Star Wars Rebels – A Girl Friendly Galaxy Far, Far Away….

Female characters used to be a rare occurrence in Star Wars. In the original trilogy there was Princess Leia of course, but the likes of Aunt Beru and her blue milk, Mon Mothma mourning her Bothan spies, and… um, oh Toryn Farr who fired the Ion Cannon on Hoth, made fleeting appearances. It wasn’t too much better in the prequels.

Happily, things are different now. While we wait to see just how The Force Awakens treats its female characters (the signs so far are good), it’s worth taking a look at Star Wars Rebels (the first season of which is now out to buy on Blu-ray and DVD)  – the first major Star Wars project since Disney’s Lucasfilm acquisition in 2012.

The series is set around four years prior to Star Wars (A New Hope), and charts the rise of the Rebellion against the Empire – the conflict that drove the narrative of the original trilogy. For fans of the original movies, it’s nice that this show features the Empire and all their familiar trappings, from Stormtroopers to Tie-Fighters.

I first caught this show when it aired on DisneyXD last year. As a parent looking for alternative female cartoon characters for my daughter to engage with – rather than the usual princesses and fairies – this was great one to watch. The fact I was a Star Wars fan looking for new ways to introduce his daughter to the galaxy far, far away
 well, that didn’t hurt either.

I was worried that Star Wars was going to be defined by Disney as a boys brand, so I was delighted to see Rebels had such prominent female characters.

Of the featured women, first up we have Captain Hera, the pilot.

Her role in the group is significant as female pilots were scarce in the movies – good luck finding a one in the original trilogy (although there were some minor character ones in the prequels).

So for Star Wars Rebels to have a woman in charge of their ship the Ghost is a decent step forward.

Next up there’s Sabine Wren, an explosives expert and street artist.

Initially described by my daughter as that “pink Boba Fett Lady”, I must admit I was unsure about her at first. However, she has become a firm favourite with both of us – and my daughter couldn’t wait to get a toy version of her.

"Daddy, can I buy this please?!" #SabineWren #StarWarsRebels

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We were lucky to receive a LEGO minifigure too.

Sabines on toast. #sorrynotsorry

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There are also a few other notable female characters in the show. An interesting one for me was that of Maketh Tua, an Imperial Governor. One thing your never saw in the movies were any women in the Empire. I’m glad to see this has changed – both here and the forthcoming The Force Awakens.

The creative force behind the series is Dave Filoni, who was also responsible for the previous Star Wars cartoon, the highly regarded The Clone Wars. That was a show I had previously ignored, and boy was I wrong about that (If you haven’t already seen it I urge to to get the five series Blu-ray boxset now!). It has kickass female characters galore – including Star Wars fangirl icon Ahsoka Tano.

The Disney made Star Wars Rebels skews younger than that cartoon, but has a similar style of animation and thankfully displays the same commitment to portraying strong female characters at the centre of the action.

While Rebels is populated with mostly new characters, a few familiar faces do turn up – such as an episode with Lando Carlissian, voiced by Billy Dee Williams. This is my daughter’s favourite, as she has a bit of a soft spot for Lando.

Some other well known characters make an appearance too, but that would be spoiling things.

Things are not perfect with Star Wars Rebels. The show still centers on two male characters, and the initial wave of merchandise omitted the female characters entirely (which thankfully now appears to have been rectified with most licensees).

But the show is a good entry point for young girls and boys into the world of Star Wars, and a great way for fan parents to share their love of Star Wars with their kids. Series two has just started airing, and has added even more female characters to the cast.

How much of this ties into The Force Awakens remains to be seen. We also have the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to look forward to after that. It’s set in a similar (Pre-Star Wars) era to Rebels, and has a female lead (played by British actor Felicity Jones). Perhaps there might be some crossover there?

In the meantime, enjoy the gender neutral space battles, lightsaber duels, and the unfolding drama of the beginning of the rebellion against the galactic Empire in this pleasingly exciting and inclusive series.

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You can purchase Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Series One from Amazon on Blu-ray and DVD.

Family Fever
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The Force Awakens May Look Serious, But Check Out the Creepy First Trailer for Star Wars (1977)

The latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released. Building from the previously posted teasers, this fleshes out a little more the new & familiar worlds and characters we can look forward to.

But one thing seems to be missing from this – fun. The previous teasers for this film had their moments of levity. Even the darker instalments of the previous movies had time for humour. But The Force Awakens appears to be a fun-free zone judging by this latest trailer.

But then again, perhaps it’s worth revisiting the initial trailer for the first Star Wars movie.

Does that look like fun? That is a trailer for a far creepier movie than Star Wars turned our to be.

As one online commenter so succinctly put it, “this trailer makes Stars Wars look like shit.”

Fair point. So while the new one may look a little on the serious side so far, we should always be wary of judging a film by its trailer.

And to say I’m totally psyched for this is an understatement 🙂

Our Spider-Senses Are Tingling Over This Amazing Spider-Man Kids Backpack

For any of you who think I am indoctrinating my daughter into a life mini-me of geekdom, here’s a fact for you – unlike me, she doesn’t like Spider-Man anymore.

However, she loves Spider-Girl – and luckily her outfit looks an awful lot like Spider-Man’s.

This similarity works for this terrific LittleLife Spider-Man Day Sack that my daughter was very happy to receive.

My daughter is adamant her new LittleLife Spidey Daysack is a Spider-Girl one.

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The Spidey mask is an iconic design, and it’s effectively used as the basis for this kids day sack, which is also assembled to match the shape of the masked Spidey face. As an added bonus, the whites of Spidey’s eyes are also highly-reflective, adding to your child’s visibility as the days get darker.

As well as being (to me) a stylishly designed accessory it’s also a really well made backpack. The materials are sturdy, the adjustable padded straps and secure buckles are high quality, and it has a lot of room for what she needs to pack for outings or a day at nursery. It also has a top handle for carrying or hanging, plus an internal name & address label should you want to fill it in.

If you likes facts and figures, the main details for this Spider-Man Day Sack are:

  • Weight: 220g
  • Dimensions: 14cm x 22cm x 30cm
  • Capacity: 4 Litres
  • Suitable for Ages: 3+ Years (with no upper age limit stated!)
  • Additional Features: Reflective Eyes

This is a great product, and I’m really glad we have it. And not just because it’s a Spider-Man Girl one.

Like the look of it? You can purchase it from Amazon here, or if you’re feeling lucky then enter our giveaway below!

SpiderMan Day Sack LittleLife giveaway
This giveaway closes at midnight on October 30 2015. Open to UK entrants only.

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Unfortunately, the Spidey Day Sack doesn’t come with an inbuilt Spider-Sense. But instead, we were sent this terrific Family First Aid Kit for us to deal with any accidents our Spider-sense would have prevented. This kit has pretty much everything you could need to deal with most bumps, scrapes or worse when on the go with your kids.

LittleLIfe Family First Aid Kit

Here’s a list of what it includes:

  • Primary care leaflet
  • 25g Sudocrem
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Forehead thermometer
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Nappy sacks
  • Micropore tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Medium and small eyepad dressings
  • Low adherent dressing
  • Fabric dressing strip
  • Wound closure strips
  • Gauze swabs
  • Plasters
  • Woven bandage
  • Crepe bandage
  • Triangular bandage
  • Safety pins
  • Burn gel
  • Eye wash

And last but not least:

  • ‘Brave Little Star’ stickers (magical adhesives that reduce crying times enormously)

It’s all efficiently packed up in a tidy zip-up bag that measures only 17 x 12 x 7cm, so while you could keep this at home in the bathroom cabinet it’s perfect for taking out with you – just in case.

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Finally, we were also sent this Gruffalo Toddler Daysack (toddler not included).

LittleLife-gruffalo-toddler-daysack-stock image

While our daughter, at nearly 4, is too old for this (recommended age is 1-3), I can see this is another well made, thoughtfully designed, and fun looking product.

The Gruffalo’s face is faithfully reproduced, including important details such as the poisonous wart at the end of his nose.

As it’s for a smaller child it has about half the capacity of the Spidey sack, and it also comes with toddler reins. We never had to use these, but I know many other kids are far more into defying requests not to run off.

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The LittleLife Spider-Man Day Sack and Family First Aid Kit are on sale at Amazon.

They can also also be purchased from the LittleLife website or variety of other retailers. 

The Gruffalo Toddler Daysack is also available to buy at the LittleLife website.

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Disclosure: We were gifted all products for the purposes of this review.

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What LittleLife backpack or other product would your child choose? Check out their website and then head back and tell us! (This doesn’t change the prize btw, just curious)

Family Fever

Review & Giveaway: Karate Lottie, Ballet Lottie, plus Sweet Dreams Accessory Pack

We already have a varied collection of Lottie Dolls. We love them for many reasons, but particular because it’s easy to see similarities between them and the kid.

Why we love @lottie_dolls – she's a lot like my daughter 🙂

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Well, this week we were sent a suitably eclectic trio of items that my daughter had chosen to complement the likes of her Rockabilly Lottie above.

The first of these items was the Sweet Dreams Outfit Set.

This is an accessory set, so there’s no doll just the clothes – but it’s great to have more outfits for them. Our daughter has always liked putting her toys down for naps and sleeps, and this accessory set gives her a chance to do that while at least one of them is dressed and ready for bedtime.

It comes with all-in-one pyjamas, a dressing gown/robe, and fleece slippers – all perfect for making sure your Lottie doll is nice and snug.

Next up was the first of the two dolls – Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie.

Our daughter has been going to dance class on Saturday morning for a while now, and loves it. Like this Lottie, her outfit is also all pink (the choices for children’s tights and leotards for dancing seemed to be pink or pink), plus she has a tutu she wore last term too – so this Lottie is one she definitely associates with her experience of dancing.

Ballet Lottie is nicely decked out in her special ballet costume (with a 3-layer tutu), a sequin leotard, ballet slippers, and a drawstring shoe bag.

My daughter’s final choice is my personal favourite – the Kawaii Karate Lottie:

As mentioned on this blog previously, Kawaii essentially means ‘cute’ in Japan, and as well as providing a handy instance of alliteration, it’s an accurate description of this doll (although Kickass Karate Lottie would’ve worked too).

Kitted out in full karate gear, plus a choice of white or yellow belts, a rising sun headband, a helmet, plus some collector cards displaying how to hit and kick like a girl, this is a great set.

Playing with her new Lottie Dolls
Playing with her new Lottie Dolls

We are a multi-racial family, and we have toys around us that reflect that diversity. Lottie have dolls of various skin tones, and I was glad that our daughter has chosen a brown skinned Lottie to add to her collection.

The choice of Ballet and Karate Lotties is not as random as it seems. Our daughter’s been very interested in Batgirl of late, and often picks out my Batgirl of Burnside trade paperback to look at (I’ve read the whole thing to her – dating apps, transgender villains, evil algorithms and all).

There’s a page showing the pre-Batgirl Barbara Gordon doing ballet (pink outfit) and martial arts (white training gear), and I think that’s made an impression.

Karate + Ballet = Batgirl. And now Lottie too.

This selection of dolls displays yet again why Lottie is such a great product. Her range of outfits and interests continue to reinforce the message that being a girl shouldn’t limit your aspirations – and you can like frilly pink skirts while also being kickass at karate.

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Kawaii Karate Lottie, Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie, and Sweet Dreams Outfit Set are all available from Amazon.

Or alternatively, enter our giveaway below!

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Lottie Dolls Giveaway

*** This competition is open residents of all countries ***

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Lottie doll retails at ÂŁ16.99 (USD $19.99); accessory sets and outfit sets retail at ÂŁ7.99 (USD $9.99)

Lottie is also available online at www.lottie.com.

In the UK, Lottie is also at Debenhams, Ocado, Natural History Museum, Jo Jo Maman Bébé, and independent toy stores.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this piece, my daughter did receive the featured dolls and accessories free of charge.
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Which Lottie doll is your favourite? Check out the range at www.lottie.com, then head back here and tell us!

How on earth is Star Wars rated U (“suitable for all”)?

While speculation is growing on whether the new Star Wars film The Force Awakens will be rated as suitable for children aged 12 and over only, I have been thinking about one of the great mysteries of cinema – how on earth is Star Wars (1977) rated ‘U’?

The current UK movie rating system ranges from U (“suitable for all”*) to 18 (age 18 only). All three of the original Star Wars trilogy are U, while the prequels are respectively U, PG, and 12A.

My daughter, who is 3-years-old, has seen all, bar Revenge of the Sith, multiple times. I’m not sure what age will be the right age for her to see Ep III, but I imagine it will be younger than the BBFC suggested 12.

While the U rating for the original Star Wars was made in 1977, the decision has been revisited and left unrevised since then.

Here are just some of the potentially problematic things that happen in Star Wars (SPOILER ALERT):

  • Darth Vader choking a man to unconsciousness/death
  • The smouldering skeletons of Luke’s murdered Aunt and Uncle are clearly visible
  • Obi-Wan severs the arm of a bar alien, with a shot of the bloody dismembered limb
  • Scores of onscreen deaths by firearms and other means, plus an entire planet is destroyed, presumably killing billions

So how could such a film be classed as a U – suitable for all?

The BBFC has copies of a couple of the original 1977 ratings examiner reports on their website.

This first report is a fairly accurate summary of the film and sensible regarding its tone:

Star Wars, BBFC, Rating decision, Star Wars rated U
Click for larger version (opens in new window)

The reference to “futuristic” (set a long time ago), and the craziest spelling of R2-D2 I have seen (“Artuditu”) aside, its description of a “galactic fairytale” is apt. The conclusion that “We could find little in the film to cause more than a thrill of excitement in a TV-reared generation
” despite being rated PG in the US, is one that as a parent I accept too (although the Jawas did freak my daughter out for a while).

But this other examiner report reads like they were doing the 1977 equivalent of browsing on their smartphone while watching the movie:

Star Wars, BBFC, Rating decision, Star Wars rated U
Click for larger version (opens in new window)

So


“Set thousands of years in the future
” (as previously mentioned, the film literally begins with “A long time ago
”)

“
the Universe
” (in a galaxy far, far away
)

“
is ruled by Grand Moff Tarkin” (The Emperor is named a ruler)

“From a large planet called ‘The Battle Station’
”  (The Death Star, not a planet)

“The climax of the film is when aircraft from the princess’s planet attack the ‘Battle Station’, led by Luke.” (Spaceships, princess’s planet memorably destroyed, Death Star!, Luke didn’t lead the attack).

There are aspects they’ve clearly misunderstood, but the examiner is literally making things up that are never even mentioned. It’s almost as if they’ve read an early draft of the script rather than watched the finished film.

Still, I can’t argue with the conclusion of “Grand fun for all ages
” and “
a vastly entertaining story.”

I found these reports a fascinating insight into the thought processes that informed these original decisions, and while I question how much attention they were paying to the story, I am glad their common senses assessment of Star Wars still stands. My daughter loves them, and the scary Jawa era aside, has repeatedly returned to them.

(* The BBFC state that “A U film should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over.”)

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What do you think? Is Star Wars “Grand fun for all ages
”? Or is it for older kids only? Please comment below, or joint the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Mums' Days

“You Are Not Going Out Dressed Like That!” (Unless You Want To)

This month’s picture in my daughter’s calendar depicts a classic scene of a father berating his daughter for wearing a revealing outfit. The intergalactic twist is that the father is Darth Vader, his daughter is Princess Leia, and she’s wearing her ‘Slave’ costume from Return of the Jedi.

It’s one of the many memorable panels from Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown, the second in his series of books set in a parallel Star Wars universe where Vader is an involved father to his twin children. The calendar is one of the many Princess Leia things my daughter has in her room.

From my 3yo daughters room. #WeWantLeia

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Vader’s Little Princess takes a rather stereotypical view of girls – Leia is shown chatting endlessly on the phone, obsessing over boys (a certain scoundrel in particular), being bored by sports, having tantrums, and being preoccupied with clothes. While the author treated Luke as just a child in the preceding book Darth Vader and Son, here Brown – who is the father of two boys – makes some seemingly lazy assumptions about young girls.

Despite being able to see these sexist flaws, I still love the book. It highlights the most high profile female character in Star Wars, is full of delightful & funny vignettes, and at its heart it’s about a loving father/daughter relationship.

This was one of the first Star Wars ‘things’ I showed my daughter, and frankly I credit it with hooking her interest in Star Wars at a young age (she was about 21 months old at the time). She often chose it for us to read to her. Soon, she spotted my old Star Wars toys, instantly recognised familiar characters and vehicles, and they never left her grasp. I always thought I wouldn’t show her the movies until she was at least 5, but at age 2 we were watching them. We continue to do so and her love of Star Wars gets stronger as she gets older.

Every time we watch a Star Wars movie or cartoon, she picks up on something new. Eventually the ‘Slave Leia’ outfit was referenced:

My way of talking to her about it was this: Jabba had taken Leia prisoner, and made her wear what her wanted her to wear, because he had that power and that’s how he wanted her to look. I continued that it was wrong because Princess Leia should choose what she wants to wear herself.

We carried on watching, and whenever Princess Leia appeared subsequently in the movie, my daughter declared “Leia decided to wear that herself!”

It’s still a part of the story that she frequently references, including with her our Star Wars toys.

For instance, here Vader is unhappy that Leia has been treated so badly by Jabba:

"Give my daughter her helmet back too Jabba!"

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Another time, Leia shows she’s none too happy with Jabba either:

‘Slave Leia’ remains one of the few Leia figures we don’t own, and it continues to be divisive amongst Star Wars fans.

What’s so bad about Slave Leia?

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Slave Outfit Star Wars Return of the Jedi Slave Leia
From ‘Return of the Jedi’, Dir: Richard Marquand, TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) 1983

Clearly sexualised, the look was a hit with the dominant male fanbase. As the boys grew into men, the Slave Leia look became ever more popular, and became one of the most used depictions of Leia.

There were vocal dissenters, such as in the growing fangirl community, or as many male fans became fathers of daughters, some (ahem) started to complain about this being the prevalent depiction of Leia. She’s a politician, fighter, Rebel leader – yet mostly shown as a sexually exploited woman.

On the other side, people talk about how it’s no worse than you see at the swimming pool or beach, or on overly sexualised dolls aimed at girls. Some defended the outfit as a symbol of Leia’s defiance against her captor. Many members of the female cosplayer community enjoy wearing it.

In one memorable defence, the daughter of comedian Adam Buxton said Leia should keep wearing it because it’s a “pretty good look for her”.

As far as Jeffrey Brown’s picture goes, the cliche of the father telling his daughter not to wear such revealing clothes is also problematic.

While as parents we make decisions and rules we like to think are in the best interests of our children, they need to find their own path too – and that includes the process of understanding their own sexuality. This clearly begins long before they are adults.

When a father is telling his daughter not to wear something revealing, is he helping her develop, or trying to limit her growing sexuality? If my daughter wanted to wear a Slave Leia outfit out of the house, I’m pretty sure I’d insist she doesn’t. But she’s 3, and I think that’s fair enough. But what about 10, 13, 15? What age is Leia in this picture? Is she a child or a young woman?

Tricky questions for my future.

“You Are Not Going Out Dressed Like That!”

'Vader's Little Princess' by Jeffrey Brown. Published by Chronicle Books.
From ‘Vader’s Little Princess’ by Jeffrey Brown. Published by Chronicle Books.

For now, I still like this picture. For one, it’s funny. But it’s also part of an alternate Star Wars narrative my daughter has melded from various sources.

So I look at the scene like this. Perhaps Darth, instead of limiting Leia’s sexual expression, is upset that her exploitation by Jabba is having lasting effects. That far from being her choice, her father feels she has been conditioned to think this is what men want.

But if we want to empower our daughters, ultimately the choice of outfit has to be theirs. At the moment my daughter’s only real dress restrictions are about being weather/environment appropriate (although I did suggest she rethink her summertime idea of wearing a short skirt as a dress). In the future, school uniforms and dress codes will feature. But eventually we won’t be the ones responsible for what she wears – she will.

I hope I never have a “You Are Not Going Out Dressed Like That!” moment with her. If any woman, be it Leia, my daughter, or someone else, truly wants to dress in a revealing gold bikini, then fair enough. I guess it’s a pretty good look for some.

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What do you think about the Slave Leia look? Or parents telling their teenagers what to wear?

Please comment below, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Check Out These Great New LEGO Scooby-Doo Stop Motion Videos (plus Giveaway)

I grew up with the animated adventures of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and of course Scooby. I’ve started showing them to my daughter too (my all time fave remains when Batman and Robin were guest stars).

In their latest way of taking my money, LEGO have released some great new Scooby-Doo sets.

As you probably realise, I love sharing photos of our LEGO, but have a look at these – they’re going that extra mile with a collection of great LEGO Scooby-Doo stop motion videos.

Additional videos will be uploaded weekly, so head over to ScoobyDoo.com for more, and if you like the look of these then why not subscribe to the WB Kids YouTube channel too.

To celebrate the launch of these LEGO Scooby-Doo sets and videos, we’re offering you the chance to win a ÂŁ150 Gift Card from Smyth’s – perfect for you to snap up some LEGO Scooby-Doo sets for yourself.

LEGO Scooby-Doo - New Stop Motion Videos and Giveaway

Good luck!

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This is a collaborative post.