Alakazam the Great!

  • Review Date: August 20, 2013
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1961
  • Running Time: 84 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Early Japanese animation teaches positive lessons on virtue.
  • Review Date: August 20, 2013
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1961
  • Running Time: 84 minutes





What parents need to know

Educational value

This film is intended to entertain, not educate.

Positive messages

In order to be a truly powerful and great ruler, one must exercise humility, mercy, and wisdom.

Positive role models

While he starts out as a spoiled and selfish King, Alakazam, through direct experience and through teaching, learns the virtuous behaviors of humility, mercy, and wisdom. Despite his deplorable behavior, Dee Dee always loves Alakazam, through thick and thin.

Violence & scariness

Mild cartoon violence, tame by today's standards, but some nightmarish imagery, and a scene where a character pulls a knife on another character.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Alakazam the Great! is a 1961 Japanese animated movie that stars Frankie Avalon and Jonathan Winters, and is also one of the first Japanese animated features to make it Stateside, opening the doors for all the anime to come. Aside from some of the nightmarish imagery and violence (a character pulls a knife on another character) that might be difficult for younger kids, perhaps the biggest issue is whether or not kids (and perhaps some adults) will find the musical numbers to be a bit corny. Regardless, this film does promote and teach through example and dialogue what it really means for a leader to be "great," and what it actually means to be "virtuous," no matter who or what you are.

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What's the story?

In the land of Medusaland, Alakazam (Frankie Avalon) is a spoiled and tyrannical monkey king who has learned magic while being trained under Merlin. Alakazam's power has clearly gone to his head, and when he goes so far as to try and steal the forbidden fruit from King Amo, the gods decide that it's time for Alakazam to learn lessons in humility, mercy, and wisdom. To that end, Alakazam is sent on a pilgrimage with a prince. Along the way, Alakazam must do battle with a cannibal, a demonic lobster, and an evil trickster named Quigley Brokenbottom, and through these adventures, he must learn what it means to be a "great" leader.

Is it any good?


While the musical numbers drag down the story at times and don't seem to really fit in very well, the cool (if dated at times) animation and the central message of ALAKAZAM THE GREAT! make this film a worthwhile experience for the entire family. Positive lessons on the importance of humility, mercy, and virtue are preached throughout, but are never done so in a preachy or heavy-handed manner. Kids can see firsthand the results of Alakazam's bratty behavior for much of the movie before he learns these lessons, and should inspire discussion on why good behavior matters in the world.

The biggest element keeping this film from being five stars is that some of the translation into English from the original turns the movie into less of a spiritual quest and more of an unusual pilgrimage with antagonists with names like "Sir Quigley Brokenbottom." Still, the overlying message trumps the shortcomings.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Japanese animation. As one of the earliest examples of animation from Japan to make it to countries like America, how does this film anticipate the anime of later years -- in terms of story, message, style, characters, humor, anything else?

  • How is the movie's message of virtuous behavior conveyed in the movie?

  • If this movie were to be remade today, how do you think it would be different, and who do you think would play the different characters?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 14, 1961
DVD release date:October 4, 2005
Cast:Frankie Avalon, Jonathan Winters, Sterling Holloway
Director:Daisaku Shirakawa
Studio:Alta Vista Productions
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:84 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Alakazam the Great! was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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