I SHARE a home with another critic. She is my grandniece and her name is Leona. She has recently turned 3 and rules TV-viewing in the morning. At night, when the adults in the house, including her mother, Joan, watch their own TV fare, it takes a lot of diplomatic skills from everyone in the house for Leona to give up her authority.
To Leona, I’m forever grateful for exposing me to animation I would never have endured had my editor compelled me to explore the latest trends in children’s animation. My editor, perhaps, would find it strange that I’m developing a sort of expertise in the field of children’s TV program.
Leona’s parents don’t purposely teach her how to speak English. She, however, has developed a knowledge of the said language through animation. She mimics the inflections and, if you don’t check yourself, she can quite shock you with a newfound candor expressed in the English language.
One morning, she realized I’d been home for quite a spell, this as I recovered from a 10-day hospitalization. Either I looked bored or lost but 0ne fine morning, with my afflicted leg propped up on a small pillow on the sofa, she approached me cautiously, or so I anthropomorphize her slow movement, and asked: Are you okay, Papa Totit?
Another morning, she woke up and, in a breezy mood, approached the breakfast table with all the adults quiet with their morning ritual of coffee and bread, and she asked: What are you doing, guys?
She can be cheeky and, at times, blunt with her remarks. I was told by her father that during a meal at a pizza parlor, she looked at the slice of pizza given to her and blurted: It’s disgusting.
Leona has not called yet any of the shows she sees on TV “disgusting”, but she sure can say “I don’t like that” whenever the remote control grazes over certain drama programs.
She likes many animations though, an interest that afforded me, as I said, to discover many new and odd things about TV content for children.
Leona’s clipped accent can be attributed to this cartoon called Peppa Pig. She is, well, a young pink pig and she has a brother, George. They have friends the same age as theirs and are also anthropomorphic—they are given the form, dress and gestures of humans. Every now and then, they make sounds that remind us of their “animal” heritage.
Leona’s favorite, of course, is Peppa and, sometimes Leona starts to sound like Peppa, not with the pig grunt but in her English. The TV show is, according to available information, intended for preschool children and, we assume, is monitored for content. There is nothing controversial in the program. Each episode is an ordinary event in the life of Peppa, her parents and her friends in their cozy, clean community.
I believe it is I, as an adult, who has issues with some of the stories in Peppa Pig. In one episode, Mrs. Rabbit is introduced as the officer of the fire station. Why a rabbit? By the way, while all the “animals” in Peppa’s world live in houses, with cars and so on, the family of rabbits is the only staying in a burrow, a hole in the ground. In this particular episode, Peppa and her friends visit the fire station, which has not seen any fire occurring in the neighborhood. A fire ensues though, because Peppa’s father was having a barbecue party with his other friends. Again, Leona doesn’t have any issue with the fire and the barbecue. I do. When the Father Pig talked about barbecue, what came to my mind was: pork barbecue? Before I could go on with my diatribe, my niece who was listening countered muttering: “Well, they could barbecue other things, like marshmallow and not necessarily pork.” Every moment that I get to watch Peppa Pig, I’m seeing more things that bother me. I wonder when Leona and I could engage each other with the more embedded issues in her favorite show. When she turns 10, perhaps?
By the way, Leona is an owner of a pretty, pink round tent decorated with all the characters from Peppa Pig. I can see it: Leona doesn’t just want to be an observer in the goings-on in the life of Peppa. She wants to live in that safe, serene world.
Leona also is the proud owner of a red mat with the figures from the domain of Princess Sofia. Aside from that property, Leona has outgrown a sofa bed, which she calls the Princess Sofia bed. But I seldom see Leona watch the adventures of Princess Sofia. Two special videos occupy Leona’s time. These are full-length animations: one is Sing and the other, Trolls. I have seen both more than five times already. Leona must’ve seen them double that number. She knows these two animations are different from Peppa and Sofia.
I don’t have to endure Sing; in fact, I enjoy it. I enjoy this animated film with my grandniece due, in no small measure, to the many lovely and popular songs in the movie.
The story is about a koala named Buster Moon, who tries to raise money so he can rebuild a theater and, well, make some money. He promotes a singing contest and this is where the songs go. Leona knows all the characters by heart, and corrects me whenever I call them by the wrong name.
Meena, a shy elephant, seems to be close to the heart of Leona. I like Buster Moon because he sings the ballads in the film. When I hum “My Way”, Leona would always look at me and whisper: “Buster Moon.”
Sing comes from Illumination Production, and is said to cost some $75 million to make, but has already grossed worldwide more than $630 million. A sequel is said to be scheduled for 2020. Leona would be 6 years old then. Would she still like Sing by then?
The other animated film that Leona loves is Trolls. I’m amazed the troll figures don’t scare off little girls. Again, with Leona, I can enjoy this animation because of the songs. I surprise Leona when I hum with the characters. Leona, perhaps, is surprised that her Papa Totit know the songs of the trolls dear to her.
From Leona, I learned that the Chipmunks are still on TV. You know, Alvin, Simon, Theodore. Except for the voice, the chipmunks are no more chipmunks but tiny boys. They are still naughty and cause some problems with David. In one episode they even tried to be matchmaker for David.
I wonder if Leona would understand if I tell her those little boys used to be…chipmunks. Perhaps, I can discuss issues like this when Leona turns 12 or 14. But not yet. I don’t think we want Leona to grow up that fast. We love her now—the little critic I share home with.
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