THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE | Stream from Monday, 18 December
The biggest animated opening of all-time, and the biggest global opening of 2023, The Super Mario Bros. Movie follows a couple of plumbers named Mario and Luigi, a princess named Peach, and an evil Koopa king known as Bowser … Sound familiar? That’s because the animated film The Super Mario Bros. Movie, from Nintendo and Illumination, is based on the classic megahit Mario video game franchise loved by generations of kids and kids-at-heart.
The film’s all-star voice cast is led by Kids’ Choice winner Chris Pratt (Owen Grady in the Jurassic World movies, and Marvel’s Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord) as Mario and Emmy nominee Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Furiosa) as Princess Peach. Critics Choice nominee Charlie Day (Charlie in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the voice of Benny in The Lego Movies) voices Luigi, with Kids’ Choice winner Jack Black (the Jumanji and Goosebumps movies, School of Rock, and the voice of Kung Fu Panda’s Po) as the villainous Bowser.
Common Sense Media recommends the film for ages 7+, while Variety says The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s “ingenuity is infectious. You don’t have to be a Mario fan to respond to it, but the film is going to remind the millions who are why they call it a joystick.”
TWENDE S1 | Showmax Original | Binge the first seven eps, with two more every Friday
The first Showmax Original 2D animated series, Twende follows a pangolin of the same name, the slowest moving animal in the savannah. Twende’s belief that, ‘Life is about the journey, not the destination’ is constantly at odds with his job as a motorbike taxi driver.
Rated 7-9 PGV, Twende is produced by London-based Braintrust and Johannesburg-based Mind’s Eye Creative, with Greig Cameron (Seal Team, Supa Strikas) as the showrunner and an all-star writing team that includes the likes of Supa Team 4 creator Malenga Mulendema and Kizazi Moto’s Vanessa Kanu. Junior Nyong’o voices Twende.
Twende’s pilot screened in competition at Annecy, the world’s premier animation festival. 2023 has lifted the bar for African animation but as 702 entertainment commentator Yalezo Njuguna says on his All That Yazz podcast, “Twende is genuinely my highlight of things I’ve watched within African animation. It is so funny.”
Or as Business Daily Africa puts it, “”Due to the excellent combination of skilful writing and clever voice performances, the series completely immerses you… Twende is a fast-paced, highly entertaining series that caters to both a youthful audience and those young at heart. It skillfully addresses complex themes playfully and enjoyably, making it a delightful experience for everyone.”
THE AMAZING MAURICE | Stream now
Based on Terry Pratchett’s Carnegie Medal-winning novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (which was in turn inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s Pied Piper of Hamelin), The Amazing Maurice follows a sassy, street-smart ginger cat with a sneaky disposition. Together with his band of rats and pied-piper friend Keith, he travels across the countryside, swindling villagers with a staged rat plague. But when the gang sets its sights on a scenic market town, they quickly realise that someone else got there first…
The all-star voice cast is led by Emmy nominees Hugh Laurie (House M.D.) as Maurice, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) as story narrator Malicia, Himesh Patel (Dr Watson in Enola Holmes 2) as Keith, and David Thewlis (Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter movies and Grail in Enola Holmes 2) as the dastardly Boss Man, with Emmy winner David Tennant (Doctor Who, Crowley in Good Omens) as Dangerous Beans. In their four-star review, Common Sense Media recommends the film for ages 8+, saying, “This fun-packed animation captures the [Terry Pratchett] magic that appeals on multiple levels to kids and adults alike.”
FRIGHT KREWE S1 | First On Showmax | Binge now
An ancient prophecy and a Voodoo queen put misfit teens in charge of saving New Orleans from the biggest demonic threat it’s faced in almost two centuries.
The team is catapulted into discovering the town’s biggest secret – that vampires, rougarous, ghosts, monsters and demons are in fact very real. But, honestly? Saving the world might be easier than becoming friends…
Co-created by Fangoria Hall of Famer Eli Roth (The House With A Clock In Its Walls) and Black Reel Award nominee James Frey (I Am Number Four), Fright Krewe is a Peacock Kids Original from DreamWorks Animation.
In their four-star review, Common Sense Media recommends the series for ages 9+. As Polygon says, “Fright Krewe has all the makings of a show that could be the next big thing — and maybe even redefine audience expectations for all-ages animation.”
GENIE | Stream now
From Richard Curtis, the Oscar-nominated writer of Love Actually and Notting Hill, comes Genie, a fairy-tale comedy about a workaholic man who enlists the help of a genie to help win his family back before Christmas.
Emmy nominee Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You, Gangs of London, The Capture) and two-time Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) co-star, opposite the likes of Critics Choice nominee Marc Maron (GLOW), four-time Emmy nominee Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), Screen Actors Guild winner Luis Guzmán (Wednesday) and Deneé Brenton (The Gilded Age).
Love Life creator Sam Boyd directs Genie, which is recommended for 8+ by Common Sense Media.
DRAGONS RESCUE RIDERS: HEROES OF THE SKY S1 | Binge now
Heroes take flight and friendship soars in the animated series Dragons Rescue Riders: Heroes of the Sky, from DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon franchise, based on the beloved books by Cressida Cowell.
The series follows the adventures of Viking twins Dak and Leyla, and their young dragon friends Winger, Summer, Cutter and Burple. Raised by dragons, the twins can talk to them and understand them. Together, they help rescue dragons in distress, as well as the people of their hometown, Huttsgalor.
The show has a four-star rating on Common Sense Media, where it’s recommended for ages 5+. As they say, this “charming and delightful entry into the How to Train Your Dragon franchise… is more friendly to younger kids than the original movie series.”