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Kids can learn valuable lessons at this 'Circus'

September 27, 2003|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

"JoJo, what did you learn today?"

That's the question a little clown girl answers at the end of each episode of "JoJo's Circus," a stellar new play-and-learn, highly interactive series for young children set in an irresistible stop-motion animated circus world.

It begins Sunday on the Disney Channel with a special evening premiere at 7:30 p.m.

What 6-year-old JoJo learns in the series' first episodes ranges from the importance of following directions (when the teacher says don't honk the orange clown nose on the pie-throwing machine, there's a good reason) to being considerate of others' feelings (baby elephant Dinky is too small to play big-kids' games) and realizing that new challenges don't have to be scary (it takes a lot of practice to do flips like the Flying Froginis).

Other colorful characters in JoJo's circus world include her pet lion, Goliath; the clown schoolteacher, Mrs. Kersplatski; and the Reclining Spudinskis -- a family of sleepy potatoes.

Throughout each song-filled show, JoJo invites viewers to play along to a catchy beat -- to crawl like a cat, walk like an elephant, do a wake-up stretch and play "Fire Chief Says." Viewers are encouraged to think about what's happening too, as JoJo asks conversational, one-on-one-style questions that are followed by pauses, a la Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues," for responses.

And, like "Blue's Clues," and Disney's other gem, "Bear in the Big Blue House," "JoJo's Circus," created by Jim Jinkins and David Campbell, Lisa Jinkins and Eric Weiner (with a real teacher of clowning serving as consultant on the animated clown movement), is a seamless mix of reassuring gentleness, top-flight creativity and meticulous adherence to the principles of child development.

"JoJo's Circus," rated TV-Y, begins its regular daytime schedule Monday, running at 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. weekdays; and at 8:30 a.m. on weekends.

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