Doing Da Vinci



Inventor's drawings come to life in engaging edu series.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Team members work through their disagreements/philosophical differences in an amiable way. The show promotes taking an active interest in science and experimentation. The team is entirely male.


The designs that the team is working on are based on Da Vinci's drawings of war machines. No one is hurt, but human-shaped targets used during tests, and team members don't hide from the fact that these machines were designed to kill people.


One of Da Vinci's most famous drawings -- a nude man inside a circle -- is repeatedly shown, including the groin area. It's not exploitative, graphic, or sexual, but it's there.


A machine is referred to as "kick ass," but that's about the extent of the salty language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this educational series about creating machines designed (but never built) by famed artist/inventor Leonardo Da Vinci doesn't shy away from mentioning the machines' original purpose: war and killing. But the emphasis is much more on whether or not each machine could have worked than on demonstrating its potentially bloody impact. There are also several shots of one of Da Vinci's most famous drawings -- a nude man in a circle -- but it's not at all sexual.

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What's the story?

In DOING DA VINCI, a team of four men -- an engineer, a designer/builder, an artist who does super-sized installations, and a carpenter -- works with a professor who's an expert on the life and work of Renaissance artist/inventor Leornardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) to put together some of the war machines that Da Vinci designed back in the 15th and 16th centuries. An extra twist? Other than modern tools, they're only allowed to use materials that Da Vinci had available in his lifetime.

Is it any good?


The show's premise is fascinating, especially if you've ever seen Da Vinci's drawings of the various inventions/machines -- including siege towers, a circular tank that could fire in all directions, and a chariot with blades. Since there's no evidence that these designs were ever built before, there's always been some speculation among historians about whether the designs were plausible.

That the team includes artist Flash Hopkins adds an element of good-natured conflict, especially since he goes with the flow, while engineer/effects designer Valek Skykes is much more precision-oriented. But even more fascinating than the interpersonal relationships is the way the series sheds light on how things get built in general. Bottom line? It's a fun hour, and kids who watch might learn a few things to boot.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what messages the show sends about war and war making. Have attitudes toward those topics changed since Da Vinci's time? If so, how? Do you think the show's goal is to make viewers think seriously about the differences between what was acceptable in the past and isn't now -- or is it just an entertaining way to look at science and experimentation?

TV details

Cast:Bill Duggan, Jurgen Heimann, Valek Sykes
Network:Discovery Channel
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD

This review of Doing Da Vinci was written by

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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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