Little Ellen

TV review by
Polly Conway, Common Sense Media
Little Ellen TV Poster Image
Charming, colorful series teaches resilience, teamwork.

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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Lots of helpful social-emotional lessons about how to deal with emotions, teamwork, and more. Also some light history about New Orleans, where Little Ellen lives. 

Positive Messages

The show states that it promotes "managing emotions, resilience, and optimism," and it's all true. Ellen and her friends have tons of fun adventures while dealing with various kid problems. They're a great team, and the show sees them learning patience, perseverance, and adaptability to changing circumstances.

Positive Role Models

There are hints of Little Ellen growing up to be the real Ellen (DeGeneres), a confident and successful comedian, and Little Ellen is kind, curious, and a good friend. Gramsy is also a great representation of an older person with a close relationship to her grandkid and friends.

Diverse Representations

Ellen's main crew is racially, gender, and physically diverse (one BFF is smaller in size, while the other is larger-bodied). The diverse makeup and history of New Orleans is represented. Gramsy is older but always up for fun activities even though she needs to rest sometimes. Even Funky Chunk's backing band is ethnically and gender diverse. 

Violence & Scariness

Some tension when the kids go on a spinning ride and feel sick. 

Sexy Stuff
Language

One song uses the word "tushy."

Consumerism

The series is based on the life of a real person who is a successful comic.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Ellen is an animated series about the adventures of a kid and her friends living in New Orleans. Loosely based on the life of comic and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres (Finding Dory), the show teaches lots of social-emotional lessons through its simple stories about day-to-day life in the historic city. Ellen's main crew is racially, gender, and physically diverse (one BFF is smaller in size, while the other is larger-bodied). Language includes a use of the word "tushy." Those who've heard unpleasant things about the real DeGeneres might initially be skeptical, but Little Ellen stands alone as an outstanding pick for families. 

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What's the story?

Little Ellen (Laurel Emory) is a series loosely based on the early life of comedian Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen is a kid who lives in New Orleans with her grandmother, aka Gramsy, and cat Charlie. She has two best friends, Freckle (JeCobi Swain) and Becky (Johanna Colon), and together they go on small adventures and deal with challenges. Each episode also contains a few short songs.

Is it any good?

This bright, colorful, and warm series doesn't have much to do with the real Ellen, but that's OK -- kids don't need to know anything about the comic to enjoy these charming adventures. Visually, it's a delight to look at, with retro handpainted-style backgrounds of New Orleans' highlights. Ellen and her friends are funny (of course), kind, and sometimes frustrated by challenges; the show frequently finds them learning ways to adjust expectations and be resillient in the face of change. For example, a visit to a local festival doesn't go as planned; there are no blueberry beignets left, and they fail at dunking local musician Funky Chunk in his dunk tank (yes, it's Funky Chunk's Dunk Tank). 

These lessons may seem small, but they're super valuable to the intended audience -- as Gramsy (the lovely, lively June Squibb) says, "Sometimes plans change, and that's OK." Ellen herself learns a powerful lesson when she can't cheer up her cat Charlie despite many efforts. She ultimately figures out that "being sad with someone you love is the happiest way to be sad." Excellent writing includes lots of fun wordplay that makes the series feel lived in and the relationships strong -- however you feel about the real Ellen, Little Ellen is a charmer. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about TV shows based on real people. If you had a TV show about you, what would the story be? What parts of your life would you want to share? 

  • Ellen, Freckle, and Becky are a great team, and the show sees them learning patience, perseverance, and adaptability to changing circumstances. Why do you think these are important character strengths

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love preschool fun

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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