Our Star Wars Cartoon Family Portrait

We had a lovely surprise gift during a recent holiday to New Zealand – this great Star Wars inspired cartoon family portrait.

Our cousin Vaitoa (the family tree connection is more complex than that but cousin is fine) is a commercial artist, and while as far as I know not particularly a Star Wars fan himself, he knew of my love of the galaxy far, far away… and how I’m sharing it with my daughter.

He browsed our Facebook photos for reference – the one here is just to show you what we all look like normally – and then created our likenesses for this picture.

We first saw it when he gifted us with a framed print, while he and his awesome family came round to see us for an all too fleeting visit while we were in New Zealand (where my wife is from and we lived together for 4 years).

We love this picture, and now back in the UK we proudly have it hanging in our home.

Cartoon Jedi Family
Mummy, daddy, and youngling

What’s happening in this illustration? Well, Jedi are not allowed to have relationships, so I reckon my wife and I look like a couple of Jedi Knights who fell in love and decided to leave the Jedi Order to be together. We then had a child, and we are bringing up our youngling to learn the ways of the force. And we look very happy about it.

My wife – also not particularity a Star Wars fan – is stoked to have this portrait of us.

The point of the post is to share something we think is really cool, but it would be remiss of me not to pay it forward and promote my cousin’s services. So, if you want your own version, drop our cousin Vaitoa a line at vaicreative01@gmail.com. Tell him cuzzy Simon sent you, and said you’d give a good rate 😉

In My Little Pony, Feminism as well as Friendship is Magic

For as long as I’ve been blogging about being a parent raising a daughter in the shadow of princess culture, I’ve had online feedback suggesting I check out the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon (aka MLP:FiM).

At first, I ignored them. What were they thinking? These people clearly didn’t understand I wanted to show my daughter content with themes of female empowerment and self-confidence; to find stories and characters that didn’t patronise young girls; that had imaginative female led tales of action and adventure yet with stimulating and thought provoking scenarios. My Little Pony was surely part of the problem – not the solution. Continue reading In My Little Pony, Feminism as well as Friendship is Magic

Review: Custom LEGO Figures From Minifigures.com

One of the things I loved to do as a LEGO loving kid, in the days before their licensed lines, was to create sets from my favourite stories. Star Wars was unsurprisingly a favourite one to explore.

A company still doing this in their own way is MiniFigures.com. They create custom minifigures – with designs printed on new LEGO parts – based on a whole host of properties that LEGO haven’t – and in most cases probably will never have – made sets from.

They offered to send me a selection of their minifigures to check out, and I requested sets with female characters (as I’m always keen for my daughter to have more of those in our collection).

They arrived in nice packaging – both the individual figures and the parcel itself.

Minifigure.com Custom LEGO

First we opened the X-Files set with Sculder and Mully (geddit?), which are a pretty good LEGO likeness for the iconic FBI agents.

They also have a Star Trek line, with Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Sulu, and a generic Red Shirt. The female figure is Lt. Dax from Deep Space Nine (which was one of my favourite Star Trek shows).

But my favourite one was based not on a film or TV show but a real life adventurer – aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. Named Amelia Brickhart here, the detail on her is great with the helmet, goggles, flying jacket – and even a map.

Amelia Earhart LEGO minifigure
My favourite – an Amelia Earhart LEGO minifigure (named Amelia Brickheart)

They have dozens of other figures on offer based on properties and figures as diverse as Barack Obama to The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and E.T. 

These minifigures aren’t cheap, retailing from £9.95 each. They are more for the adult collector than LEGO loving child, but I love their creativity in keeping this aspect of imaginative LEGO play alive. And as collectables, some of their minifigures also end up selling on for more than face value.

Check out the range at MiniFigures.com.


Disclosure: We were sent these minifigures free charge for the purposes of this review. 

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorise or endorse Minifigures.com products.

Comic Book Movies For Kids? Check Out the LEGO DC Superheroes Collection

I was a superhero loving child, who grew up watching the likes of Superman on the big screen and Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk at home on TV. One of the biggest shames about the current renaissance in live action comic book adaptations is that they’re made for teenagers and adults – and the children who I think should be the prime audience shouldn’t be watching (ahem) the best of Marvel and DC on film or TV.

I’ve written about this before. It particularly bugs me because I really want to share my love of these characters with my 4-year-old daughter.

Cartoons are a good alternative, and a recent discovery were the animated LEGO DC Superheroes movies. I must admit, I had pretty much ignored these straight-to-video releases. But I was offered the chance to check out the series of three Justice League movies, including the latest instalment LEGO DC’s Justice League: Cosmic Clash. The previous ones are Attack of the Legion of Doom, and Justice League vs Bizzaro League.

LEGO DC’s Justice League- Cosmic Clash
The JLA as featured in ‘LEGO DC’s Justice League: Cosmic Clash

I was happily surprised by them. The quality of the animation is really good, far better than I expected from a home entertainment only release. Having recently had the misfortune to see one of the Barbie straight-to-video movies (ugh), the quality of animation – as well as everything else – is so much better.

These are light comedies, that poke a little fun at the characters (much like the LEGO Movie did). The characterisations are fun – for the most part. Superman is a naive and giddy do-gooder; Batman is constantly suspicious; Green Lantern tends to be full of himself; and Cyborg is an enthusiastic youth.

LEGO DC Superheroes JLA
It’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – LEGO DC Superheroes style

But what of the female characters? Wonder Woman is a founding member of the Justice League and features prominently in all three films. While her character in the first one has an annoying tendency to make fashionista comments, she soon becomes the strong and respected hero she deserves to be.

Wonder Woman is even worshipped as a deity at one point by an all-female civilisation. In Justice League vs. Bizarro League, her ‘bizzarro’ version (Bizzara), who is supposed to be the opposite of her, made me chuckle when she proclaimed “I’m a pretty princess!”

Another prominent hero is Supergirl, who here is actually a girl – a high school cheerleader, who frequently breaks into cheers mid-battle. This is something you’ll likely either find endearing or annoying. Another Super-family character that features is Lois Lane, poking fun at her propensity to be rescued by Superman.

Supergirl cheerleader
Supergirl as a super-cheerleader

Other female characters include Saturn Girl from the Legion of Superheroes, plus villains Cheetah and Giganta (who my daughter really liked).

Superhero Movies For Kids?

These fit my desire for child-friendly superhero movies perfectly. The humour and general playful tone, mixed with decent plots, worked well. My daughter liked Wonder Woman in particular – especially when she took on Giganta – but she also enjoyed seeing the Green Lanterns (Hal Jordan was her favourite incarnation). She also liked it when the JLA played hide & seek – a current favourite game of hers.

LEGO DC’s Justice League- Cosmic Clash Green Lantern
Cosmic Clash features the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern – my daughter’s favourite

Overall, I found these cartoons fun and engaging. Though comedies, they still don’t skimp on the action. However, in a classification system (BBFC) that rates the original Star Wars trilogy as U, the PG rating seems rather harsh. IMHO these are fine for any pre-schooler.

LEGO DC’s Attack of the Legion of Doom, Justice League vs Bizzaro League and the latest release Justice League: Cosmic Clash are all available to buy now.


Pirate Batman riding a shark
Pirate Batman riding a shark. What’s not to love.

Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Family Fever

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and (Mostly) Love Frozen

If you have a young daughter, one thing has been inescapable over the past few years – Frozen. As a dad of a girl, evangelised by Cinderella Ate My Daughter, I had zero interest in showing it to my kid. So far, the Disney Princess bug had failed to latch on and she was happy with the likes of Studio Ghibli, Wizard of Oz, and Star Wars.

All I knew was this. It was a watered down version of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen. Anna or Elsa (I had no idea who was who) were Disney Princesses in all but name. Their inane smiles greeting me in every clothes shop, adorning a sea of pink and pastel clothing. It didn’t stop there. Tableware, magazines, party accessories, etc. all featured the pair. And every little girl around us – including her not yet 3-year-old peers – appeared to have seen it.

I began reading of Frozen themed birthday parties. Where the competition for Elsa performers (I was learning who was who) was fierce. Where birthday girls (and/or mothers) insisted only they could be Elsa.

Other liked-minded parents of girls warned me off. “Don’t show them Frozen! They cannot unsee it!” The song ‘Let it Go’ seemed to be a key offender. My daughter’s best friends had to varying degrees become Elsa obsessed, belting out the song – twirling around with their arms theatrically outstretched – regularly. I often heard a familiar argument between girls developing in playgrounds and playgroups – “You can be Anna, I’m Elsa”. “NO, YOU BE ANNA, I’M ELSA!!”

But I eventually bowed to the inventible. I had to show Frozen to my daughter. While we had seen a few Disney Princess movies, these were not as big a part of the collective girl-hood consciousness as Frozen had clearly become. My daughter could not remain that culturally unaware. All her immediate peers had seen it. But I was really worried about what it might lead to. Was this the Disney Princess gateway drug I had feared?

So last year, we borrowed the DVD from one of her Frozen fan friends (who apparently threw a big tantrum when she spotted it was missing – for one day!). And we watched it.

A funny thing happened. I kinda liked it.

**Some spoilers ahead**

It didn’t start off great. Firstly, for a film that seemingly became synonymous with a form of feminism and/or female empowerment, beginning it with a bunch of men lugging ice blocks seemed odd. When we did meet the sisters, Anna was… well, really annoying. A squeaky voiced little girl, who sings the immensely irritating ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”. Ugh.

But things began to get interesting. Elsa had powers. Magic powers. Superpowers. They were begining to get out of control. And her parents were worried, wanting to hide her away. This is a plot line straight from the pages of the X-Men.

As she grows older, her magical/mutant powers remain contained, but she must withdraw from the world and her sister. Eventually she is ‘outed’ with disastrous results, and she flees.

Alone, Elsa is free to explore her powers and who she is. Much like Christopher Reeve’s Superman, she creates her own icy Fortress of Solitude. Only this is a musical, and so begins ‘Let it Go’. And it was terrific.

As a point in the story (finally being able to revel in who she really is), a spectacular scene (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a musical number with superpowers), and a show stopping song (most surprising), ‘Let it Go’ worked brilliantly. No wonder all these 3-year-olds had decided THIS was the moment – and the character – to latch on to.

More surprising things happened: The story was keen to subvert ‘Princess’ stereotypes. The lead princess actually becomes a queen (and therefore a leader); The handsome prince turned out to be a dick; The men do not save the day; And the quest for a ‘true love kiss’ to remove the curse, came not from an arbitrary romantic interest, but the love of a family member.

In the months since first viewing, my daughter has continued to reference Frozen. I don’t know how much is the film, or the chance to finally engage with this content with her friends. But it had clearly made an impression on her.

Eventually, I asked her THE question: “Who do prefer, Anna or Elsa?” Her answer surprised me. “Olaf”. Turns out, this is the character she has connected to most – her reasoning is that he loves summer, just like she does. He (voiced by Josh Gad) is genuinely funny, and has the second best song (“In Summer”). Olaf merchandise – from toys to t-shirts – have been acquired ever since.

So, Frozen was – overall – ok.

Not entirely. Some other issues remain. However these are nothing to do with the film directly – but the merchandise.

The Frozen sisters had come to dominate girlhood. In every store that sells good aimed at girls, they are there. And the artwork used of Anna & Elsa is generally insipid and passive. The dynamism of Elsa’s awakening is rarely portrayed. The colours are always pastel, and frequently pink – a colour hardly seen in the film. My daughter’s beloved Olaf remained firmly planted in the ‘boys’ aisle.

And the ubiquitous ‘Elsa dress’. I don’t think there is a sadder indictment of the way the film has bee sold to little girls, that Elsa’s plea for self discovery and individuality in “Let it go” has resulted in armies of similarly clad girls, all in the same crappy dress (they’ve replaced the striking elegance of Elsa’s movie dress with an aquamarine polyester frilly horror), all wanting parties with an Elsa performer. To reference Life of Brian, it’s as if they are saying in unison “We are all individuals”.

So while I (largely) applaud the movie itself (another achievement for Disney under Chief Creative Officer John Lassetter), my issues with merchandising remain. Still, my daughter has managed to show off her Olaf fandom well.

girl wearing Olaf t-shirt Olaf jammies Olaf crocs
This was her attire during a recent series of long haul flights to New Zealand and back – Olaf t-shirt, Olaf pyjama trousers, and Olaf Crocs.

Is Frozen feminist? I don’t know. I’ve read articles proclaiming it is feminist, post-feminist, anti-feminist, or an example of false feminism.

To me, at least it’s trying to subvert some of the worst aspects of Princess Culture. It’s not been the gateway princess-drug I feared, and I have no issue with my daughter adding it to her collection of favourite movies.