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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lion Guard: Unleash the Power contains six stories from the Lion Guard TV series. Starring Kion, the offspring of Simba and Nala from the original film The Lion King and its sequels, the premise centers on a faithful team of five friends (a lion cub, a hippo, a honey badger, a cheetah, and an egret) who work together to protect the animals who live in the Pride Lands and to maintain the Circle of Life, which is the heart of the natural world. In each tale, the friends encounter jeopardy from predators and/or natural phenomenon (flooding, storms), which threaten their way of life. They must use their inherent, individual talents and their combined resourcefulness to right every wrong and save all the creatures in the habitat. Gently delivered, clear messages are a part of each story and include notions about teamwork, respect for others, being true to oneself, and protecting the environment. With endearing characters, and made with care, these stories are engaging as well as exciting. Though the peril and action in each tale are mild, it's important that kids who watch fully understand the difference between pretend and real violence.
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What's the story?
THE LION GUARD: UNLEASH THE POWER contains six stories. In "Fulli's New Family," the Guard learns that the speedy cheetah (voiced by Diamond White) has a right to her own individuality; at the same time, Bunga discovers he's not as immune from danger as he thought. A miscommunication with Rafiki in "Bunga, the Wise" finds the brave honey badger (Joshua Rush) in way over his head after a serious rainstorm activates flooding in Pride Lands. A dust storm causes temporary damage to one of Ono's eyes in "Eye of the Beholder," and the Guard has to protect the land from a vicious hyena plot without the help of the egret (Atticus Shaffer), who functions as the group's "keenest eye." "Follow That Hippo" finds super-strong Beshte (Dusan Brown) with a new apprentice, a young elephant who wants to learn everything the hippo can teach him; when danger comes, Beshte has his hands full protecting the little guy and teaching him some important life lessons. In "The Search for Utami," Bunga is on a quest for a true delicacy: the delicious Utamu grubs that only appear after the rainy season; at the same time, Fuli learns a lot about the limits of her strengths. And, in "Never Judge a Hyena by Its Spots," after some pretty harrowing encounters with a raging river and the ever-present hyenas, the wise leader, Kion (Max Charles), discovers that even in the worst of species, there are some shining lights.
Is it any good?
The high standards set by The Lion King are maintained in this collection, which relies on strong characters, charming stories, delightful music, and solid animation. The Lion Guard: Unleash the Power has something for everyone -- enough action for kids who like to see their cartoon buddies get in and out of trouble; lots of comedy springing from the character of the players rather than from silly situations; and messages about living life thoughtfully and honestly, teachable moments that should gently resonate with young viewers. Each tale is scored with the familiar, unique Lion King melodies, and each contains an original song related to the story. Highly recommended, though even the youngest viewers should be comfortable with cartoon jeopardy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the humor in The Lion Guard: Unleash the Power. How does the characters' specific behavior provide the fun in these stories? Think about Bunga's jumping to conclusions and Fuli's refusal to listen to Kion as examples.
What is the Circle of Life? How do Kion and his friends protect that circle? What happens when one creature's behavior upsets the necessary balance of life? Give some specific examples.
In "Eye of the Beholder," Rafiki shares his cave paintings. What does he mean when he talks about art and says that everyone has his or her own opinion of what's good? Why is it important to respect the opinion of others?
- On DVD or streaming: September 20, 2016
- Cast: Max Charles, Dusan Brown, Joshua Rush, Diamond White
- Director: Howy Parkins
- Studio: Disney Junior
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 137 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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