Here’s the deal, fathers. If you have daughters—or sons who don’t care about outmoded gender roles (and if so, good on you, man)—there is a 90 percent chance that at some point during your day, you’re going to have to watch something with unicorns in it. The key is to find a unicorn-based entertainment which your picky-as-to-unicorns children and you, a reasonable adult, can watch together and enjoy as much as possible.
It’s actually not that hard. My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic: Royal Pony Wedding comes out on DVD from SHout! Kids on August 7. A two-hour length special miniseries of five episodes from the shockingly popular, actually pretty hip and funny The Hub channel’s 2010 reboot of the fanciful ’80s series, it’s both unicorn heavy (the way MLP always should have been!) and high on the drama.
Reflecting and condensing the recent English royal wedding fervor for children, the plot concerns Shining Armor’s impending nuptials to Cadance, the well-heeled niece of Princess Celestia. Shining Armor’s sister is, of course, Twilight Sparkle, so this marriage is one of romance, but also at least somewhat politically motivated, as this royal marriage will certainly consolidate power and join two of the most powerful families in the city-state of Ponyville. It’s also worth mentioning that these are some great unicorn names.
There are songs, rainbow-haired unicorns in wedding dresses, and lots and lots and lots of pink. It’s kind of ridiculous, but totally fun. Shout Kids! has graciously offered us up a giveaway: a brand-new DVD of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Royal Pony Wedding. If you think you’ve got the pony magic to bring this one home for you or your kids, leave a comment below. A random respondent wins! Dadnabbit is magic!
Warm milk. A bath in lavender soap. An old episode of the ‘80s TV adaptation of Babar. These are the three things that every parent knows can relax and put to sleep even the fussiest of toddlers. Glory be, as Nelvana’s Babar, long a mainstay of VHS, the early morning hours of family-friendly cable channels, and on-demand services, is now available on DVD in full-season collections.
Originally airing on HBO, Babar: The Classic Series is the finest of many adaptations of Jean de Brunhof’s long-running, 80-year-old picture book series about Babar, the elephant made king by introducing civilization to his brethren. And while the books feature a now dated and mystifying undercurrent of imperialism and taming the “otherness,” the series is nothing but sweet and gentle, quiet and happy. Perhaps it’s the crisp, soothing tenor of William Daniels (the voice of KITT from Knight Rider, Mr. Feeney on Boy Meets World), or that twinkling piano theme song that sets the tone for Babar’s adventures that explore morality, understanding others, and just trying to be a good person (or elephant), who no matter who you are.
As a bonus, the whole thing has been re-mastered, so it’s far more lush and less scratchy looking than I remember, yet still retaining that simple, hand-drawn, thick-outlined storybook quality. Babar: The Classic Series: Season 1 offers 13 episodes on two discs, and you can even watch it in French, which is, of course, the native language of Babar, the elephant king.
I’m not a huge fan of concept albums because they take themselves way, way too seriously, and because it’s usually the result of pretention and unchecked hubris from a musician who thinks because he can write an expressionistic song he can somehow tell a long narrative through an innately non-narrative form. But maybe concept albums are absolutely perfect for kids. (Or song cycles rather.) As they are supposed to introduce kids to music and teach them something about the world around them, an album of songs on the same subject really hammers a point home, and demonstrates connections between different things that the little one may not have noticed as of yet.
I think of this as I listen to Grow by Canadian singer-songwriter Andrew Queen. It’s a playful, refreshingly non-cloying kiddie record all about food: veggies, spaghetti, strange brews, and cheesy mac. Yes, kids albums often have songs about food because that’s something kids can relate to, but Queen and Karen Stille go to different places with it, and don’t talk down to kids, always a danger in this genre. The songs are an even mix of originals and inventive adaptations of folk songs; “The Pizza Tree” replaces the spaghetti in the “On Top of Old Smokey” kiddie parody “On Top of Spaghetti” with pizza, for example.
The music itself is jaunty and pleasant, rocking a bluegrassy, Union Station-meets-NPR kind of vibe. The musicianship across the board is excellent and confident with standout performances from mandolinist Nicolas Tjelias and Luke Mercier on the banjo, and Queen on the jug, gut bucket, and jaw harp. This is one you won’t mind having on in the car and is a great way to introduce kids to something other than straight-up rock or pop.