Disney Junior is welcoming a whole new family of monsters to the cartoon neighbourhood in April with the debut of its newest series Henry Hugglemonster.
Based on the book series ‘I’m a Happy Hugglewug’ by popular Irish author (and executive producer) Niamh Sharkey, Henry Hugglemonster is a five-year-old monster living with his monster family, including his parents, siblings Summer and Cobby, and baby Ivor. Family is obviously going to be a very key theme of the show, as is community, as we get to know more of the monster families that live in Roarsville.
Henry is also a very easy character for young children to relate to, as he seems to embrace things with curiosity and excitement, right down to his catchphrase, calling things “roarsome!” He also speaks directly to young viewers, which helps draw them into the story and understand what’s going on. The rest of the family and the neighbours also seem to have simple but distinct personalities and appearances, which is easier for children to connect with.
The premier episode, available now as a free download on iTunes, features two stories that each give a good hint of what’s to come. In the first half, the family has to work together to get sunshine to a special Huggleflower so that Summer’s concert won’t be ruined. In the second half, Henry and Summer have to try to get baby Ivor to bed. Both episodes hint at the kind of simple, kid-friendly stories that the show will feature, with a nice mix of humour and learning objectives.
We downloaded the episode to our family’s iPad, and my two children (5 and 3, or right in the middle of Henry’s target audience) both enjoyed it. My three year-old son was the most enthused, watching it a couple of times in the first day, though the most I could get him to say about the show was that it was nice. My daughter, being older, thought the characters were cute, but she just didn’t seem to get drawnn into the show as much.
That leads into the one criticism I have of the show, in that I’m not really sure what the hook is for it. It’s Disney Junior, it has monsters, and it’s cute as a basket of puppies, but beyond that I’m not entirely sure what’s going to make it a long-term hit on Disney Junior, since it doesn’t have that one thing that really makes it stand out, like familiar characters or a very unique angle. That means Henry Hugglemonster’s future is going to be based on just how lovable he and his fellow monsters become. The potential is there in the first episode, but it’s too early to say for sure.
On the plus side, Disney Junior doesn’t have that many shows that focus on families, which of course Henry Hugglemonster has plenty of. You have plenty of shows about friendship and community, but parent, child and sibling relationships aren’t as common.
The show is produced by Disney London studio, which creates Disney Junior’s excellent Doc McStuffins. It also features the noteworthy voice talents of Spongebob Squarepant’s Tom Kenny as Henry’s father and grandfather, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell as a pop singer, and Brian Blessed and Academy Award-nominated Brenda Blethyn as the oversized neighbours. Considering that the show is produced in London, it’s a little surprising (and maybe even a little disappointing) that the show doesn’t have a little bit more of a British feel, but like Doc McStuffins, this feels much more like a generic North American show.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Henry Hugglemonster has a little bit of science, a little bit of music, and a whole lot of family fun packed into it. Geared a little more towards the younger end of Disney Junior’s audience, it’s an entertaining show that would also seem to offer a little bit of social and educational learning. It’s too early to tell if this show will have real lasting power, but at the very least, there is potential. Henry Hugglemonster is definitely worth checking out with your family, and seeing if they find it “roarsome” as well.