Motown Magic

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Motown Magic TV Poster Image
Thoughtful musical series emphasizes self-confidence.

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Educational Value

The series bridges the past and present by dusting off vintage music and having contemporary artists perform it. It also exposes kids to the historic significance of the Detroit (Motown) area, both in the music it produced and in its role in automotive production.

 

Positive Messages

Kids see Ben come to acknowledge and appreciate the qualities that make him unique and special while respecting the talents of others. Family relationships are important to Ben, especially those with his grandparents who are the generational link to the music of his home city. Racial and cultural diversity exists among the characters, as do differences of family structure (Angie's parents are divorced, for example) and general life experience. Positive themes of kindness, compassion, honesty, and putting others' needs before your own.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kindhearted, gentle Ben is the product of his family and his diverse neighborhood. His parents and grandparents are excellent role models who value time together, always welcome conversation and sharing, and offer good (albeit sometimes cryptic) advice when Ben faces a dilemma. The general presentation of Ben's family emphasizes the value of multigenerational relationships and the sense of belonging that they cultivate.

 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

The series promotes the contemporary remakes of classic Motown music. An original soundtrack with a selection of the songs is available for download.

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that like creator Josh Wakely's other series Beat Bugs does with music from The Beatles, Motown Magic incorporates remakes of classic Motown songs into its story about a young boy who uses a magic paintbrush to bring street art to life. The series boasts standout messages about self-esteem and creativity, and its protagonist, Ben, is always willing to go out of his way to help others and to do the right thing. The show is set in the fictitious place called Motown (clearly intended to suggest Detroit) with homages to its historic musical and automotive past all around. Urban scenery and the characters' ethnic diversity reflect the city setting as well. With Smokey Robinson on board as music producer and among the talented contemporary voice cast, and prominent themes about family ties, creativity, and embracing individuality, this exceptional series is a great pick for parents and kids to enjoy together.

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What's the story?

In MOTOWN MAGIC, eight-year-old Ben (voiced by Ava Fields) has a problem. His teacher wants him to share his talents with his class, but Ben fears he has nothing worth mentioning. When he confides in his grandparents, Grandma Ruby (Kandace Lindsey) sends him on an unusual errand that ends with Ben discovering a magic paintbrush called Masterpiece that empowers him to unlock a different world and to bring street art to life in his hometown of Motown. Now with his best friend, Angie (Betsy Kenney), and his younger sister, Ella (Marissa Margaux), who are privy to his secret, the adventure really begins as Ben's new creations help him learn important lessons in unique and harmonious ways.

Is it any good?

Deceivingly juvenile at first glance but ultimately broadly appealing, this gem of a series marries iconic Motown music with a quality story that emphasizes family, friendship, and self-esteem. Ben's struggles with self-confidence don't stop when he learns to use Masterpiece, but the experience slowly helps him realize the worth of his own unique qualities. Masterpiece manages the magic, but it's Ben who learns to use what it brings to life to help himself and those around him resolve difficult emotions and situations.

And then there's the music. A kids' show structured around Motown hits may not seem like a list topper, but it works amazingly well. The reprisals of favorites like "My Girl," "ABC," and "The Tracks of My Tears" are quality productions that introduce young viewers to the classic Motown sound in the modern setting of these likable characters' experiences. Each episode of Motown Magic introduces a different song integrated into the story in creative ways that will leave viewers young and old tapping to the tunes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about creativity and the arts. How do your kids like to express themselves? Do they draw? Sing? Paint? Why is it important to recognize our talents in the arts and in other areas? Can you relate to Ben's struggles to feel special?  

  • Ben's relationship with his grandparents is very important to him. How do our extended family members help and support us in ways that might be different from our parents' care? In what ways do your kids cultivate their relationships with family? Do you have any family traditions that are important in this regard?

  • What instances do you see of Ben's compassion and kindness in Motown Magic? How valuable are these characteristics to the person he is? What other character strengths are evident among the cast?

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  • Are any of these songs familiar to your kids? Does your family enjoy listening to music? How do different styles of music make us feel?

TV details

Character Strengths

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For kids who love music

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