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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lion Guard continues the story introduced in The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar. Destiny puts Kion, son of Simba and Nala, in charge of the Lion Guard, which must protect the life balance in and around the Pride Lands. He often goes head to head with adversaries much bigger and stronger than he is, but he's pure of heart and open to the advice of wise elders who help him solve problems with words rather than by fighting. Violence erupts at times, and animals bite, scratch, and tussle with each other. There's also a fair amount of body-related humor, as a main character's chronic body odor and gassiness makes for lots of jokes. With its strong messages about courage, responsibility, and friendship, this series is a fun pick for kids, and parents who watch with their kids will enjoy seeing the original The Lion King gang -- including Timon, Pumbaa, and the eccentric Rafiki -- in cameos throughout the series.
What's the story?
With his sister, Kiara (voiced by Eden Riegel), in line to rule the Pride Lands, Kion (Max Charles) proudly assumes his legacy as leader of THE LION GUARD, a group tasked with protecting the animals that live there. Flanked by his best friends -- Bunga (Joshua Rush), Fuli (Diamond White), Beshte (Dusan Brown), and Ono (Atticus Shaffer) -- Kion keeps watch on the goings on around his home and works hard to maintain the delicate balance of life there. Often that requires the guidance of his elders, including his father, Simba (Rob Lowe); the spirit of his legendary grandfather, Mufasa (Gary Anthony Williams); and Simba's old pals Timon (Kevin Schon) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella).
Is it any good?
He may be new to the gig, but spunky Kion doesn't waste any time demonstrating that it's not a person's (er, lion's) size but the size of his heart that makes him a great leader. Most of the perpetrators of trouble in the Pride Lands outsize this young cub times over, but he believes in himself and in his friends, and what a difference that makes. Even better for his young fans, Kion rarely engages in physical exchanges himself; instead he finds solutions that acknowledge his neighbors' feelings and preserve the peace at the same time. (Of course, having a ferocious roar doesn't hurt his cause either.)
As Kion is tasked with protecting the circle of life, viewers hear a lot about how and why that balance exists, and some stories show how a small disruption can throw off the entire population's symbiosis. In this way, The Lion Guard introduces kids to general environmental issues and the idea of conservation, which parents can take farther if they'd like. None of the content is scary enough to keep kids away, but discussions about crocodiles eating fish to thin out a lake's population or scenes in which Timon savors an insect delicacy could raise some questions from your kids about the circle of life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Kion a good leader in The Lion Guard. Is he especially strong, either physically or in spirit? What other positive qualities does he have? Why is teamwork so important to the success of the Lion Guard?
To what degree do small changes in the Pride Lands affect the whole population? How might factors outside of the animals' control (the weather, for instance) have a negative impact on the life balance there? Are they more or less dangerous than predators' influence?
What value is there in asking for help when you need it? Are there instances in which your kids find that difficult to do? Does Kion ever put off asking for advice? If so, are there negative consequences for the delay?
- Premiere date: January 15, 2016
- Cast: Max Charles, Joshua Rush, Rob Lowe
- Network: Disney Channel
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage
- TV rating: TV-Y
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Seal
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