The latest season of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom has arrived on DVD so it’s time for Pixel Pop to do a slightly different review. This show is from the makers of the widely acclaimed (and at times controversial) series, Peppa Pig. The animation style, voice actors and dialogue delivery are practically the same. Where the two series differ though is in the quality of story telling. As a father, when looking at the benefit of a children’s show I tend to look for three things; what values is it teaching, what educational value does it have and is it entertaining? A good show will have all three, like Sesame Street. A show can still be good if it has two of these qualities, for example My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is entertaining and has good values. If a show only has one of these qualities then it’s largely a waste of time and I’ll look elsewhere. So where does Ben and Holly: The Elf Games sit?
Is it entertaining?
Mostly yes. The animation style is interesting to watch, the show contains visual and audio gags that will make a parent smile and keep a child amused. But it doesn’t exactly hook you. You don’t walk away from an episode wishing you could watch another one because nothing ever goes anywhere. Each episode essentially hits the reset button and any consequences from the last episode are completely disregarded. Whilst one wouldn’t expect too much of an overarching plot from episodes that are only ten minutes long, none of the characters ever develop or grow or even seem to learn anything from their experiences. Entertainment 6/10.
Is it educational?
Hmmmm…. no, not really. Out of all of the episodes I watched only two of them had any educational weight to them. There was one episode where the children took a tour of a “big farm” where they learnt from an “enormous” human child that cows produce milk, chickens lay eggs and sheep grow wool. This was very early on in the series so I had hope that this would be a trend, but it wasn’t until the end of the season where the elves take on a challenge to send the King to the moon before there were any more educational goodies to be had. In that episode the children discovered that there’s a place on the moon called the Sea of Tranquility, that there’s no water there, less gravity than Earth and that humans had been there before. All that was tarnished by an alien encounter on the moon, where mute, non-sentient aliens enjoyed copious amounts of jelly. Disappointing to say the least. Educational value: 3/10.
Does it have good values?
Most critics of the series can’t quite put their finger on why this show feels off and I feel the reason why lies here. Not only does Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom not explore any family values, it’s almost completely amoral. A race of fairies lead by a king rules over a race of elves who seem to be the working class. Elves hate magic – a staple of Fairy society – and Fairies tend to disrespect Elves because they can neither fly or use magic. Neither race seems to celebrate the strengths of the other and are quite often rude to each other. They attempt to make these circumstances humorous but being rude to people who are different to you is hardly a value you want your kids growing up with. In this show people’s efforts are being constantly belittled, such as Ben’s efforts to compete in a competition he took seriously, the King not caring that the Elves made him the biggest rocket they have ever constructed for his birthday, and even the King not taking his own duties to his kingdom and his children seriously. The wisdom of elders is constantly dismissed, like when the Elf elder warns against going to a human farm where they could be stepped on and the amazing potential of the Fairy characters are often quashed every time the Elves insist that they aren’t allowed to use magic.
I had spoken earlier about how consequences in this show don’t exist because the show essentially hits the reset button before every episode. Well, a lack of consequence also occurs during each episode as well. Plenty of hurtful or disrespectful things are said but are never addressed. Quite often the show’s formula goes: focus character hates someone or something and chucks a tantrum about it, that someone or something happens anyway, focus character feels awful, that someone or something goes away, focus character is happy again. No morals. No values. No consequences. No Lessons. In one particular episode, the King decides he wants fish and chips, but the castle has run out of fish. They know Ben’s dad has a boat so they decide to ask him to take them out fishing. Ben’s dad tells them he was about to store his boat for the winter and would rather not, but the King says “Do as I say”. Out on the water, Ben’s dad tells them of a horror story about a giant fish that keeps eating his boat. Kings says “Right, we’re catching that fish then”. The fish then proceeds to eat the boat and Ben’s dad is left without a boat. They then just laugh it off and move on. No apology. No offer to rebuild a better boat. No consideration that he just placed his kids in mortal danger. But also barely a complaint that this tragedy was completely the King’s fault. The only way my child would get any benefit from that story is if I had a discussion with her about how thoughtless and rude the King was. Moral Values: 0/10.
Overall when you combine the fact that this show has little to no educational value and is highly negligent in its moral values this show gets relegated to the category of junk viewing. Its sister show Peppa Pig is a much better offering because at least that show is about all of the new experiences Peppa gets to discover. I could recommend plenty of other programs that would be more suitable for young children but if you want to check the show out for yourself you can view their website here: