fam, CEO and co-founder Baobab Studios. Six-time Emmy winning Baobab Studios is the world’s leading independent interactive narrative animation studio. Their mission: Bring out your sense of wonder. Inspire you to dream. Make YOU matter. Baobab has won an Emmy for Best Interactive Media for every qualifying project the studio has created. Named Fast Company’s 2018 Most Innovative Company, Baobab is creatively led by Eric Darnell, the writer and director of Antz and all four Madagascar films. In a first, Hollywood is taking Baobab’s VR IP to become a feature film: Roth Kirschenbaum Films (​Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and The Huntsman) has signed on to adapt ​INVASION! into a traditional feature film.

Check out Gerry O’s interview with Maureen from earlier this month.

Baobab has won six Emmy awards as well as the first-ever Annie award for Best VR Production. Crow: The Legend, both a linear animated short film and an interactive VR experience, won the most awards of any animated program or series, traditional and/or interactive, at the 2019 Emmy Awards. Baobab has released Invasion!, Asteroids!, Jack, Crow: The Legend, and Bonfire to commercial and critical acclaim. Their work (traditional, VR, and AR) has gone viral landing on YouTube’s trending category. 


Their work stars diverse talents such as John Legend, Oprah, Constance Wu, Diego Luna, Liza Koshy, Tye Sheridan, Elizabeth Banks, Ethan Hawke, Lupita Nyong’o, and Ali Wong.

Lauded as the “Pixar of Virtual Reality” (CNet, The Wall Street Journal), Baobab’s advisors include Alvy Ray Smith (Pixar co-founder), Glenn Entis (DreamWorks Animation co-founder), legendary Oscar-winning animator Glen Keane, Mireille Soria, Kevin Lin (Twitch co-founder).


Investors include: Comcast Ventures, HTC, Samsung, Shari Redstone and Liz Murdoch’s Advancit/Freelands Cap, The Chernin Group, Horizons Ventures, 20th Century Fox, EMP, Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund (Alibaba), Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

Maureen has held leadership roles in film, gaming, and the consumer web. She was most recently vice president of games at Zynga, where she oversaw three game studios, including the FarmVille sequels, which contributed to 40% of the company’s revenues. Previously, she worked on Pixar’s Toy Story 3 film and at eBay in product management and UI design. Her most recent collaboration, “The Dam Keeper,” directed by Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo, was nominated for the 2015 Oscar® Best Animated Short. She received her undergraduate degree in an interdisciplinary program in computer science, art and psychology from Stanford University graduating Phi Beta Kappa and earned her master’s degree in business from Harvard University.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Author’s Page – Amazon
World According to G

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Industry Veteran Glenn Ross Shares Words of Wisdom and Insight with KIDS FIRST!

March 21st, 2020

Glenn Ross, General Manager and Executive Vice President, Universal 1440 Entertainment

You are sure to enjoy Gerry O.’s interview with industry veteran Glenn Ross, sharing his wisdom and advice for kids wanting to pursue a career in the entertainment business. Take a look at his video interview below and read here more about him.

A veteran in the global entertainment arena, Glenn Ross has served as General Manager and Executive Vice President of Universal 1440 Entertainment since March 2005.  He oversees the development and production of live-action and animated productions for distribution in all media worldwide, fueling Universal’s aggressive strategy of capitalizing on the power of its high-profile properties and franchises to create top-quality filmed entertainment content.

Mr. Ross and his team have produced movies based on the wildly successful Bring It On film franchise. Additionally, he was responsible for the Tony Award-nominated Broadway Musical, Bring It On: The Musical.  Mr. Ross oversaw the fall 2006 production of the Daytime Emmy Award®-winning Curious George series,the #1 animated television pre-school program on PBS Kids.     

Universal 1440 Entertainment has also produced sequels to The Land Before Time, American Pie Presents, Death Race, Scorpion King, Beethoven, The Little Rascals, Veggie Tales, Dragonheart, The Little Engine That Could and the latest installment in the Chucky franchise.

Mr. Ross came to Universal from Lionsgate Family Home Entertainment where he served as Executive Vice President and was responsible for the acquisition, production, marketing and day-to-day activities for the company’s family entertainment projects. Concurrently, as EVP of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Mr. Ross oversaw all the marketing efforts for the division.  He joined the company in January 1998 when it was formerly known as Artisan Home Entertainment.

Prior to his tenure at Lionsgate, Mr. Ross worked as Senior Vice President of Hallmark Home Entertainment where he was responsible for the acquisition, marketing and sales for a broad range of films.  Before Hallmark, Mr. Ross held the position of Senior Vice President of Republic Pictures, overseeing worldwide theatrical, home video and television marketing. Previously, he served as Vice President of Marketing at RCA/Columbia Home Video.  Mr. Ross began his career as Director of Creative Services for RSO (The Robert Stigwood Organization) Records. He holds a BS from the Philadelphia College of Art, and is a Trustee of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Author’s Page – Amazon
World According to G

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Introducing industry leader, Geneva Wasserman, SVP, Condé Nast Entertainment

March 13th, 2020

Today in our third installment of our CSuite Interviews, we’d like to introduce you to Geneva Wasserman, SVP Motion Pictures, Condé Nast Entertainment.

Wasserman, a nearly 20-year veteran of the entertainment industry, previously was co-founder and executive producer of Project Z Entertainment where she is credited for producing Door Man and Godfrey.  While there, Wasserman and Tim Marlowe struck a deal with Microsoft to develop and implement proprietary artificial intelligence software tools to better predict market reaction to entertainment and advertising content.

Previously, Wasserman was president of Whitener Entertainment Group, a film/TV production house focused on family and animation, and president of WV Enterprises, Wilmer Valderrama’s film and television production company, where she produced Seoul Searching and Gnome Alone. She also co-founded publishing and advertising platforms True360VR and 360 AdSpots.

Wasserman started her career as an attorney with law firm Gray Cary. She has worked as an entertainment licensing attorney and in business development, finance and production roles on projects at Disney, Lionsgate, Oxygen, DreamWorks Animation, Fox Searchlight, 20th Century Fox and Discovery, among others.

Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE) is an award-winning next generation studio and distribution network with entertainment content across film, television, premium digital video, social, virtual reality and OTT channels. CNE develops, produces and distributes video content across 17 brands, including Bon Appétit, Glamour, GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Wired. We can’t wait to see what Ms. Wasserman brings to life at CNE.

Interview by Nathalia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

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Sonic Boom Season 1, Volume 2 * Nearly Five Hours of Laugh-Out-Loud, Animated Fun

March 9th, 2020

It’s a Sonic you haven’t seen before an ensemble comedy that pokes fun at action-adventure storytelling, but still manages to deliver plenty of adrenaline! Wherever he goes and whatever he s up against, Sonic the Hedgehog is aided by his sidekick, Tails, and his friends Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks and, of course, attacked by his arch nemesis, Dr. Eggman. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “I like this DVD because it is very entertaining.  Each story line is funny; it has a lot of action and delivers a lot of adrenaline. The graphics are amazing and the colors are very bright.  The voice-overs are funny and they fit each character.  The music is okay. I especially like the theme song, which is very catchy. Will C. adds, “Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2 is nearly five hours of laugh-out-loud, animated fun, featuring your favorite hedgehog. The physical humor and amusing adventures will keep kids entertained for hours on end. The message of this series is that friends are stronger together.” Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer wraps it up with, “I am quite aware of Sonic the Hedgehog as a video game character, but have never watched any of his shows. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched this action-packed Season One, Volume 2 DVD. There is a lot of action as Sonic and his friends outwit Sonic’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman.” See their full reviews below.

Sonic Boom Season 1, Volume 2 
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I like this DVD because it is very entertaining.  Each story line is funny; it has a lot of action and delivers a lot of adrenaline.

The Sonic Boom, Season 1, Volume 2 DVD, is over four hours of action, fun and entertainment. The package comes with two DVDs, which include 26 episodes.  What is nice is the gift set comes with two toys, Knuckles and Tails.  Sonic (Roger Craig Smith) is a blue hedgehog that has a sidekick, Tails, who helps him in his adventures. Sonic’s friends – Knuckles (Sebastian Desjours), Amy (Cindy Robinson) and Sticks (Nika Futterman) – help him attack his arch nemesis Dr. Eggman (Mike Pollock).  Each episode has a different story line.  The episodes do not follow a sequence, which it means that each episode is always a different adventure and that’s what makes it so entertaining.

The graphics are amazing and the colors are very bright.  The voice-overs are funny and they fit each character.  The music is okay. I especially like the theme song, which is very catchy.  My favorite episode is “Bro Down Showdown,” because it’s extremely funny.  It is about how Amy had to leave for a little bit, so Sonic and Knuckles ask her if they can stay at her house while she is gone.  Amy says yes, but there is one rule – no foolish things in her house.  So the first thing they do is eat nachos and spill on the couch.  Conveniently a commercial comes on saying, “if you win the best bros contest you win a brand new couch.” They immediately enter the contest.  It turns out Dr. Eggman is spying on them.  He arrives and starts bickering with Sonic about a bogus little thing.  A guy working there sees them fighting and pairs them up, even though Knuckles is going to be Sonic’s buddy.  Knuckels finds a new partner and tries to win the couch.  This is my favorite episode because this all happens, just because they spilled a nacho.

The moral to the stories is about “teamwork making the dream work,” because in each episode Sonic is helped by his sidekick and best friend, to either defeat Dr. Eggman or to enjoy their different adventures.

I give Sonic Boom, Season 1, Volume 2, 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, but adults can watch it with their kids and may find it amusing too. This DVD is available now so look for it! 

Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2
By Will C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2 is nearly five hours of laugh-out-loud, animated fun, featuring your favorite hedgehog. The physical humor and amusing adventures will keep kids entertained for hours on end.

The DVDs include 26 action-packed episodes, and if you get the limited edition gift set, you’ll also get two action figures—either Sonic with Dr. Eggman or Knuckles with Tails. In every episode, Sonic and his friends protect their village from the evil Dr. Eggman. Of course, no matter how crazy the situation, Sonic and friends are able to save the day in the end.

There are some really funny storylines, like when Sonic and Knuckles spill nacho cheese on Amy‘s couch while house-sitting. They try cleaning it up with grape soda, which just makes it worse! Their next idea is to try to win a new couch by going on a game show, but they fail and one of Dr. Eggman’s missiles ends up exploding the couch anyway. In another episode, it’s hilarious when Sonic grabs the last chili dog that Dr. Eggman wanted, so to be nice Sonic goes all the way to the warehouse to bring his nemesis a chili dog. But Dr. Eggman wanted extra relish, so he throws a tantrum by trying to destroy the whole town by shooting it with lasers and attacking it with robots. Of course this is nothing Sonic and friends can’t handle. One of the best jokes is when the boys compete against the girls in a survivor challenge. The girls decide the losers will have to do everyone’s laundry, but Sonic says, “That’s not fair for us boys – we don’t even wear pants!”

The message of this series is that friends are stronger together. There’s probably not a lot of content that parents will object to, but there is some cartoon violence that kids might be tempted to copy. The only thing that’s a problem for me is that there is one episode out of the 26 that’s only available with Spanish audio, no English at all. Unfortunately I can’t understand what they’re saying in the episode, “Fire in a Crowded Workshop.”

I give this series 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 12, and adults might enjoy watching with their kids as well. Sonic Boom: Season 1 Volume 2 isavailable on DVD February 2020.

Sonic Boom Season 1, Volume 2 
By Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

I am quite aware of Sonic the Hedgehog as a video game character, but have never watched any of his shows. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched this action-packed Season One, Volume 2 DVD. There is a lot of action as Sonic and his friends outwit Sonic’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman. I like that there isn’t just the typical “good wins over evil.” It is expected that good will win, but it is fun to watch too.  Some of the humor is a bit dry if you are an adult watching the show. But, it is appropriate for children ages 5 through 12. I like that it shows teamwork and friendship, and all of the action makes it very entertaining to watch. The characters are very likable; my favorites are Sonic and Amy. I like that the characters are unique and each brings something to the show. Of course, Dr. Eggman is not a favorite of mine, but he also makes the series entertaining, especially since Sonic and his pals usually outwit him. I give this 4 out of 5 stars for its entertainment value. This DVD would make a great gift for a Sonic fan, since it is a Limited Edition Gift Set that includes Knuckles and Tails figurines. Reviewed by Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Reviewer

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Onward * Easily One of Our Favorite Pixar Films. Touching Story, Fun, Exciting, Adventurous!

March 5th, 2020

Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “As of now, this film is easily one of my favorite Pixar films. I adore the touching story and especially the world building. Overall, Onward is an amazing film.” Zoe C. adds, “Onward is fun, exiting, adventurous, and an emotional roller coaster. Pixar delivers another wonderful film that is very appealing to new generations and easy to relate, despite characters from another world.” Jolleen M. contributes, “I loved every bit of this movie so much that I cannot pick one part as my favorite. The film induces such a wide range of emotions. Tears of joy, as well as sympathy were shed, because of all the beautiful moments. Ian and Barley have a sweet relationship from the beginning, but the way that their relationship as brothers develops is wonderful to watch.” Will C. says, “The animators have created a beautiful imaginative world with lots of clever details that will make you want to watch again and again. The voice acting is top notch, with Tom Holland and Chris Pratt showing a range of emotions and humor as Ian and Barley. Octavia Spencer as Manticore brings her character to life with frantic energy.” And Katherine S. wraps it up with, “The messages of this movie are that family is the most important thing and sometimes what you’re looking for has been with you the whole time. This film does have some magical scenes that kids should not imitate. It also reminds us to always pay your parking tickets.” See their full reviews below.

Onward
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

As of now, this film is easily one of my favorite Pixar films. I adore the touching story and especially the world building. Overall, Onward is an amazing film. Onward takes in a world much like our own, except it’s populated with fantasy creatures. We follow two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot as they discover magic still exists and thus go on a quest to revive their father for one day.

So, first the animation. I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. Since it is Pixar, the animation is absolutely outstanding. But, I specifically want to discuss the world in which Onward takes place. There are so many creative and diverse character designs and representations of mythological creatures (which I appreciate as a mythology fan). The world building is probably some of the best I’ve ever seen. I have contemplated the idea of a suburban fantasy, so I’m really happy seeing that idea brought to life. There’s a lot of really funny gags surrounding this idea, such as an historically accurate “Dungeons and Dragons” and unicorns becoming the equivalent of raccoons. You can tell the artists really enjoyed designing the settings.

However, the world is not the only enjoyable aspect of this film. The characters are especially fun. The two brothers, Ian and Barley, have amazing chemistry. This is probably thanks to their voices actors – Tom Holland playing Ian and Chris Pratt playing Barley. They already have a connection from the Marvel movies, so their relationship feels real. But Ian and Barley aren’t the only great characters in this movie. I would say my personal favorite character is The Manticore, played by Octavia Spencer. The Manticore is probably the funniest character and I really like her friendship with the brothers’ mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Speaking of which, Onward is really funny. There’s a specific scene involving The Manticore that caused me to laugh probably the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a Pixar movie. There are also a lot of gags involving the fact that the world is populated with fantasy creatures.

And as expected from a Pixar film, it’s pretty emotional. And, given the context of the plot, I feel this might be one of Pixar’s most heart wrenching films. When you think about it, who wouldn’t want to bring someone back, even for one day?

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. It comes out on March 6, 2020 so look for it.  

Onward
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Onward is fun, exiting, adventurous, and an emotional roller coaster. Pixar delivers another wonderful film that is very appealing to new generations and easy to relate, despite characters from another world.

Onward is a computer animated, urban fantasy film directed by Dan Scanlon, who also co-wrote the script with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin. The story follows brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), two teenage elf’s who embark on an extraordinary quest. Their goal is to try and see if there is magic left in the world, in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were younger. This is a story about bonding between father and son, and between two brothers.

(Zoe’s interview with Carlos Felipe Leon, shading art director, in Spanish)

Tom Holland, as Ian, the younger of the two brothers delivers a very subtle, but engaging interpretation that makes the audience immediately connect with his loner behavior. Chris Pratt, as Barley, the eldest brother, is vibrant, optimistic and his personality is almost opposite to his younger brother. Octavia Spencer plays Manticore, a fearless creature who can fly and sends people on quests). I absolutely love Octavia’s performance and Manticore is my favorite character. I’ve always loved Octavia as an actress, so I was really exited that she voices this character. Another great voice is Laurel, the brother’s mother, by super fun and charismatic Julia Louise-Dreyfus.

The animation in this movie is very detailed and sometimes photo realistic. Pixar has developed digital animation over the years to a fine art, and truly this film displays that. You can see so many details in the characters’ facial expressions. If you look very closely you can see that the elves all have freckles! There is also a lot of emotion in this movie and the animation displays it so well.

I’m pretty sure everyone who watches this movie will cry at one point. I sure did. One of the fascinating aspects of Onward is how these fantasy creatures interact with each other and go through a journey of redemption and self discovery.

Onward is entertaining all the way, but some jokes don’t work out and, at some point, it’s a little hard to feel fully invested in one of the characters that appears only from his waist to his feet.

The message of this film is – believe. The magic in the film is a metaphor for our own ability of make things happen and letting out the light within ourselves.

I give Onward 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 13. Make sure to check out Onward in theaters on March 6, 2020.

Onward
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Onward has an amazing plot with lots of humor. The whole theater was laughing so much throughout, but there were also so many other emotions. Watching the film was an amazing rollercoaster and I learned a lot from it.

The film takes place in a fantasy world where many different species of creatures live. It follows the journey of two elves who are brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt). Ian is a shy, cautious person, while his older brother Barley is fearless and obsessed with quests and adventure. After Ian turns 16, their mother reveals a gift that their late father left for them. Their father died before Ian was born and Barley only has four memories of him. The gift includes a magical staff and a spell that will bring back their father for a day, so that he can see what his boys grew up to be. Ian manages to start the spell, but he is only able to resurrect the lower half of his father’s body before the crystal in the staff breaks. To be able to meet his father is everything to Ian, so along with Barley they go to find another crystal and bring the rest of their father back. 

Tom Holland and Chris Pratt have worked with each other before on other films, so they have a close relationship. You can see this when they voice Ian and Barley. It makes the film more enjoyable to watch, because they have such good chemistry. The animation is full of vibrant colors and magic. The creatures are all unique and have distinct personalities. The entire film is unique and filled with creative ideas, which pleasantly surprises the audience.

I loved every bit of this movie so much that I cannot pick one part as my favorite. The film induces such a wide range of emotions. Tears of joy, as well as sympathy were shed, because of all the beautiful moments. Ian and Barley have a sweet relationship from the beginning, but the way that their relationship as brothers develops is wonderful to watch.

There are so many lessons and messages that you could take away, but the most prominent one is about being grateful for what you have. Ian was always so focused on the fact that he was never able to meet his father that he looked past the things that he did have. Fortunately, he is able to realize that he’s had his brother Barley all his life, before it is too late.

Onward is such a well made and creative movie that kept me intrigued the entire time. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. It comes out in theaters March 6, 2020 so be sure to go and watch it!

Onward
By Will C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Onward is Disney/Pixar’s new action-packed animated movie with lots of magical laughs! There’s hilarious physical humor, exciting chases and fights, but it’s also a very moving film. You really feel the main characters’ sense of loss at not growing up with their father.

Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) are teenage elf brothers who live in a suburban mushroom house in a land that was formerly full of magic. They use a spell to bring their dad back to life, but only get his bottom half! They have 24 hours to complete a quest to finish the spell and see him one more time. All they need to finish the spell is the Phoenix gem, but finding it proves a lot more complicated than they first think. While they are working to bring him back, they have to bring their dad’s legs and feet along with them for the ride.

The animators have created a beautiful imaginative world with lots of clever details that will make you want to watch again and again. The voice acting is top notch, with Tom Holland and Chris Pratt showing a range of emotions and humor as Ian and Barley. Octavia Spencer as Manticore brings her character to life with frantic energy. The introduction of her character is hilarious! She’s a former magical adventurer turned family restaurant owner. I really like the part when Barley shrinks down to a tiny size due to Ian messing up a spell. I also like when Ian turns their boat into a cheese puff so they can eat their own transportation! I love Officer Colt and his catchphrase where he asks everyone if they are “working hard or hardly working.”

There are a lot of positive messages in this film about family and loyalty. Another message is that you can go searching for things you’ve never had in life, but you might find they were right with you all along. Parents of younger kids might want to watch out for some of the risky actions the brothers take, like when Ian walks off a cliff, trusting in his magic to keep him safe.

I give this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 5 to 17, and adults will like it too. You can see Onward in theaters everywhere starting March 6, 2020.

Onward
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I love Onward! It is a whimsical story filled with colorful and eccentric characters. Pixar nailed the animation, and the cast of voices is pure perfection.

Onward takes place in a magical world, that isn’t quite so magical anymore. Brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) are complete opposites in every way. Brave Barley is never is afraid to take a risk, especially when it involves magic. Ian, on the other hand, is quirky, and lacks confidence. Their mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is an important character as she is the glue keeping their family together.

The movie is inspired by the director, Dan Scanlon’s own childhood. I love the setting of this movie. It takes place in a modern town, where everyone lives in mushroom-shaped houses. Unicorns, once a majestic creature, are now more like raccoons than anything else. Adorable mini dragons are kept as pets. The voice-over actors are wonderful. Mel Rodriguez, who voices Officer Bronco, has the funniest laugh. Octavia Spencer, who voices The Manticore, acts as wild as a Manticore should. Tom Holland (Ian) perfectly portrays an awkward kid. My favorite character is Barley, because he is a classic rock loving boy. 

The messages of this movie are that family is the most important thing and sometimes what you’re looking for has been with you the whole time. This film does have some magical scenes that kids should not imitate. It also reminds us to always pay your parking tickets.

I give Onward 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. People with siblings will especially like it as will adults. Onward opens in theaters March 6, 2020.

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