A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What 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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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.
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