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

Blaze and The Monster Machines

Blaze and The Monster Machines

Spring 2016 Television
Ages: 2 - 5 yrs.
Producer: Nickelodeon
Rating: TV Y

Nickelodeon's Blaze and the Monster Machines is a CGI-animated half-hour series aimed at young preschoolers. The high-octane monster truck world provides the setting for truck Blaze and his human buddy A.J., who live in Axel Town. The town is populated by a cast of human and vehicle friends and foes who together work through sticky situations that call for quick-thinking and teamwork.

According to the Nick Jr. website, this program is embedded with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum, using "the scientific principles that children encounter in their everyday experiences and relate it to the exciting world of monster trucks."

The series uses animated graphics to further explain STEM concepts, although for a target audience of preschoolers ages 2 - 5, some of those graphics and concepts seemed a bit too complex to make any measurable, long-term impact on such young viewers. It's the musical interludes that help make the educational concepts age-appropriate and memorable.

In the episode titled "Gasquatch" Blaze and A.J. stumble upon a forest vehicle-creature and invite him to join them at a Mud-Fest competition. At one point, they find themselves trying to outrace a runaway boulder on slippery ice and the characters use the opportunity to introduce the concept of inertia. The story also includes a musical interlude with a song called "Heavy Things Are Hard to Stop" in which the show's educational concepts are stressed through song. While young viewers may not remember the word "inertia" as it's used in the dialogue, they will probably recall the simple lyrics and understand that yes, indeed, "heavy things are hard to stop."

In another episode titled "Runaway Rocket," the Axel Town tormenter Crusher cheats at a competition and the results endanger him and another truck and it's up to Blaze and AJ to engineer a rescue plan. This storyline represents another running theme in Blaze and the Monster Machines,: exhibiting honorable character traits and strong values at all times. Blaze's truck and human pals represent familiar character stereotypes, from the shy guy to the extrovert to the brainy girl and the bully, providing endless plot combinations that show teamwork, strong morals, and a solid education are what makes you a winner in the end.

Blaze and the Monster Machines has a good mission and it's executed well enough, but the program is extremely similar to other children's programs featuring plucky little humanized modes of transportation, from racing cars to trains to aquatic vehicles, with scripts and educational content more stylishly accomplished. Although that makes Blaze difficult to stand out on a crowded track, if your child is already exhibiting the signs of a happy gearhead then go ahead and introduce him or her to Blaze and the Monster Machines - unless you're wary of inertia.

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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