Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Puffin Rock

Puffin Rock

Spring 2016 Television
Ages: 3 & Up
Producer: Netflix
Rating: TV Y

Puffin Rock whisks preschoolers to a gently animated island off the coast of Ireland. It's populated by sea birds who speak with lilting Irish accents and other anthropomorphized animals who pop in and out to support the short storylines.

The main character, Oona, is a plucky little puffin (the technical term is puffling and that's just fun to say) and in each episode, she and her baby brother Baba explore their environment. Puffins can swim, fly, and burrow - so Oona has the mobility to get under, above, or into the island's wildest locales, providing opportunity to see a variety of settings and meet sweet creature friends along the way.

The theme song lilts; the score bubbles; the animation's color palette is muted; the scripting is peppered with characters' giggles and coos. Episodes are short, under 10 minutes, and plots play out through simple dialogue augmented by the narrator, popular Irish actor and comedian Chris O'Dowd. His talented voice and his slightly offbeat take are tonic for viewers of all ages.

Although press material for the program saysPuffin Rock includes science education in its mission, the direct science terms and concepts are likely to be missed by the intended audience. For example, in the episode "Night Life," Oona explores the island at night, encountering glow-worms, owls, and whales on her journey, and then the narrator includes details about glowing phytoplankton in the water. In The Shiny Shell, Baba finds an abalone shell but its shine attracts the attention of some ill-tempered seagulls. Most of the script consists of little Baba giggling delightedly and saying, "Shiny shell! Shiny shell!" but the narrator explains that the shine seems even brighter inside a cave they visit because it's reflecting off of the quartz rock in the walls. The interjection of phytoplankton and quartz feel somewhat out of place here, and may not leave a strong educational imprint on the viewer.

However, this program has plenty to recommend it: its painterly look sets it apart from other animated children's programming; the characters are charming, polite, and inquisitive, the relationships depicted are loving. The character development and more age appropriate science lessons (it's dark when the moon is covered by a cloud, the pond gets muddy after the rain) are likely to be embraced and repeated. Get the flashlights and bath towels ready.

Gina Catanzarite   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

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