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15 Apr 2023


NextImg:Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Jane’ On Apple TV+, Where A 9-Year-Old Is Inspired By Jane Goodall To Go On Imaginary Animal Adventures

Where to Stream:

Jane (2023)

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A new Apple TV+ kids’ series inspired by the work of environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall distills the famous scientist’s message through an enthusiastic 9-year-old girl with an active imagination and an interest in saving the planet. Oh, and there are lots of CGI animals, including a chimpanzee that follows Jane everywhere.

Opening Shot: In an Arctic landscape, 9-Year-Old Jane (Ava Louise Murchison) speeds on a snowmobile with her chimpanzee buddy Greybeard.

The Gist: What Jane is trying to do is put a tracking collar on a polar bear; she wants to know why the female bear is wandering the ice caps alone. Her buddy David (Mason Blomberg) acts as a lookout, but accidentally triggers an avalanche. Jane and Greybeard barely beat it out, but still need to collar the polar bear.

Of course, Jane and David aren’t in the Arctic; they’re in an apartment building in the middle of the city — oh, and it looks like it’s summer. And to the adults in Jane’s life, Greybeard is a stuffieJ with long arms. But Jane and her buddy have active imaginations, and her imaginary adventures are inspired by the preservation efforts of Dr. Jane Goodall. As her mother Maria (Tamara Almeida) hears every day, Jane repeats her hero’s mantra: “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, can they be saved.”

Jane definitely wants to be an environmentalist; in many ways she already is, as she has studied species in jeopardy like polar bears and she is adamant that everyone do their part to make the world greener. This includes volunteering to sort the garbage of her neighbor, Mr. Jin (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee). Like that lone polar bear, Jane wonders if Mr. Jin is alone by choice and if he feels lonely.

Jane, David and Greybeard track the polar bear (who’s not really there) through their neighborhood, eventually taking advantage of the polar bear’s penchant to eat seals and their ability to “still hunt” to lure her to the neighborhood pool and get the collar on her.

Jane
Photo: Apple TV+

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Jane reminds us of other kids shows that combine CGI and live action, like Dino Dana and Dino Dan. It’s no coincidence that all three shows were created by J.J. Johnson.

Our Take: We could get picky about Jane and say that the CGI of the animals, from Jane’s buddy Greybeard to the endangered animals she tracks, could have used some refinement. But, then again, the show isn’t geared to us. For the audience that Jane is aiming to entertain, the animals look real enough to be convincing. The show itself is informative, with Jane’s extensive knowledge of these species giving her the ability to throw out facts that fascinate her without sounding like a talking encyclopedia.

Murchison is appropriately plucky as the adventurous Jane, who is at the age where many kids get really into the things they are into, whether it’s Minecraft, dinosaurs, nature, fashion, or anything else. So it’s not strange to see her being enthusiastic about a polar bear’s hunting style or being philosophic about its place on the food chain.

We do appreciate the subtleties of the kids’ world vs. what the adults see. Johnson doesn’t make a big deal out of the fact that, to Jane and David, Greybeard is real, but to adults, the chimp is a cute stuffie Jane takes everywhere. It’s very Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque, which we’re always in favor of. We also appreciate how her pursuit of a particular animal parallels how she helps someone in her real life.

All of this certainly helps us get past scenes like a polar bear swimming in a community pool. When you watch with your kids, you may want to be clear with them that all of this is in Jane’s imagination, just so they don’t get it in their minds that they can approach dangerous animals like Jane does. Then again, perhaps they already realize this is what’s happening; kids are always more with it than we adults imagine they are.

What Age Group Is This For?: Jane is good for your nature-loving kids of all ages.

Parting Shot: Jane and David speak to Jill Heinerth, a real-life Arctic explorer, photographer, and filmmaker. She talks about swimming with polar bears and that how she was inspired by Jane Goodall. She also talks about what kids can do to help the environment.

Sleeper Star: Tamara Almeida has the thankless task of playing Jane’s ever-patient mother Maria. She loves her daughter’s boisterous imagination, even if it interferes with her work.

Most Pilot-y Line: For some reason, Mr. Jin calls Jane “Jamie,” then “Jean” and “Joan,” even after she says, “It’s Jane.”

Our Call: STREAM IT. Jane is a cute show with an important environmental message that does a good job of getting the information across to its young audience.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.