Thursday, May 3, 2012

Doc McStuffins

Image courtesy (source)
Welcome to the first of the new Disney Junior shows that will be covered here on TV Mom!

Doc McStuffins is a really novel new program, although the initial premise of talking toys may sound familiar to Disney fans. This program follows a six year old little girl named Doc (short for... Dottie. Yes, really.) -- Talk about parents naming their kid for what they want them to grow up to be, eh? -- who takes her moniker very seriously. She is a doctor to toys and stuffed animals who have boo boos or illnesses.

Each episode depicts a toy with an "illness" or a "boo boo", and it walks them through their diagnosis and doctor visit, and ends with the toy singing the "I Feel Better" song. Doc likes to log her various toy maladies in her Big Book of Boo Boos, by drawing what happened to the toy and giving it a funny name like "Left on the right-itis" (for a toy who had his legs put on backwards after they fell off). There are lots of other songs for various things, and another recurring song entitled "Time For Your Checkup" in which Doc tells the toy all of the procedures she must do to make sure they are healthy.

This show is great for a number of reasons. First, the main character is an African American female in a powerful role of a physician. This is something that has been missing from pretty much all television, and Disney has definitely capitalized on that absence. Doc really gives girls someone to look up to other than a puffy pink princess who needs a prince to rescue her, and African American girls have a strong intelligent role model that they can relate to specifically.

Another interesting note in this category is that Mrs. McStuffins, Doc's mom, is actually a physician herself, which is part of why Doc aspires to be a doctor. Two strong African American females in this family! Doc is even voiced by a real young African American actress, Kira Muhammad, which I'm super glad about. (Honestly, nothing bugs me more than having a white person voice an African American character.)

Even cooler, Doc's DAD is the one who stays home with her and her younger brother Donny. That is a market that children's programming (heck, ALL programming!) seems to miss entirely. Stay at Home Dads, this one is for you!

Second, this show helps children to understand what happens in a doctor's office and visit, making them feel at ease with procedures such as getting their ears, eyes, and blood pressure checked. Also, it's great for showing kids that it's okay to be afraid when you are hurt, but that doctors help take the pain away. Several of the episodes I have viewed show the toys having apprehension at first, but the other toys and Doc herself all do their best to put them at ease. This is something else that is unprecedented in children's television as far as whole episodes and different situations under which a doctor visit is required, for injury and illness as well as just routine checkups.

Doc has her own crew of main talking stuffed animal and toy characters. There is a nurse hippo named Hallie, voiced by Loretta Devine, who you might recognize from various television roles including a part in Boston Legal, the secretary Patty from ABC's one-season lawyer series Eli Stone, or Adele Webber from Grey's Anatomy. There is a snowman named Chilly, voiced by a popular character actor Jess Harnell, whose voice-over credits include Wakko Warner from Animaniacs and Secret Squirrel on Two Stupid Dogs. There is a stuffed lamb with jingle bells in her feet named Lamby, who loves to give cuddles to everyone, voiced by Lara Jill Miller, who also voices Widget on Wow Wow Wubbzy (although thankfully she's not NEARLY as obnoxious on this program!). Finally, there is Stuffy the Dragon, who is voiced by Robbie Rist... a name very few would know... unless you remember cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch. Yeah, same guy! He's also the voice of Michaelangelo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in the movies from the late 80's/early 90's. Quite the cast if you ask me! They even have already taken to having guest voices, most notably Modern Family's Ty Burrell as a daddy Jack-in-the-box whose son Jack-in-the-box can't pop out properly.

This program airs on the new Disney Junior channel, as well as during the Disney Junior block on the regular Disney Channel. Check your local listings to see if Disney Junior channel is offered in your area through your cable or satellite provider, as it is fairly new (it has only been on the air since mid-March), but you can always set your DVR for it on the regular channel as well!

What your child learns:
  • What to expect from doctor visits for situations of injury, illness, or even just routine checkups. They learn what each test is for and why the doctor needs to use it, in gentle language that is familiar to them.
  • Social and Emotional Development: Caring for friends, encouraging others, calming fears, allowing children to recognize and feel emotions such as fear and uncertainty.
  • Logical reasoning: Taking pieces of information and putting them together to solve a problem (or make a diagnosis).
As a parent watching, you won't be overly bored. The dialog isn't too slow, and the characters are cute and amusing. There are plenty of fun songs to encourage your child to sing. It's also a great tool to use in advance of a doctor visit, to help open up a dialog with your child about what will happen and how they feel about it. Kids are also going to hear good advice about being safe, eating healthy, exercising, grooming, and proper rest, all things a kid is much more likely to absorb coming from a singing animated stuffed dragon than boring old Mom.

Age ranges for this program will vary from early preschool years to probably third or fourth graders. I think kids much older than that will think that the program is a little beneath them, but I do think that younger toddler aged kiddos will enjoy the fun characters and songs.

Overall, it's not a super educational program, but it is great for making kids feel better about visiting the doctor, something that every mother knows and has to deal with. As I've said, the characters are cute and the songs aren't obnoxious, which makes for decent watch-ability. Kids will enjoy it, girls will enjoy having a great role model, and parents will like how it opens communication about something that all kids have to endure and may not be super keen on. My son likes it, so it's a keeper in our book!

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