Magic Cellar

Common Sense Media says

Folktales come alive in engaging African series.

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Multicultural characters (African, Caucasian, Indian, and Asian) and traditional African folk tales combine to promote positive messages about patience, sharing, honesty, interpersonal relationships, and more. One character stutters, but it's never cause for teasing from his friends. Another boy occasionally bullies his peers, but through the folktales he learns respect and compassion.

Violence & scariness

Minor injuries like bumps or nosebleeds are said to result from falls, but they're not shown. In at least one of the traditional stories, a character dies.

Sexy stuff

Storylines occasionally call for brief kisses between folk tale characters, who are played by kids.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

In one tale, a man dies after falling victim to the devil's plan to get him to smoke a pipe. From then on, his death reminds others of the dangers of smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this imaginative animated series exposes kids to African folktales that are acted out by a multicultural group of characters. The show celebrates the oral history that's central to African traditions and draws parallels between the tribal stories and scenarios that kids will relate to, like disputes among friends and feeling let down by a parent. Lessons in patience, generosity, fairness, and honesty are central to this worthwhile series. At least one tale includes a death, but no violence is shown on screen. Characters kiss briefly when acting out some tales.

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What's the story?

Rooted in African folktales, the award-winning CGI animated series MAGIC CELLAR -- the first 3D animation to come out of Africa -- merges traditional tribal storytelling with the daily issues faced by its multicultural kid characters. The show centers on a young African girl named Pula (voiced by Motshabi Tyelele) who goes to live with her grandmother after her parents' divorce. She makes friends with four neighborhood kids: Melissa (Diane Appleby), who's Asian; Marcus (Jacques Blignaut), a mixed-race African boy; an Indian girl named Navitha (Krijay Govender); and Josh (Appleby), a Caucasian boy who has a mild stuttering problem (which is never cause for teasing). It isn't long before Pula discovers that, unbeknownst to her grandmother, their cellar houses two magical creatures -- a wise cricket named Mr. Zee (David Sherwood) and a friendly female gecko (also voiced by Tyelele) who calls herself GG (short for Gecko Girl). With the help of their small friends, Pula and her buddies head off on magical adventures to experience firsthand the world of African folktales.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Drawing parallels between the tales' morals and the lessons learned by the five friends, this beautifully crafted series exposes viewers to new cultures and encourages kids' imaginations as it teaches them. By taking starring roles in the stories' re-enactments and seeing the morals of each in action, the kids (and young viewers) learn a lot about the importance of qualities like patience, honesty, generosity, and fairness -- and improve their own lives by putting what they find out to good use. Kids who tune in will easily relate to the characters and will see similarities in the folktales to issues they've dealt with themselves.

There's so much to like about this worthwhile series that if you're inclined to tune in with your kids, you'll be surprised at how much it entertains you as well. From the engaging animation to the African music that accompanies the credits, it's a pleasure to watch from start to finish. The only minor quibble is with the voice cast, who often sound like they're straining to overdo the childishness of their tone. But this small hiccup isn't likely to bother grade-schoolers, who will be more interested in the different accents they hear than anything else.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the show's messages. What lessons does it teach? Are those lessons easier -- or more fun -- to learn because of the folktale format? Families can also discuss what we can learn from the stories of our elders. Kids: What stories have your parents or grandparents told you about their lives and experiences? Could you relate to what they were saying? What lessons did they pass on to you? This series will encourage storytelling between parents and kids, as well as discussions about different cultures.

TV details

Cast:Diane Appleby, Jacques Blignaut, Motshabi Tyelele
Network:HBO Family
Genre:Kids' Animation
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship
TV rating:TV-Y7
Available on:DVD

This review of Magic Cellar 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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Quality

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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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byMamaLana April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

I was MAD

No problem with other episodes as I was trying on this new show for size with my six year old son. Also I understand the concept of existing folktales revamped Though I found no actual folktale based on the episode "The Devil's Trick?? And African people smoke natural tabaccos throughout history commonly? The episode portrayed a man being tricked by the Devil to smoke and then becoming ill and reduced to smoke/ashes (don't know exactly visually how to describe, read about the conclusion as I changed the channel due to my outrage) My husband and I have both sucessfully quite smoking and we have discussed the issue with our son. The real consequences of smoking are lung cancer, other diseases and unhealthy environment BUT that has nothing to do with religion or the Devil himself! This connects morality with the choice to smoke and is unfair to parents who do smoke and /or are not religious or express their faith in different ways. BAD CHOICE!
Adult Written byjenovaii April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

African tales? Awesome! Animation? Awful!

I love ancient stories, and stories from other cultures are no exception. African stories, i've found, are generally kinder towards women than other cultures, so i'm all for these stories. But the animation makes me want to vomit, and the voice-acting makes my head explode. Seriously, i think only dogs can hear Pula's voice. But who knows? Maybe it'll take off and they'll get some funding for an actual animation studio and some real voice actors!

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