How PJ Masks and Miraculous brought the superhero genre to the pre-school generation

These bright and breezy cartoon shows offer must-free TV for kids and peace of mind for parents

The proliferation of the superhero world in pop culture has meant that a whole assortment of characters, both old and new, are pretty much available in all shapes and forms. While the Marvel and DC big-screen ventures are ostensibly made for children to enjoy alongside their parents – many of whom feel in love with the characters from an early age themselves – there’s no getting away from the fact that many of these films, however entrenched in fantasy they appear to be, feature the kind of intense and violent bone-grinding confrontations that often make an adult audience wince.

Catboy finds himself in multiple trouble during episode entitled ‘Catboy Squared’

For those parents of particularly young children who are keen on introducing their tots to the genre without traumatising them, fear not. They need look no further than PJ Masks and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir for some enjoyable non-violent superhero fun. PJ MASKS – largely catering to the pre-school demographic – is a fun and amiable riff on the crime-fighting exploits of a character such as Batman. Based upon a children’s picture book series from France called Les Pyjamasques, the show features three first grade buddies Connor, Amaya and Greg who don their alter ego costumes of Catboy, Owlette and Gekko (respectively) as night falls and the villains come out to play and cause havoc.

Les Pyjamasques: the cover of the book.

The fun character design and humorous interplay between the trio makes for a surprisingly entertaining watch for those parents chained to the sofa. It’s whimsical stuff and there’s nary any sign of real danger or tension. The villains are hardly on a par with the like of the Joker or Loki, either (one of them, Luna Girl, seems intent on trying to steal the moon). The show has proved to be a big hit since it was first launched in 2015, and a third season is due sometime this year.

PJ Mask villain Night Ninja is a ninja who performs dastardly deeds at, erm, night.

Get past its rather large mouthful of a title and MIRACULOUS: TALES OF LADYBUG & CAT NOIR – also a French creation – is another rewarding variation on the superhero mythos. The series features two Parisian teenagers, Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste, who transform into the titular superheroes to protect the city from arch supervillain Hawk Moth (in seems no country nor continent is safe from this threat).

Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste.

The show itself was originally said to have been geared towards teens and young adults but was later reworked for a younger audience following flagging rating. It proved to be a decisive move, as the show has been a huge hit around the world. It’s definitely more skewed towards a slightly older audience than PJ Masks (Cat Noir’s unrequited love for Ladybug being a prime factor) but similar to that other show, it’s a bright and breezy take on the genre, with some imaginatively-staged action sequences for the heroes to really exploit their powers, and invariably, uncover their weaknesses.

Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste (aka Ladybug and Cat Noir)

While neither shows does anything particularly fresh with the set-up (a criticism which is often levelled at each subsequent live-action superhero blockbuster, to be fair) there’s more than enough in both to keep younger children engaged and excited. They also act as a means of slowly easing kids towards the world of those iconic characters from the Marvel and DC universes, while giving parents that piece of mind that their little ones won’t be re-enacting a ferocious duel in the playground akin to something like the brutal spat in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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