Magic Cellar

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Magic Cellar TV Poster Image
Folktales come alive in engaging African series.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

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
Consumerism
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.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjenovaii April 9, 2008

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 cultu... Continue reading
Adult Written byMamaLana April 9, 2008

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... Continue reading

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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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