ZOG AND THE FLYING DOCTORS | All ages

Zog and the Flying Doctors is a 26-minute BBC animated short based on the beloved book by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, a sequel to the International Emmy-winning Zog that continues the adventures of the clumsy but eager-to-please young dragon. 

As a flying doctor trio, Zog, Princess Doctor Pearl and Sir Gadabout care for creatures, from a mermaid to a unicorn to a sneezy lion, but when bad weather forces them to land at the palace, Pearl is locked up by her uncle, the king…

In their five-star review, Radio Times called Zog and the Flying Doctors “a superior sequel that will entertain adults as much as kids… a funnier, even sweeter adventure…  the big, warm hug we’ve all been yearning for this year… Gives How To Train Your Dragon’s Toothless some serious competition for the title of Cutest Dragon Ever.”

Also catch Magic Light Pictures’ Oscar-nominated Roald Dahl adaptation Revolting Rhymes and other Julia Donaldson favourites like the original Zog, as well as The Snail and the Whale, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Stick Man, The Highway Rat and Room on the Broom on Showmax. 

 

ESME & ROY S1-2 | Recommended for ages 3+ by Common Sense Media

Sesame Workshop’s animated series, Esme & Roy, follows the adventures of a little girl named Esme and her bestest, fuzziest monster friend, Roy, as they babysit the little monsters of Monsterdale… and help them handle monster problems like fussy eating, thunderstorms, sadness, anger and frustration. This sweet preschool show is packed with positive messages and tools for little ones and parents dealing with all those big emotions.

Picking up its fourth Emmy nomination this year, the series has a five star rating on Common Sense Media, where the consensus says, “They’re an unusual pair, but these sweet sitters are just what the doctor ordered… Esme & Roy‘s thoughtful approach to self-awareness and mindful behavior makes it an excellent tool for families and caretakers to use in teaching similar skills to kids.”

Esme is voiced by Joey Award nominee Millie Davis (Odd Squad’s Ms. O) and Patrick McKenna (the voice of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’s Gil) is the voice of Roy. Benjamin Hum (the voice of PJ Masks’ Gekko, and O the Owl in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) was nominated for Best Young Actor 10 & Under at the Young Entertainer Awards for voicing Snugs, and Jacob Soley (who voiced Abby Hatcher’s Teeny Terry and PJ Masks’ Night Ninja) won Best Actor at The Joey Awards for the voice of Simon.

JUNGLE BEAT: THE MOVIE | Recommended for ages 5+ by Common Sense Media 

Produced in Cape Town by Sunrise, Jungle Beat’s adorable animations have become a YouTube phenomenon, racking up over six million subscribers and nearly three billion views, as well as a host of awards. Now the animation’s stars, Munki and Trunk, have their own movie, which screened in competition at Annecy International Film Festival last year.

When a homesick alien crash-lands his spaceship near their jungle home, Munki, Trunk and their animal friends need to get him back to his ship and teach him about friendship and fun – before his father can take over Earth.

Screen International hailed it as “sweet, wholesome family fare that should win the approval of parents and hold the attention of younger viewers… Its cheery message of friendship, tolerance and acceptance does seem particularly timely and can only help endear it to viewers.”

Also watch the movie in isiZulu on Showmax.

TROLLS WORLD TOUR | Recommended for ages 6+ by Common Sense Media

Trolls sequel Trolls World Tour is a feel-good animated family musical that sees Poppy and Branch set out to unite the six musically diverse troll tribes and stop Rock Queen Barb and King Thrash from turning everyone into rock zombies. 

Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Love Life, Pitch Perfect) won a 2021 Kids Choice Award for Favourite Voice from An Animated Movie, edging out co-star Justin Timberlake. Also listen out for the vocal stylings of Golden Globe nominee James Corden, Golden Globe winner Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Oscar winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), and Grammy winners George Clinton, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson .Paak, and Mary J. Blige.

Trolls World Tour was nominated for a 2020 People’s Choice Award for Favourite Motion Picture and for four Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature. Common Sense Media praises the film’s positive messages and musical performances, saying, “This sweet sequel encourages inclusion and diversity – both in terms of musical genre and cultural background – while making audiences of all ages smile. It offers enough laughs and colourful visuals… and a medley of familiar covers and catchy original songs to charm even older kids and adults.”

LOONEY TUNES CARTOONS S1 | Recommended for ages 7+ by Common Sense Media

Warner Bros. and HBO Max are bringing back one of the best things on TV ever – Looney Tunes Cartoons! And they’re daffier, crazier, and loonier than ever, with 20 all-new episodes (and more in the pipeline) that see Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety, the Road Runner and other favourites up to their old antics with hilarious misadventures inspired by the original classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

Voice legend Eric Bauza, who voices Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety and more, (and can be heard in Teen Titans Go!, and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) just picked up his fifth Emmy nomination for his work on the show, which has also been nominated for Best Editing For A Daytime Animated Program.  

The series has already nabbed a 2021 Annie Award for its storyboarding, with a further nomination for character design (they’ve gone back to the character designs from the early ‘40s). It has an 8.1/10 score on IMDb and an 88% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. ScreenCrush calls the new series, “the most authentic Looney Tunes since the glory days of Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng,” while Wall Street Journal says, “The new Looney Tunes Cartoons are ‘good for kids,’ as my 7-year-old consultant concluded, but they also honour the anarchic spirit of the original Looney Tunes.

Most episodes consist of two full shorts and a brief mid-episode vignette. True to the spirit of the originals, there’s still loads of insane cartoon violence and Acme Corporation weaponry, but parents will be happy to see that they’ve excluded any depictions of firearms.

THE HARRY POTTER BOXSET | The first movie is recommended for ages 7+; the last five for 12+ by Common Sense Media

Make it a magical school holiday for the whole family with the complete Harry Potter boxset. Whether you’re wizards, muggles, or just devotees of J.K Rowling’s beloved all-time best-selling book series, you can now follow Harry, Hermione and Ron (played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint respectively) from their first day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to the epic final battle against the forces of darkness.

Lose yourself in all eight epic movies of the multiple-Oscar-nominated fantasy saga: 
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Pt1
and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Pt2

Together, the Harry Potter movies constitute the third highest-grossing film franchise of all time, with a global gross of over $7.7 billion. On the small screen, it still holds the record for the most-watched franchise in TV history, with over 1.3 billion viewings to date.

 

DC SUPER HERO GIRLS | Recommended for ages 8+ by Common Sense Media

DC Super Hero Girls follows teenage superheroes (and Metropolis High School students) Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Bumblebee, Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Zatanna as they fight crime and protect the citizens of Metropolis. 

Created by Emmy-winning writer-producer Lauren Faust (who developed My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), DC Super Hero Girls was recently nominated for a 2021 Emmy for Best Directing Team for a Daytime Animated Program, and has already racked up three Annie Award nominations.

“It’s empowering and inspiring and great to see female characters showing agency in a series aimed at children and so on – but also, significantly, it’s just funny as hell,” says The Guardian. “It’s wild, it’s colourful and it’s got my son already planning to be Batgirl for Halloween. Forget the comparatively feeble cinematic universe: this is DC’s greatest incarnation by far.”

DOLITTLE | Recommended for ages 8+ by Common Sense Media

Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) won a 2021 Kids Choice Award for Favourite Movie Actor as Doctor Dolittle, the famous vet who can talk to animals. Called upon to save The Queen (BAFTA nominee Jessie Buckley from Fargo and Chernobyl), Dolittle sets off on an adventure across the seas, aided by his animal companions and young apprentice Tommy (newcomer Harry Collett), but Dolittle’s lifelong rival, Dr. Blair Müdfly (Golden Globe nominee Michael Sheen from The Good Fight and Good Omens) is hot on their tails. 

Oscar nominee Antonio Banderas (who voiced Shrek’s Puss in Boots) and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Paddington’s Mr Gruber and Harry Potter’s Professor Horace Slughorn) co-star, along with an astonishing voice cast that includes Oscar winners Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, and Marion Cotillard, and Oscar nominees Ralph Fiennes and Kumail Nanjiani. Also listen out for BAFTA winner Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Kids’ Choice and Teen Choice Award winner Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place), and Kids’ Choice and Teen Choice nominee John Cena (Bumblebee).

Based on beloved classic author Hugh Lofting’s second Doctor Dolittle book, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Dolittle earned over $250 million at the global box office, making it the fifth highest-grossing film of 2020. Dolittle was also nominated for a 2021 Kids Choice Award as Favourite Movie.  

 

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG | Recommended for ages 8+

The world needed a hero – it got a hedgehog. The sixth-biggest movie of 2020, action-adventure comedy Sonic the Hedgehog is based on the iconic Sega video game franchise. Small, blue and super-speedy, Sonic has embraced his new home on Earth, until he accidentally draws the attention of evil genius Dr. Robotnik, who wants to harness Sonic’s power to achieve world domination.

As Dr. Robotnik, Jim Carrey won a 2021 Critics Choice Super Award for Best Villain, while Emmy winner Ben Schwartz (the official voice of Dewey Duck since 2017, and Parks and Recreation’s Jean-Ralphio Saperstein) won Best Animated Performance at the 2021 Hollywood Critics Association Awards for his role as Sonic. South African-born child actress Melody Nosipho Niemann won a 2020 Joey Award for her role as Jojo. 

The movie also stars Saturn Award, Teen Choice and MTV Movie Award nominee James Marsden (X-Men, Hairspray) and Tika Sumpter (Mixed-ish, Gossip Girl).

“Why did it take Hollywood so long to make Carrey a handlebar-mustachioed villain?” Common Sense Media asks in their 4/5 star review, recommending the movie as “a laugh-until-you-turn-blue fun film for the family to enjoy together.”

Sonic the Hedgehog was nominated for two 2021 Kids’ Choice Awards, for Favorite Movie and Favorite Movie Actor (Jim Carrey), and the sequel is slated for release next year. 

STEVEN UNIVERSE FUTURE  | Recommended for ages 10+ by Common Sense Media

Calling all Steven Universe fans – Cartoon Network’s 20-episode epilogue to the beloved original series zooms in on life in the aftermath of the events of Steven Universe and Steven Universe: The Movie. Humans and Gems coexist in harmony at last, after the end of the war between the Crystal Gems and Homeworld… but, at 16 – and with no more enemies to defeat – our love-everyone, make-friends-with-everyone, heal-everyone hero must see if he can make that Steven Universe awesomeness work for himself. 

As Polygon puts it, “Instead of endlessly cycling through more and more enemies, the show’s wrap-up is doing something strange and amazing: it’s reminding viewers that what happens after a fight may be just as important to the participants as what happens during it.”  

Sticking with the award-winning legacy of the franchise, Steven Universe Future was nominated for the 2020 Primetime Emmy Award for Short Form Animated Program and has been widely acclaimed by critics and fans alike. It has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Salon.com saying, “A cartoon that’s a rallying cry to love yourself and grow into your identity should be nothing radical for children… Steven Universe envisions a world where queerness is extraordinary as it is normal.”

THE HARDY BOYS S1 | Recommended for ages 10+ by Common Sense Media

If your family loved the spy drama Alex Rider, it’s time to book some TV time with the tweens and teens again!

Nominated for Best Young Adult Series at this year’s Emmys, The Hardy Boys is a high-action update on the classic franchise that sees teenagers Frank and Joe set out to uncover the truth behind a tragedy that has changed their lives forever, only to discover there’s something far more sinister going on in Bridgeport.

Common Sense Media recommends the show for ages 10+, cautioning that this “throwback drama is tense, a bit violent, [and] with tween snark,” but, they say, “It feels nostalgic for parents and will remind today’s kids of a less edgy Stranger Things.”

BUT THESE HOLIDAYS ARE REALLY LONG….

This is just a taster of the kids gems on Showmax. Also look out for 2021 Emmy contenders Craig of the Creek (nominated for Best Children’s Animated Series), SpongeBob SquarePants (voice actor Tom Kenny, aka SpongeBob himself, is nominated for Best Performer In A Daytime Animated Program), and The Tom and Jerry Show (nominated for Best Music Direction For A Preschool, Children’s Or Animated Program), not to mention ever-popular series like Paw Patrol, The Loud House, and many more.

This article was published in partnership with Media Xpose.

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