Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Will's First Day of Preschool

Will on his first day yesterday.

Will with his blue whale backpack from The Land of Nod.

You might remember a similar post from five years ago that brought about another proud but emotional moment for me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

'Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle' Debuts on DVD + Photobomb App

Our favorite little monkey is back in another full-length movie, "Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle," which was released on DVD and digital HD today.

This time, George is called on for a very special mission -- to go into space. But when a few things go wrong, the curious monkey crash-lands in Africa. In the jungle. With animals that aren't exactly used to apartment life in the city, complete with a doorman.

While the Man With the Yellow Hat is beyond worried, the clever monkey finds ways to make the best of it. He even ends up helping out a rhinoceros family and having a little fun riding giraffes.

Angela Bassett and John Goodman have starring voice roles in the movie, while the Plain White T's sing a new feature song, "Welcome to Paradise."

Will is a big fan of George and loved watching his space adventure, as well as seeing all of the jungle animals.

And check out Will's monkey "photobomb" with the new free photo app Photo With George.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Clifford, 'Animal Grossology' on Display at Discovery Cube Los Angeles

Clifford the Big Red Dog, Emily Elizabeth & Will
Clifford the Big Red Dog made a larger-than-life appearance this weekend at Discovery Cube Los Angeles as the hands-on museum's latest traveling exhibits, "Adventures With Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Animal Grossology," settled into their latest home.

Photo credit: Discovery Cube LA
"Adventures With Clifford" now takes over the space that Thomas and Friends filled before, and the activities are just as fun for curious kids.

On display through September 7, this interactive exhibit is well-suited to little ones. Will loved the variety of activities, which included a play area called Cleo's Backyard that offered tunnels and soft spaces to crawl; a giant dog bowl that kids could fill with stuffed dog bones; and Emily's Backyard Theater, which lets kids choose videos and dress up as Clifford characters.

Cleo's Backyard
The exhibit is designed to help kids learn "Clifford's Big Ideas": share; play fair; have respect; work together; be responsible; believe in yourself; and more.

We even got to meet Clifford himself! But that wasn't the only day he'll be around to say hi. Check the website for his meet-and-greet dates.

Clifford, Will and me
"Animal Grossology," also on display through September 7, gives kids a humorous and interactive look at animal digestion, blood suckers, vomit munchers and, yes, poo. Kids of all ages will enjoy the (clean!) hands-on fun, with older kids getting more info out of each exhibit.

Photo credit: Discovery Cube LA
Kids can discover which animal poo belongs to which animal, why flies throw up on food before eating it (definitely gross), and how some frogs carry eggs in their mouths and spit out their babies once they've hatched. (Will loved the game that came along with this one!)

In fact, for little kids like Will, there are activities to keep them entertained, including a faux submarine that takes kids on an underwater adventure via screens and even sports a fun slide. Will loved that, too!

Did that underwater creature just spit out my son?
And right now, tickets are only $10 for adults and kids!

Discovery Cube Los Angeles
11800 Foothill Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91342
Tickets: $10 for adults and kids through January 3, 2016. Kids ages 2 and under are free.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Ian and CC at "Les Miserables"
Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, including my amazing husband, who took CC to see "Les Miserables" at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Friday.

What a great father-daughter experience, and CC loved it!

Looking forward to celebrating more today.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Studio Ghibli's 'Spirited Away' Is a Magical Adventure

Just to get this out of the way right now — we love Hayao Miyazaki!

So getting the chance to review the renowned (and now retired) Japanese animation director and writer's Oscar-winning film "Spirited Away" was really a no-brainer. I've wanted to see this movie — and show it to CC — since we fell in love with "Ponyo" back when my little girl was a mere toddler.

"Spirited Away," produced by the famed Studio Ghibli, was released in the U.S. in 2003. The film, along with another Studio Ghibli release, "The Cat Returns," arrived this week on Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.

Because "Spirited Away" centers on a young girl (voiced by Daveigh Chase), I knew that would instantly captivate CC, who loves seeing young heroines on the big screen. From the moment the film started, she was riveted — and so was Will, who is still 2.

The young girl, 10-year-old Chihiro, moves to the countryside with her parents (Lauren Holly and Michael Chiklis), and she's not happy about it. When her father takes a wrong turn down a lonely road, the family discovers an abandoned amusement park and decides to explore.

Chihiro isn't so sure about this decision.

What they find is a mysterious, abandoned faux city with empty facades and streets. When Chihiro's parents find a storefront with a bounty of food, they sit down to eat ... and eat and eat. Chihiro goes to explore and is surprised to come back and find her parents have been turned into pigs. Yes, slovenly, overeating pigs.

Chihiro must then find a way to save her parents, and that involves exploring this mysterious world even further. She discovers that this sometimes magical, sometimes menacing place is filled with spirits and otherworldly creatures, all of whom like to relax at a bathhouse where she eventually gets a job.

She is befriended by a boy named Haku (Jason Marsden), who is her guide through this ordeal.

There were definitely some moments when I wondered if CC — or Will for that matter — would be scared. There are monsters. They vomit, ooze and even swallow other creatures. There's even a moment when Haku, who turns into a dragon, is attacked by paper birds and arrives at the main bathhouse covered in blood.

None of that phased my children.

They were both eager to follow Chihiro on her journey and to see how she would make it out the other side, with her parents in tow.

While we didn't get the chance to see "The Cat Returns," the story follows a schoolgirl (voiced by Anne Hathaway) who's bored by her day-to-day routine but suddenly finds her world turned upside down when she finds a mysterious cat.

That will definitely have to be our next Miyazaki experience!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hello Kitty's Supercute Friendship Festival Lights Up the Forum

CC and Chococat, her favorite Hello Kitty character, at Hello Kitty's Supercute Friendship Festival
Hello Kitty and her adorable friends arrived at the Forum this weekend for her Supercute Friendship Festival, and "supercute" is the perfect word to describe it.

With rainbow-bright stages and bursts of colorful exhibits and characters, this family-friendly festival was like walking into a dancing puff of cotton candy — in a good way!

Hello Kitty and friends perform on the rainbow stage.
Hello Kitty, Chococat, Melody and more joined their human dance companions for a variety of live shows about every 15 minutes, keeping kids entertained with new dance moves and story lines. Festival goers could even participate in a dance-off!

The floor of the Forum was filled with various exhibits, from Badtz-Maru's garage, where kids (and adults!) could get fun temporary tattoos to the Sweet Movie Time Theater (CC loved this!), which showed different Hello Kitty shows, some straight from Japan. Very cool!

Hello, Hello Kitty!
There were lots of photo ops around the festival floor, including this giant plastic Hello Kitty bag (above) that visitors could walk through. Also, there was Donut Pond (the best kind of pond!), a teacup in which fans could pose with Hello Kitty, and more!

We were there about two hours and still didn't hit everything.

What CC loved most were the live performances. She was still dancing even after we'd left. She loved the singing, dancing and adorable characters. Not only that, but she was able to see the shows up close. And if you happened to miss one, you could always catch the next one soon after, and with great seats to boot!

If your child is a Hello Kitty fan — or even if you're a nostalgic fan yourself — you and the family should definitely check out this festival next time it comes this way.

Live stage show at Hello Kitty's Supercute Friendship Festival

Saturday, June 13, 2015

'Matilda' Arrives in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson

Mia Sinclar Jenness is one of three girls starring as Matilda.
When it comes to rebellious, spirited children, "Matilda the Musical" has them in spades.

From the rousing songs and the blinding wattage of the talented kids in the cast, you can't help but want every burdened child to stand up on her desk — or on her bed at home — fist raised, and say, "Hey World! I'm somebody, and I'm amazing!"

The popular musical, with a book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, has seen huge success in London's West End and on Broadway. "Matilda" kicked off its first U.S. tour at the Ahmanson last week, and the musical shows plenty of heart.

Based on the book by Roald Dahl, "Matilda the Musical" brings to life the story of a genius little girl who is dismissed at home — always called "boy" by her car salesman father, Mr. Wormwood — and by her school's headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.

Her only champion is a mousy teacher called Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood), who believes in Matilda while having a hard time believing in herself.

The musical incarnation at the Ahmanson, directed by Matthew Warchus and starring Mia Sinclair Jenness in the title role (she's one of three Matildas in this production), is a great addition to the season, and will surely attract plenty of kids and their parents.

In fact, I brought CC, her friend and her friend's mom to opening night on June 6, and the girls absolutely loved it.

Keep in mind that Dahl wasn't a syrupy writer. In fact, he could be quite harsh. The musical also doesn't pull any punches, as the adults call the kids names you can't imagine using at home.

Cassie Silva and Quinn Mattfeld as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood
What tempers the dark moments is the absolute hilarity of the villainous characters. Mrs. Wormwood (Cassie Silva) is lots of fun with her over-the-top ballroom dancing and outrageous disgust at all things literary. Quinn Mattfeld as Mr. Wormwood dives headlong into his performance and is both clever and laughable as the disdainful dad.

And Bryce Ryness as Miss Trunchbull is a showstopper. His character's loathsomeness is especially brilliant because of his absolute dedication to the ridiculousness he's spouting. The overly busty costume (not to mention the Olympic get-up) also helps with the humor.

Bryce Ryness as Miss Trunchbull
That's not to say there aren't dark moments. Parents, keep in mind there are some flashes of light and darkness that happen during a very sad story-within-a-story that's being told. Small children could be frightened by that. (Eight-year-old CC and her friend were not.)

There were some hiccups on opening night, which I hope have been fixed. There was a loud noise that sounded like a broken air conditioning unit that interrupted the music and dialogue a couple of times during the performance. (Although kudos to Jenness, who kept "The Show Must Go On" attitude!) Also, there were a couple of times when then kids could be difficult to understand. We weren't sure if it was the acoustics, the mikes or a mix of that with their very British accents.

Despite that, "Matilda the Musical" is a definite must-see for kids who'd love to revel in a lot of inspiring rebellion.

"Matilda the Musical"
Ahmanson Theatre
May 29-July 12, 2015
Tickets: $45-$120 + $25 Hot Tix


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