All right gather your toddlers because I have a movie for them- Maya the Bee. This is based on the 1991 anime series that used to air on Nick Jr here in the states. I have a fondness for the original series so when I saw this on vuduu I had to give it a rental. The original show only aired for 2 years but was about a bee named Maya and her attempts to shake up the robot-like bees at her hive.
The episodes are extremely simple usually with Maya trying to cheer a grumpy bee up and help make everyone happy. When I rewatched much of the first season I thought of Dora the Explorer. They have a very similar demographic. Cheerful, happy, sweet and no attempt to be cheeky or entertain grown ups, which I think is great.
The movie is pretty much the same with some plot thrown in. We get all the main characters of Maya, Willy (Maya’s friend), Flip (friendly grasshopper) and Miss Cassandra (Maya’s teacher). It’s bright and colorful and I thought looked much better than I expected it too.
The story is nothing new in Maya the Bee. Basically Maya doesn’t fit in with the hive. She wants to do everything differently- even when she is born is different than the rest. This is a challenge for Miss Cassandra who is her teacher and guardian. That part is straight from the original TV show.
It annoys the bad girl in the movie Buzzlina vonBeena (great name!) voiced by the great Jacki Weaver.
Buzzlina develops a scheme she is going to hide the prized royal jelly the queen needs to live and blame their enemies the hornets. This will be her chance to usurp power and take control. The hive falls hook line and sinker except of course for Maya who is banished and her friend Willy comes along.
She goes to the meadow to try and get bugs to help her and find Flip the grasshopper who promised if he could do anything he would. Flip is a musical grasshopper and has a song and dance number at the meadow that is forgettable but little tikes might enjoy.
Along the way they meet a little hornet who is lost from his father and Willy is initially scared but Maya wants to give him a chance. Just because he is a hornet doesn’t mean he’s a bad person after all 🙂
There is no attempt like The Lego Movie to appeal to a broad audience but I actually think that is a strength. It is made for little children (2 to 4). There is nothing scary and the message is digestible for that age. Something like ‘be unique’ and ‘don’t be afraid to stand out’ may be better told in the Lego Movie but I think it probably gets lost on the very young audience. Lego is a better movie for sure but all the in jokes (Star Wars rave for instance), the batman schtick, and the live action scene are probably not compelling for toddlers.
This is what Dreamwork’s Home got wrong. It is bright and colorful and trying to appeal to very small children but then it gets muddled and the premise of all the humans getting abducted and a girl on her own is too much for the small tikes. Home didn’t know what it was trying to be and so it failed- even in the characters which were inconsistent and frustrating. Maya the Bee is certainly much better than Home.
Maya the Bee is just a sweet simple movie made for little one’s and it should appeal equally to boys and girls which is a little unusual in that demographic. It is one the parents may want to put on and go do the dishes but I wasn’t miserable watching it and I don’t have kids.
For the target demographic, I do think it is a little bit too long. It really should be more like the 2011 Winnie the Pooh, which is 63 minutes. (I still hold that Winnie the Pooh to be one of the best movies for 2-3 year olds ever made from the music, animation, pacing, time everything is perfect for that group). There are definitely segments that could have been cut out like the song.
They perhaps could have tried a little harder to do something original with the story or gotten better voice talent because the animation is lovely but for what it is I liked it. I thought they did an ok job.
You parents out there- what do you think of Maya the Bee? Look like something worth checking out? If you do let me know what you think and if your kids like it.
Overall Grade- C+
Here’s the trailer if that helps give you more of an idea on the film.