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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 Zak Storm is about a teen boy who is accidentally hurled into a supernatural realm where he's a hero facing villains with magical powers. Viewers' chief concern will be the frequency and intensity of the cartoonish violence. There are talking skeletons that shoot laser guns, gigantic sea creatures with sharp teeth, and a living skeleton three times the size of our hero who fights with a sharp metal hook. Zak rides on a surfboard that flies through the air, dodging laser streams with ease, never falling off -- or, if he does, he's caught safely and not injured. He also has a talking magic sword and invulnerable armor; they allow him to win almost every fight. There's no sex (though talking sword Calabrass does emit the occasional mild innuendo), no drinking, and no cursing. There is a fair amount of rude language, like when one character gives a villain a "fart attack." Zak and the other heroic characters also frequently insult the show's villain's, calling them "mean and ugly," "a bag of bones," and "numbskull." Zak himself is charming and rather humble (he calls himself a "surf rat and internet wannabe") but he also lives in an almost entirely male world where the other characters frequently tell him how special and brave he is, despite the fact that his powers are bestowed by a magical amulet, not arising from any special qualities Zak has.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
All ZAK STORM (Michael Johnston) wanted to do was borrow a necklace from his dad to go surfing, because it'd look cool on his internet surfing video. But his dad's mysterious amulet opened a portal to the Bermuda Triangle, and now Zak's stuck there, sailing on the pirate ship Chaos, until he can find a way out. Worse, the evil Skullivar (Keith Silverstein) wants the amulet, and he commands an army of talking skeletons who are after Zak and his crew. Legend says that a hero will come to unite the seven seas and open the Bermuda Triangle. But until then, it's Zak and the Chaos crew, boldly sailing straight toward adventure.
Is it any good?
The gadgetry is cool, the characters relatable and interesting, the animation zesty -- but parents won't appreciate the violence, weapons, or language. Zak Storm reads as something of a throwback -- the same sort of swords, sorcery, magic, and supernatural villains that parents might remember from cartoons of the '80s like He-Man and Thundercats. Unfortunately, the levels of violence are also undiminished from that era, with Zak wielding a magical weapon and attacked by faceless henchmen who are easily knocked over yet always spring back up for the next battle, and shoot lazy laser bullets that Zak dodges on a surfboard, flinging quips over his shoulder.
The real problem is that Zak is just a regular teen, yet he's constantly told by the other characters that he's special. What's a young viewer to make of this? That heroic qualities are something you're born with, something innate you either have or don't have, not something you can develop? Other messages parents would probably prefer kids not to absorb: that battles are "adventures," that might makes right, and that villains are easy to spot and fun to spar with. For these reasons, even though young kids will be attracted to Zak's derring-do and cool sword/armor/ship, parents may want to watch first to make sure this series is right for their family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why so many animated series take place in worlds with magic. Why is this an appealing setting for cartoons? Why don't more live-action shows take place in magical worlds?
Zak has a lot of confidence in himself. Can you name times in Zak Storm when he displayed confidence? Does his confidence ever lead him into tricky situations?
How many female characters are on this show? How many characters appear to be people of color? Is it important that cartoons show diversity? Does it matter? Do you notice, or care, if the characters on the shows you watch are diverse?