Content to keep the kids entertained this summer
Summertime and the living is easy – especially if you can find plenty of entertainment to occupy the smaller citizens in the house. First things first. On most streaming apps you can set up profiles for your children – deciding what sort of content they can access.
Netflix allows up to five profiles – so in many families there’s room for one per person and you can control the content within these profiles, as well as setting up 4-digit PINs to prevent them accessing content above their age range. It’s a great way to plug them in and walk away, so to speak, without worrying about what they’re watching. Amazon Prime also allows a PIN setting for mature content.
Lightbox has a built-in kids’ profile which loads a range of shows in various age bands for children to surf through. And you may not realise it but there’s an excellent kids’ streaming TV service provided by TVNZ and NZ on Air called Hei Hei that has a raft of great Kiwi content (see below).
Here’s a quick look at some of the best shows for youngsters this holiday period.
Watership Down (Netflix)
It’s a daring move from Netflix and the BBC to remake a movie based on a beloved novel (and a 1978 movie most memorable for Art Garfunkel's “Bright Eyes”). Watership Down will be reinterpreted as a four-part animated mini-series and seems perfect to entertain the little ones this summer, as well as bringing back memories of your own childhood. Set in the idyllic rural landscape of southern England, this tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of rabbits on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, towards a promised land and a more perfect society.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (Netflix)
This one’s for more mature kids (13 years +), because this reinvention of Rudyard Kipling’s beloved masterpiece The Jungle Book is not the sweet Disney version. It’s much truer to Kipling’s original tale about a boy lost in the jungle who wants to find a true home. Torn between the jungle and living with humans, Mowgli (Rohan Chand) navigates the inherent dangers in each world on a voyage of self-discovery in this visually spectacular and emotionally moving adventure. Director Andy Serkis, best known for his motion capture roles as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Caesar in Planet of the Apes, seamlessly blends CGI animals with actors in this dark and wild tale.
3 Below: Tales of Arcadia (Netflix)
Guillmero del Toro, the Academy Award-winning creative force behind Shape Of Water has turned his attention back to children’s fantasy with 3 Below. Ostensibly this is a cross-over sequel to Trollhunters, and in turn will be connected to a third chapter, entitled Wizards. But this animated story stands alone. It’s about a teenage prince and princess, their bodyguard, and guardian “mothership” (voiced by Glenn Close) who flee their planet after an evil takeover and land on Earth. Posing as ordinary people — a Latino boy, a girl, and an elderly man (with the ship disguised as a house) — they hide in the town of Arcadia to evade intergalactic bounty hunters.
A Wrinkle In Time (Neon)
The original story is almost 60-years-old but this Disney reimagining of Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 novel still captivates young teens. It tells the story of Meg, the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, who struggles with issues of self-worth and just wants to fit in. Complicating matters, her father mysteriously disappeared four years ago, and while everyone urges her to move on, Meg knows he is still alive. Gorgeously costumed and shot with visual flair, this story slowly builds to a sustained emotional punch. Starring Storm Reid (12 Years A Slave) as Meg it features a raft of superstars including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling as the beings of light who guide Meg. While unashamedly emotional, the film also gives young women a positive and direct message that they are perfect just the way they are.
Heihei TV (www.heihei.nz) is a content hub for heaps of original Kiwi shows – there’s a bunch of content that’s screened on TVNZ, but it’s also the home of some original shorts produced under NZ on Air. Fanimals is a great starting place for younger kids (and let’s face it, older ones will love it too). Hosted by the bubbly Jess Quilter and friendly vet Stacey Tremain, it features Kiwi kids and various celebrities with their animals. There’s even an associated website (fanimals.co.nz) loaded with interactive games and other extras, including a 24-hour guinea pig cam. For older children, Wild Eyes is a series of short shows – only five minutes long – demonstrating a bunch of DIY backyard activities that’ll keep the kids entertained all summer.
The Founder (Netflix)
The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers' innovative fast-food eatery, McDonald's, into the biggest restaurant business in the world, is great for young adults – depending on how you go with swearing. It’s great for modern teens to see the real story behind the Golden Arches and it works for adults too.
School of Rock (Lightbox)
For parents who loved the original School of Rock with Jack Black, this series follows a down-on-his-luck musician who teaches a group of unconventional and over-achieving students at a prestigious prep school to play and love rock 'n roll. It’s not the original but it rocks all the same.
Let’s Get Inventin’ (Heihei)
It might be a bit blokey – a cross between Top Gear for kids and Mythbusters – in which men coach kids to manufacture machines to their own designs. It’s clever and fun and a real father-son bonding show.