In case you haven’t heard, Amazon is getting into the content business. Having devoured all of House of Cards on Netflix, I like where this trend of new players is headed. What’s cool is that these Amazon Originals include children’s shows, and all six of the pilots have potential. I highly recommend watching them all and taking the survey to help decide which become series. Bear in mind some of these are animatics still in production and you only get glimpses of their final form. Here’s what we thought of them.
Sara Solves It: This one is Ozzie’s clear favorite. It was the first one he gravitated towards and then it’s all he wanted to watch for days. I couldn’t even watch the other pilots until today because he’s obsessed with Sara Solves It. And no wonder, it’s made by our friends at Out of the Blue productions, who also brought us Ozzie’s fav, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Sara and her brother Sam live in an apartment building where there are all kinds of math hijinks. What Sara solves are math problems like addition and pattern making, with the math concepts integrated into the show. It’s delightful. This show also gets bonus points for starring two main characters of color.
Tumbleaf: This one is my favorite, and it’s a close second for Ozzie. It’s got a bit of a Fantastic Mr. Fox quality to it, with gorgeous animation (in the parts where it’s finished). The story has some weird fantasy moments and characters that make it hugely compelling, like when strange fuzzy creature beckon Fig the Fox to the “finding place” or when he puts on a rainbow kite suit to fly high in the sky. There’s some STEM stuff happening here, as science concepts crop up throughout the episode, but it’s never heavy-handed.
Annebots: This is the only one of the pilots for older kids, and because of Ozzie’s domination of the Amazon viewing I haven’t had a chance to show Olive yet. I think she’ll like it, though. Why? A cool girl inventor that hangs out in the junkyard building android helpers for her experiments. When the new boy in the neighborhood happens upon the junkyard, he begs to be her human helper because she’s just so cool.
Creative Galaxy: Another entry from Out of the Blue, this show is all about art and creativity. I have an art background, so I’m all for introducing the kids to works of art. Ozzie pointed at the screen and said, “Look at THAT picture!” It was the Mona Lisa. There’s also a Ferris-Bueller-inspired moment of looking deeply into A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, the George Seurat painting, before leading into a lesson on pointillism. My only beefs with this show is that some of the dialog is heavy-handed with the characters “thinking” and “being creative,” and for a show about creative expression, it totally throws architecture under the bus. (The premise is that the architect Mom’s library is too blah, so they have to go make art for it.)
Teeny Tiny Dogs: This one comes from The Jim Henson Company, and when it’s done it’s going to be all puppets. Ozzie didn’t grab onto this show, but I think when it’s done with puppets he will. It’s all about a doggie day care, and it deals with the social-emotional stuff that little kids go through at their own day care – being left by mom and dad, making new friends, trying new things, etc. And if there’s one thing that Henson consistently does well, it’s music. There’s a great musical number midshow that again will be awesome with puppets.
Positively Ozitively: Really, just for title alone this should top our list. I’m sure to be saying this to Ozzie from now on. I like this show more in concept than in execution (though the bit of finished animation looked cool). It’s little kid versions (or the kids of?) the characters from The Wizard of Oz. Dot and her dog can travel freely to Oz where they visit with their friends. In the pilot, Dot is looking for a gift for her mother, and travels through Oz looking for a wishing hat to wish for the perfect present. This being preschool TV, Dot naturally realizes (spoiler!) that she must make her own gift for mom. That ends up making Oz feel like a convenient plot device and not an integral part of the story.
I hope Amazon decides to move forward with all of the shows. Even for the shows that I liked less, I’d still like to see more.