Girls are getting into action

Women’s Month swings the Kids’ TV spotlight onto magic, princesses, superheroes, chess champions and sports stars this August

August on DStv is packed full of wonderful films and series that showcase female characters as complex, interesting and heroic people, or just little anarchists in pigtails.

Many of the series now include women’s voices behind the scenes, too, as creators and directors – and it shows. These are stories that show that success needn’t be at the cost of family and emotional attachments. They present sisters and friends supporting one another, mothers supporting daughters and being wise role models – or getting their very own stories wherein they have identities other than “mother”.

Best of all, they showcase male characters who aren't shoving women out of the way of danger or achievement, but standing at their sides, supporting and encouraging like real partners and mentors should. There are many positive male role models including devoted fathers and coaches and friends in these stories,

Stories in which the main character is female aren’t just for girls – they’re all fun adventures and if you can’t go on a fun adventure just because a girl is leading the way, it might be time to take out your map and ask for directions.



Sadie Sparks

14-year-old Sadie Sparks (Georgia Lock) is living a secret life. She looks like an ordinary girl from an ordinary suburb going to an ordinary school. But Sadie is following an alternative curriculum on the side – she’s learning to harness her wizard powers with the help of her “magician’s assistant”, Gibert (Rufus Hound) the grumpy 77-year-old white rabbit. “She’s a clumsy, loveable goofball, and it was so much fun to play her,” says Georgia. “They’re such a great pair, I love their friendship and hope the audience does too!”

There’s a romantic subplot, too, as Sadie is crushing on a boy at school named Sam (Sammy Moore) while butting heads with a fellow wizarding student, Blaine (Tyger Drew-Honey). But most of the time she’s messing around with her two best friends, nerdy comic book and sci-fi movie-loving Teepee (Joshua LeClair) and studious, loyal Lulu (Dominique Moore).

Sadie’s 2 worlds are represented in 2 different animation styles, with the normal world in 3D CGI, and the wizard world in 2D flat animation. Sadie can hop from one world to the other by jumping into her magician’s hat.

Sadie Sparks took two years to make, in the end, but series creator and director Bronagh O'Hanlon of Brown Bag Films reveals, “Development is an interesting beast. From the very first time I pitched it to when we started it was probably nearly 10 years. I pitched it when I was in my early 20s. Brown Bag really liked the idea of it, and they were pitching it around but they were told, ‘It’s great, but make it (Sadie) a boy, the main character.’ It was so frustrating! I got into animation because I wanted to see more people like me on the screen, that I can relate to. So (I realised that) people were probably trying to make shows for people like me but nobody would let them. One of the things that they say is, ‘Girls will watch shows about boys but boys won’t watch shows about girls, so we’re going to make shows about boys because that covers the most bases.’ It feels like you’re punishing girls for being more openminded,” Bronagh laughs. “Another thing you get is, the other excuse is, ‘Girls of a certain age, from 6 to 11, start watching TV sitcoms. So why would we make an animation for girls if they’re just going to watch live action?’ Well, maybe girls at that stage are realising that you’re not making shows about them! It’s a chicken and egg thing. But I think with the success of other shows like Doc (McStuffins), people are beginning to realise that girls do like animation, possibly, if you make it for them.”

Sadie Sparks S1 airs weekdays from Monday, 3 August on Disney Channel (DStv 303) at 15:40


Gabby Duran and The Unsittables

If you’ve ever been a babysitter, then you know that you have to be prepared for anything, from food sensitivities, to different home cultures and rules, to the babysat child's sensitivities to how you enforce those rules. It’s a big job for a small person, and sometimes it requires a diplomat’s finesse, a psychologist’s perception and understanding, and a zookeeper’s tolerance for gross stuff. Now imagine those kids were actually important alien youngsters from space, disguised as human children. Honestly? Same skill set, but “there are a lot of rules that are not at all traditional,” says Kylie. Young Jeremy (Callan Farris) the blob thing, for example, won’t throw a tantrum if he has too much fizzy cooldrink – he will literally explode.

After she’s landed with the job of babysitting space aliens, fearless, resourceful 13-year-old Gabby Duran (Kylie Cantrall) becomes the best babysitter in the galaxy, and that’s high praise. While Gabby’s mischievousness and adventurousness gets her into a pickle now and then, she genuinely cares for the little aliens she’s in charge of and does her best to make sure they have a good time with her.

“It’s dope if you actually have a babysitter who’s willing to help you out,” says Kylie. Gabby loves her job and it’s the one thing that’s reconciling her to having to move to a new town. She’s always had an excellent role model for hard work at home in her loving and caring mom Dina (Valery Ortiz), who’s a career-driven news reporter, but finding that she’s a brilliant babysitter gives Gabby the confidence to be as successful and hard working as her mom – but in a way that allows her to follow the beat of her own drum.

Watch Gabby Duran And The Unsittables S1 weekdays on Disney Channel (DStv 303) at 16:35


Matildathon: Matilda and The Ramsay Bunch Marathon

The Matildathon is 30 episodes in a row, so set your PVRs! Matilda Ramsay has her own TV show in which she has established herself as a very different cook from her famous father, Gordon Ramsay, while sharing her love of both the kitchen and daring outdoor adventures. Matilda has been cooking since she was 6 years old, and the series grew out of her food and lifestyle blog, which she started when she was 13 – as a way of keeping touch with her UK friends while she was in LA with her family while Gordon was shooting MasterChef USA.

Matilda is confident, creative and comfortable in front of the camera and she unapologetically rolls with any mistakes that she makes in the kitchen – which makes her a fantastic role model for kids learning new skills and improving on what they can already do. “Mum is always cooking at home for us all and it’s always very relaxed – just making things up from what is left in the fridge. But when my daddy cooks, he seems to know exactly what he’s doing and everything is very fast. So I watch them both and then just cook my way,” says Matilda. “It’s great for kids to know about cooking, because it helps you understand how to eat healthily and it teaches independence for later on in life.”

Watch the Matilda and The Ramsay Bunch Marathon on Sunday, 16 August on Da Vinci (DStv 318) from 09:30 (and there are a few episodes on Catch Up).

Little chefs can also watch Kids Baking Championship S6 from Friday, 7 August on Food Network (DStv 175) at 19:55


Masha and The Bear Song Fest

Kids can launch into the Women’s Day holiday on Monday, 10 August with a sweet little song in their hearts thanks to a special set of all the best musical episodes on Masha and The Bear. This Russian-inspired animated series (with wonderful character and set design) features a bold, out-of-control 3-year-old girl and her guardian figure, a retired circus bear who’s really not cut out to be a parent and as a result, lets Masha get away with all sorts of fun nonsense and downright rudeness. In a world full of shows trying to teach little girls to mind their manners all the time. Masha shows a child who is curious, bold, demanding and adventurous, but also loving and generous – and suffers no real consequences for being any of these things as she terrorises an entire forest (although it does make the bear visibly exhausted).

PS: the episodes featured are 6, 33, 40, 18, 22, 62, 27, 7, 4, 10, 8, 32, 52, 61, 44.

Watch Masha and The Bear Song Fest on Monday, 10 August on Boomerang DStv 302) from 08:25


Shimmer and Shine

Ever dreamt about having a genie in a bottle to help you with your problems? Little Leah (Alina Foley) has 2 – twin trainee genies named Shimmer (Eva Bella) and Shine (Isabella Cramp). “We grant Leah a lot of wishes, so the viewers get to see all the funny situations we get ourselves into while trying to help Leah. But most importantly, they will get to see the great friendship between all the characters on the show,” says Isabella.

The series was created by Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz and aims to team pre-schoolers social lessons like the importance of friendship, teamwork and not letting setbacks hold you back – all with the help of two of her favourite childhood things, glitter and magic. “The message I want to send to young girls is to be kind to each other and not to be catty to each other. There are some other girl shows out there that I watch with my daughter and the girls are not nice to each other, and it's just not necessary. I know there are people out there like that in the real world, but, why? Work together. Support each other. Be nice to each other. Be fun and friendly. That's really what I want them to take away. In all our shows, the girls never snip at each other. They love each other for who they are,” says Farnaz. Farnaz has drawn on her own Persian-Iranian heritage and travels to inform the look and feel of the show, along with some of its underpinning mythology.

“One way that we tried to evolve the mythology of genies was to break the master-and-servant relationship. In Shimmer and Shine, we focus on their friendship with Leah, and we also expanded the world to show that there are many different types of genies – not just wish-granting ones,” says Farnaz.

PS: Shimmer and Shine’s mentor in the genie world, Princess Samira (Nikki Soohoo), is based on Samira’s own daughter. “My favourite moment with a character would have to be when I first brought home the rough character designs of Princess Samira and showed them to my little girl. My daughter was almost 4 years old at the time, and Princess Samira is named after her. I handed her the rough drawing, didn’t say a word about who it was and she held it in her hands, eyes wide open, shaking and said, ‘Mom, is this me?’ My heart almost burst at that moment, watching her love for this genie. I told her ‘yes,’ and she said, ‘I’m so beautiful.’ I will never forget the joy that genie brought to her little face,” she says.

Watch Shimmer and Shine S4 (episodes 19-22) on Saturdays on Nick Jr (DStv 307) at 15:20 in August



Ride Like A Girl

In 2015, Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win Australia’s Melbourne Cup race. Now Teresa Palmer takes on the role (backed up by footage from Michelle’s real-life races) in director Rachel Griffiths’ film about Michelle’s ride to the top that was more of a steeplechase as Michelle powered her way through, under and over obstacles like the gross, ingrained sexism in the sport, and her personal struggles at home. “This extraordinary film celebrates 15 years of a woman’s determination and resilience to realise her dream,” says Rachel. The film is best for children aged 10 and up.

Watch Ride Like A Girl on Saturday, 8 August on M-Net (DStv 101) at 15:15


Queen of Katwe

In this PG-rated movie, 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga5) lives in Uganda's capital Kampala, in the Katwe slum, helping raise her siblings and working to sell maize to support the family. Even if she wasn’t a chess champion, we’d want to be her for how strong, smart and true to her family she is, and how she goes from being a shy mouse to being confident and bold. But Phiona finds a new and unusual way of helping the household when she becomes her neighbourhood's chess champion, then sets out to conquer the world.

The story holds close to real-life events as an adaptation of Tim Crothers' book The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster. Made by Kampalan director Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe is incredible for so many reasons – it’s set in Africa, it celebrates a girl’s brilliance and resilience, and it shows an entire community coming together to uplift someone who shows talent because of the joy and hope that brings them.

Watch Queen of Katwe on Sunday, 9 August on BET (DStv 129) at 21:00


Cloud 9

Kayla Morgan (Liv & Maddie star Dove Cameron) gets ditched from her snowboarding team when she gets too big for her snow boots, and she winds up having to work with an ex-champion named Will Cloud (Luke Benward) in order to win her way back into the spotlight. “She learns that she was missing a lot more in her life than she thought when she meets Will Cloud. It’s a story about a girl who wants a man to stand beside her as she saves herself,” says Dove

“I think Kayla is a very interesting character. She is the first lead character in a long time where when she is introduced, she is not really very relatable or appealing,” Dove adds. “She is more someone who you would expect to be the ‘mean girl’ or be able to stereotype into something undesirable. You watch her go to this beautiful character arc, where you really grow to love her.” Dove describes the film as an epic, sports-oriented story with an extremely romantic twist.

And if you want to talk about girl power, Cloud 9’s executive producer was Ashley Tisdale – High School Musical’s Sharpay herself.

Watch Cloud 9 on Friday, 14 August on Disney Channel (303) at 17:00


The Princess Diaries

Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo (Anne Hathaway) – but just call her Mia – starts this story as a typical 15-year-old American schoolgirl who lives in a converted firehouse with her free-spirited artist mom… okay, well, so maybe not so typical. And things get kookier when she finds out that she is really in line for the throne of the small European country of Genovia. Under the firm but gentle hand of her grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews), Mia learns to look, walk, talk and act like a princess, while keeping her feet on the ground, no glass slipper. It’s all our secret princess fantasies in one story. But it’s when Mia stands up to her country’s sexist laws and refuses to take a husband in a loveless marriage in the second movie that she proves her true worth not just as a princess, but as a future queen and a worthy successor to Clarise.

Watch The Princess Diaries on Monday, 17 August on Comedy Central (DStv 122) at 21:00

Watch The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement on Monday, 24 August on Comedy Central (DStv 122) at 21:00


Frozen II

Princess sisters Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are back loving and supporting one another as they tackle a frightening new adventure together. They need to try to fix the damage that the generations before theirs did to the area’s indigenous people, the Northuldra, and environment. Anna’s determination to “Do the Next Right Thing” and figure things out as she goes along carries a powerful message to children to aim for progress, not perfection, as they try to know better and do better every day. Best of all, by the end of the film, Elsa will have achieved and earned the full use and control of her powers, instead of having to rein herself in and hide for the sake of Arendelle.

Watch Frozen II on Wednesday, 12 August on M-Net Movies Premiere (DStv 104) at 16:05 or on Catch Up


The Incredibles 2

This is Elastigirl’s (Holly Hunter) big moment of standing in the spotlight as the superhero she was always meant to be (and yes, she performs all her own stunts). Rich benefactor Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) is aiming to bring Supers back into the spotlight, but according to his brilliant sister, Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), it’s Elastigirl who can get the best results – with the fewest casualties – for them.  

And as kids watch Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson) succumb to raggedy exhaustion trying to juggle his wife’s household duties while she’s off saving the world, kids might appreciate that being a mom is a challenging, insanely difficult 24-7 job. In the words of our favourite character, superhero fashion designer Edna Mode (Brad Bird), “Done properly, parenting is a heroic act.”

Watch The Incredibles 2 on Saturday, 15 August on M-Net Movies Smile (DStv 105) at 19:00

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