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Animaniacs * Fresh and Relevant Content, With the Same Hilarious Craziness as the Original Show

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

They’re back! The Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner sister Dot, have a great time wreaking havoc and mayhem in the lives of everyone they meet.  After returning to their beloved home, the Warner Bros. water tower, the siblings waste no time in causing chaos and comic confusion as they run loose through the studio, turning the world into their personal playground. Joining Yakko, Wakko and Dot, fan-favorite characters Pinky and the Brain also return to continue their quest for world domination.

Animaniacs is an American animated television series developed by Steven Spielberg for steaming service Hulu. It is a revival of the original 1993 television series of the same name. The new series sees the return of the Warner Brothers, Yakko and Wakko and their sister Dot (voiceovers by Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell and Tress MacNeille), and of Pinky and the Brain (voiceover by Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche). The first season is set to premiere on Hulu November 20, 2020. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Animaniacs is back giving us tons of entertainment! Don’t expect to see reruns with this rebooted animated series. Showrunner Wellesley Wild nails the creation of fresh and relevant content, while keeping the same hilarious craziness of the original series.” See her full review and interviews below.

Animaniacs
Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

Animaniacs is back giving us tons of entertainment! Don’t expect to see reruns with this rebooted animated series. Showrunner Wellesley Wild nails the creation of fresh and relevant content, while keeping the same hilarious craziness of the original series.

The series is about the Warner siblings Wakko, Yakko and Dot who are crazy and wild characters found on the Warner Bros. Studio. The episodes follow them as they get into trouble running around the Warner Bros. Studio lot and while meeting other characters. The new season picks up 22 years later, after they were locked away. Now we get to see their new adventures as they learn more about the current world around them and all the changes that have happened. 

Director Steven Spielberg brings back the same characters and many of the original voice actors. The main characters are the Warner brothers and sister – Wakko (Jess Harnell), Yakko (Rob Paulsen) and Dot (Tress MacNeille). The setting for the series is the classic Warner Bros. Studio lot and the lot’s water tower. It’s hilarious to see the characters run around the lot learning about things that didn’t exist two decades ago like tablets, climate change, Ubers, cat-fishing, YouTubers and Amazon drones. Ralph the security guard (Frank Welker) even has new tricks he can use to catch the Warner siblings, such as a net connected to a drone. The show was updated to a wide-screen format and to make it more gender balanced and diverse. In the premiere episode, Dot points out that Warner Bros. now has a Black female CEO. Shorts like The Warner Kids and Pinky and The Brain also return with new content. It’s a clever way to see how the other characters are doing after meeting the Warner siblings.  

The Warner siblings and the rest of the cast always find a way to have fun in each episode. The message of this series is to find a way to stay fun, positive and happy despite the craziness in the world. I will note that there are some scenes or jokes that viewers may not get unless they followed the original series, but you will still laugh. 

Animaniacs is a great mix of kid-friendly education and slapstick comedy, deserving 5 out of 5 stars and a recommendation for ages 5 to 18. Adults are sure to love it too especially if they are fans of the original series. The new season of Animaniacs debuts on Hulu on November 20.

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Gabby Duran & The Unsittables * Unpredictably Funny Transformation Between Alien and Human

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

A girl finally finds her moment to shine when she inadvertently lands an out-of-this-world job to baby-sit an unruly group of very important extraterrestrial children who are hiding out on Earth with their families, disguised as everyday kids. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Milika L., comments, “Gabby Duran & The Unsittables is entertaining! The transformation between alien and human is unpredictably funny. The green Gorman had me anticipating the next alien. I am ready for the next episode.” See her full review below.

Gabby Duran & The Unsittables
By Milika Lomu, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 11

Gabby Duran & The Unsittables is entertaining! The transformation between alien and human is unpredictably funny. The green Gorman had me anticipating the next alien. I am ready for the next episode.

The story is based on the novel by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners. Kirby Buckets’ Mike Alber and Gabe Snyder serve as showrunners as well as executive producers alongside Just Add Magic’s Joe Nussbaum.

The series focuses on 12 year old stylish and confident Gabby Duran (Kylie Cantrall) who constantly feels like she’s living in the shadows of her lucrative mother and brainy little sister. Gabby lands an out-of-this-world job as a babysitter to a group of peculiar, extraterrestrial aliens who are hiding on Earth disguised as everyday kids. Resourceful Gabby steps up to the challenge to protect these aliens and their secret identities. She proves to be the best sitter ever.

I was committed to the visual effects waiting to see what Jeremy, played by Callan Farris was going to morph into. Without giving too much away, whatever Jeremy eats he turns into. No doubt my favorite character is Gabby Duran played by YouTube sensation Kylie Cantrall. She is definitely setting trends in this episode. Her outfits from the neon orange distressed jacket to the aloha knee length shorts give a 90’s vibe most definitely. One of my favorite scenes is when Gabby meets Jeremy for the first time and beats him up with a rake. There were so many funny scenes, but you will have to watch it. 

Beside the message that I need some knee-length purple camo shorts in my life… having a good attitude is crucial. Making the best of where you are is a game changer. It’s emphasized the importance to always be yourself, because the right people will like you. I give this series 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. My mom actually enjoyed watching this and she laughed along with me. Be sure to watch Gabby Duran & the Unsittables beginning October 11, 2019 on the Disney channel.

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Raising Dion * Mix of Drama, Fantasy and Sci-Fi That Captures Your Imagination

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Raising Dion is an American superhero science fiction web television series that premiered October 4, 2019 on Netflix. It is based on the 2015 comic book and short film of the same name by Dennis Liu. Raising Dion follows the story of a woman who raises her son Dion after the death of her husband Mark. The normal dramas of raising a son as a single mom are amplified when Dion starts to manifest several magical, superhero-like abilities. Nicole must now keep her son’s gifts secret with the help of Mark’s best friend Pat, and protect Dion from antagonists out to exploit him while figuring out the origin of his abilities. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “The series is a mix of genres: drama, fantasy and sci-fi. Through the evolution of the series or each “issue” (what each episode is called), audiences learn more about Dion’s father and where his powers come from. The first episodes are more family-oriented, but the sci-fi elements and supernatural aspects increase toward the later episodes in the first season. Getting close to the end of season one is when it becomes really exciting.” See her full review below.

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

I really enjoyed Raising Dion because there are lots of themes about finding your place and bullying that are well represented. The story tries to deal with so many different elements that it loses focus, especially during the first episodes. Still, I’m curious to see what will happen in the second season, and that is a good thing because I ended up wanting to see more. 

Netflix delivers a TV series with a little bit of everything for the whole family: Raising Dion. As its name states, it’s about family. This is a story of a single mom, Nicole (Alisha Wainwright) raising her son Dion (Ja’shia Young) with superhero-like powers.  For Nicole, to be the mom of a kid with powers is a struggle, more than being just fun.  The series centers on Dion’s journey of adapting to a normal life. The series is produced by actor Michael B. Jordan who plays Marc, Dion’s father, a scientist who passed away tragically during a storm. Pat, Marc’s best friend, becomes a best friend for Nicole and Dion’s mentor. 

The series is a mix of genres: drama, fantasy and sci-fi. Through the evolution of the series or each “issue” (what each episode is called), audiences learn more about Dion’s father and where his powers come from. The first episodes are more family-oriented, but the sci-fi elements and supernatural aspects increase toward the later episodes in the first season. Getting close to the end of season one is when it becomes really exciting.

The series has a very realistic look, and the special effects are well done. I love the work of the actors:  their performances are natural. The kids’ acting is quite well done. Ja’shia Young makes Dion a very believable superhero. He is a good son and a good student and that will be very relatable for so many kids. Sammi Haney plays Esperanza, Dion’s best friend. She is smart and sweet, and she doesn’t feel “less than” because she in a wheelchair. In real life and in character Sammi has brittle bone disease, and supports awareness, acceptance and love for people with disabilities. Kudos to the creators of the show for including actors with disabilities.

Raising Dion is very good for young audiences. The message of the series is to find the powers within yourself, learn how to use them wisely and embrace them.

I rate Raising Dion 4 of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 and adults as well.  You can find it on Netflix.

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The Bravest Knight – Incredibly Charming, Super Cute And Really Fun

Monday, June 24th, 2019

The new series The Bravest Knight is breaking boundaries, featuring a household with two dads (Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew), making it one of the first children’s television series with an openly gay main character. Following the inspiring and perseverant former pumpkin farmer, Sir Cedric, now grown and married to the prince of his dreams, “The Bravest Knight” recounts personal tales of his journey. Sir Cedric shares his story with his adopted 10-year-old daughter Nia, on how he transformed from day-time farmer to full-fledged knight. Nia, who is training to become a brave knight herself, learns important values such as honor, justice and compassion; proving that knighthood is much more than slaying dragons. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B.  comments, “This show is incredibly charming, even though there are currently only five episodes available. It’s super cute and really fun.” Sahiba K. adds, “The Bravest Knight, directed by Shabnam Rezaei, is a perfect opportunity for younger audiences to learn important life lessons in adventurous ways! The fairytale setting, featuring knights and trolls, creates a fun and imaginative world for children to become immersed in. Each episode contains multiple messages that are explained as a short lesson at the end.” Will C. wraps it with, “The message of this series is summed up in the theme song: “Be the real you, be the true you, it’s the bravest thing you can do.” There are some positive messages about teamwork, caring for others and avoiding stereotypes.” See their full reviews below.

The Bravest Knight
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This show is incredibly charming, even though there are currently only five episodes available. It’s super cute and really fun.

The show follows a knight named Sir Cedric, who is retelling the story of how he became a knight to his daughter Nia, who wants to be a knight as well. The episodes focus on Cedric teaching Nia important morals and lessons about being a knight. While the main focus of the show seems to be teaching lessons, there is also an overarching story based on how Cedric became a knight.

The animation in this series is very simplistic, but very adorable. The style gives me the vibe of a children’s book. Which fits the fairy tale theme and overall tone. There really isn’t much else I have to say about the animation other than I really enjoy it.

Now arguably the most notable aspect of this show so far is the representation. On the surface it seems like a simple enough kids show, however I was excited to learn about the amazing diversity in the cast. I mentioned that Cedric has a daughter. Well it turns out that Cedric is married to another man and Nia is his adopted daughter. Not only that but Cedric’s husband Prince Andrew and their daughter are both people of color. While Andrew and Nia are the major examples of representation, there does appear to be themes of discrimination with the troll characters. Cedric’s companion on his quest is a troll named Grunt and there are two instances where other characters assume the worst or are rude to Grunt because he’s a troll. I think the theme of discrimination is presented really well and in a subtle way. I’m a firm believer that children are able to handle complicated subjects in media, so I always get kind of happy when I see media treating kids as smarter than most people give them credit for.

However, the representation is not all there is to this show. After all, this show is not mainly about the diversity. Although I must say, I think the characters so far are really fun and likeable. Nia is adorable and fun while Prince Andrew, who kind of plays the role of the straight man to balance out Nia and Cedric rounds out the central trio very nicely. Cedric is a bit of a basic protagonist but it’s clear he’ll develop as the series goes on, which is always a good sign.

I give this show 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. And episodes are currently premiering on Hulu.

The Bravest Knight
By Sahiba D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

The Bravest Knight, directed by Shabnam Rezaei, is a perfect opportunity for younger audiences to learn important life lessons in adventurous ways! The fairy tale setting, featuring knights and trolls, creates a fun and imaginative world for children to become immersed in. Each episode contains multiple messages that are explained as a short lesson at the end.

The Bravest Knight — “Cedric & the Cave” (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

The story follows Nia (Storm Reid), a “not-yet-knight,” who strives to learn the skills to become a real knight. Her father, Sir Cedric (T. R. Knight) teaches her lessons that are necessary to achieve knighthood. Through his tutelage, Cedric tells Nia stories of his own childhood with his best friend Grunt (Chance Hurstfield). These stories often follow tales of when Sir Cedric was a “not-yet-knight” and the adventures he faced.

The animation made me feel as if I was in a pop-up fairy tale book. In the beginning of each episode, trees or hills appear to move in such a way that the focus on Nia or their home becomes clear. The animation resembles the way that pop-up story books become clear when the page flips. This illusion continues throughout the episode as the characters are drawn simplistically. However, the background is more detailed with a wide variety of colors and ornamentation wherever Cedric and Nia’s adventures take them.

The Bravest Knight — “Cedric & the Green Leaf”
(Photo courtesy of Hulu)

My favorite part is how there is an overarching story that continues throughout several episodes. In Cedric’s stories, young Cedric is determined to help Grunt find the troll who ousted Grunt from his bridge. Every episode contains a clue that brings them closer to achieving this goal. This form of storytelling intrigued me and made me want to watch the next episode. In contrast, there are elements of the screenplay that made me lose interest at times. Grunt and Nia have personalities that separate them from the other characters in the show. Cedric, the main character, lacks such a personality and he is less compelling to watch. Nevertheless, Grunt and Nia’s characters make up for this downside and it will not be noticed by younger audiences.

The messages of the series are about not giving up and that things are not always what they seem. I give The Bravest Knight 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 8. Be sure to check out The Bravest Knight on Hulu when it launches June 21, 2019.

The Bravest Knight
By Will C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

The Bravest Knight is a sweet and fun animated series for younger kids. Each 12 minute episode is funny and entertaining and held my interest even though I’m a little older than the target audience.

The Bravest Knight — “Cedric & The Troll ” (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

The Bravest Knight is about Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew and their adopted daughter Nia. Nia really wants to be a knight like her dad, each episode has a story Sir Cedric tells her about when he was also a “not-yet knight.” Young Cedric has a troll friend named Grunt who accompanies him on his adventures. Together, they save people from a witch, enter a jousting tournament and escape a giant’s vault in the clouds.

My favorite part of this show is the character Grunt, the troll. He gets the best lines and got a few laughs out of me. The animation uses nice colors that will appeal to kids and the music really fits the style of the show. The voice actors, both young and old, are great at bringing their characters to life.

The Bravest Knight — “Cedric & The Troll ” (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

The message of this series is summed up in the theme song: “Be the real you, be the true you, it’s the bravest thing you can do.” There are some positive messages about teamwork, caring for others and avoiding stereotypes. There’s a bearded fairy named Lucy who replies that names belong to people, not genders, when Grunt the troll asks if he has a girl’s name.

I give this series 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. Adults probably won’t mind watching it with their kids if they ask them to. The Bravest Knight is available for streaming on Hulu starting June 21, 2019.

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