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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Summer Camp Island is an animated series about the animal residents of a magical summer camp. Expect plenty of quirky characters and silly adventures, with inanimate objects like clothing, trees, furniture, and even food items talking and interacting with the campers (it's not as cheesy as you might think). There's also a real emotional maturity to the content, and the main characters' friendship is a sweet example of the value of strong relationships. Expect some storylines that involve romantic interests and crushes (this is a summer camp for teens, after all) and mild stereotyping in some of the characters' personalities (jocks, social outsiders, etc.). More memorable, though, is the show's intuitive presentation of relatable characters whose daily experiences spur emotional responses and the need for companionship.
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What's the story?
In SUMMER CAMP ISLAND, a young elephant named Oscar (voiced by Elliott Smith) and his best friend, Hedgehog (Oona Laurence), arrive at their first sleepaway camp to discover the island is nothing like what they expected. Timid Oscar looked forward to traditional camp activities like making potholders for his friends, so it's a shock to find his counselors are witches, there are monsters next door, and his favorite pajamas can talk in this weird and occasionally wonderful place that challenges both newcomers to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the unexpected.
Is it any good?
Oscar and Hedgehog aren't the only ones who will be pleasantly surprised by this unusual camp experience. The premise of a show in which anthropomorphic animals, monsters, and talking objects like trees and menacing marshmallows are the norm sounds corny at first, but Summer Camp Island exceeds expectations at every turn. There's a peaceful, almost serene quality to the series that negates any need for the kind of superficial laughs and physical humor more prevalent in kids' programming. Instead, this creative, imaginative story explores unusual subjects like Oscar's emotional vulnerability and his and Hedgehog's enduring friendship.
With the likes of Adventure Time on her resume, creator Julia Pott clearly has a knack for the kind of oddball storytelling that strikes a chord with viewers. Summer Camp Island is a truly heartwarming series disguised as the kind of offbeat cartoon that kids and parents will enjoy equally. Because of the story's magical setting, the unexpected is routine, and it's impossible to predict what will happen next. This gives the show a welcome freshness that, coupled with the endearing characters and gentle visual style, yields a worthy contender for families' attention.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Summer Camp Island compares to reality. Which of Oscar's and Hedgehog's experiences at camp are rooted in fantasy? Does Oscar's desire for a "normal" camp experience change as time goes on? How does he adapt to the many differences?
This series involves characters and situations that traditionally are scary (witches, monsters, objects that think and talk), but it does so in nonthreatening ways. How does that sense of irony contribute to the show's humor? Do you find any of the content scary? Do you like a few scares in what you watch?
Oscar and Hedgehog have very different personalities, but that doesn't stop them from being great friends. What character strengths do you see in them? Would you say that Oscar is courageous? How is his quiet determination to adapt inspiring? Which characters demonstrate compassion and empathy?
- Premiere date: July 13, 2018
- Cast: Elliott Smith, Oona Laurence, Ramone Hamilton
- Network: Cartoon Network
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Available on: Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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