It’s Bouncy-Bouncy Boing-Boing Time!

By: Nicole Russo

Iconic Montreal, Canada-based performing arts organization Cirque du Soleil has achieved more success in its 30-plus year history than most companies ever dare to dream about, but the company isn’t interested in resting on its laurels; it’s continuing to evolve and expand globally at an ever-increasing rate. In December 2012, Cirque du Soleil caught the attention of the kid’s entertainment industry by launching Cirque du Soleil Média, a joint-venture with Canadian broadcast heavyweight Bell Media. The plan was to expand the Cirque brand and its values beyond live shows into new and original youth- and kid-targeted content for television, film and digital platforms.

The joint-venture’s first project brought L.A.-based Saban Brands (Power Rangers, Julius Jr., Popples) into the mix in February 2014 to help launch a property that would include a TV series, consumer products line, and interactive content. Eight months later, Cirque and Saban introduced Luna Petunia to the world at MIP Junior (the world’s showcase for kid’s programming), and revealed that an animated TV series of the same name was in development with Bradley Zweig (Sid the Science Kid, YoGabbaGabba!) as showrunner. The series marks uncharted waters for Cirque du Soleil Média, but the company was confident its collaboration with Saban would move the property in the right direction and open up a wealth of opportunities. Jacques Méthé, president of Cirque du Soleil Média, said: “We are committed to delivering refreshing, beautifully artistic entertainment and we are confident that Luna Petunia will do just that.”

And we’ve been waiting to see what Luna Petunia was all about ever since then. Netflix acquired the series and on Friday, December 9, 2016… it began airing!


Back in 2015, Kidscreen visited Cirque headquarters and spoke with Daniel Lamarre (president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil), Jacques Méthé, Elie Dekel, (president of Saban Brands) and Brian Casentini (Saban SVP of development and production) to answer that very question.

When Cirque was initially exploring ways to bring the magic and emotion of its live shows to a larger audience through mass media, it kept coming back to animation for kids. “We’ve been toying with the idea of [animation for kids] for many years. We think it is the right way to attract a new demo,” Lamarre said.” It’s very important to expand Cirque’s target demo beyond those who can afford to go to its live shows in person.”And when it came time to pinpoint a specific age group, Cirque and Saban both agreed that preschool was a sweet spot. “For the majority of the world, adults are the most aware of the Cirque brand,” says Casentini. “So we felt that because moms and parents control the media preschool kids consume, launching a preschool brand first made a lot of sense.”

In addition, Saban’s global success with its own brands and Zweig’s experience in developing and producing TV series were big factors in Cirque’s final decision. “Bradley’s openness to another creative process was a big factor for us,” notes Méthé. “A lot of people when they interact with us see the surface, the acrobatics and colors. He cut straight to our DNA and values. He asked right away, ‘Who is Luna and what drives her?’”
With positive early reactions across the board from broadcasters at MIPCOM, and a deal secured with NETFLIX, a global distribution partner, Cirque and Saban are confident in the potential of the IP.“It’s exciting and frightening because we have to deliver,” says Méthé. Lamarre concurs. “The risk is that we have to produce a series that will not only be appealing to viewers, but that will be a good demonstration of our brand, too,” he says. “Our consumers have very specific expectations of what Cirque is all about, and it’s very important that moms recognize the creativity in the new brand. Obviously, we don’t want to disappoint them.”

With delivery of the series, Cirque and Saban are also exploring ways to extend Luna Petunia to interactive, digital, learning and other consumer products. “As the creative is developing, we are paying a great deal of attention to how the storylines, characters and visuals can translate to the other platforms,” says Dekel. One of the ultimate goals, according to Lamarre, would be to launch an immersive live experience and bring the property back to what Cirque does best. “The greatest reward we could have, and it would be a first for us, would be to establish a character that has enough impact to integrate into a live show.”


Luna Petunia, in spite of being inspired by Cirque du Soleil, has little if nothing to do with a circus at all. The series follows the adventures of a bubbly, headstrong six-year-old girl, Luna, who lives in the real world, but plays in a dreamland where she learns to make the impossible possible. [Her name is derived from the petunia on her headband.] Luna is supposed to teach young viewers the importance of believing in themselves and in the wonderful things their minds and bodies can do. And though she’s full of happiness and optimism, the oft-quoted Sheryl Sandberg expression “I wish every little girl who was told she was bossy to instead be told that she has good leadership skills” rings true. Luna is bossy, sometimes to an annoying level. She is a know-it-all, orders her friends around, allocates tasks (often with nary a please or thank you, but boy does she say “sorry” a lot), and volunteers her friends and herself up for the most outrageous tasks without even asking them first. She “does first and asks questions later”. Luna is impulsive, and often causes more harm than good. She makes assumptions and does whatever she wants, whether she’s been advised to or not. However, she DOES own up to her mistakes readily and easily, and apologies and forgiveness abound.

The narrative begins at Luna’s birthday party. After her friends leave, she receives a special gift from her mischievous aunt Zuzu—a mysterious box adorned with a petunia and filled with unusual toy characters. The box is also inscribed with the phrase, “Make the impossible possible today…feel your heart, touch your mind, and swirl away!” When Luna speaks the words, she is magically transported to the world of Amazia, where the toy characters from the box come to life and accompany her on wondrous adventures. There’s…

• Sammy Stretch – A Steampunk-esque accordion-limbed character appearing to resemble Microcosmos and Nico from Kurios, fused with Rodrigue from Varekai (lightbulb on the head, under his hat). [In the development of the show’s characters, Méthé says a number of Cirque artists were called on for creative input. “A bunch of them [were] involved and have produced all sorts of elements that [went into their development]”, he said.] Sammy is tall and helpful, and he loves to be the center of attention. He’s fluent in gibberish (Cirqueish), likes to sing along to his own accordion music, and enjoys riddles and jokes.

• Bibi Bubbles – Superficially resembling Clara from Kurios, she is vaguely absent minded, and has a little bit of a muddled, confused personality. She can travel by bubble, and they come pouring out her ears when she thinks (IF it suits the plot….). She is timid and scared of heights and new things. She is very knowledgeable about Amazia, but sometimes the facts come out muddled or just plain wrong.

• Karoo – The “preschooler” of the group, Karoo is a kangaroo/koala hybrid. Originally he was supposed to have a kangaroo tail and springs for legs (and be named Koalaroo), but presumably tweaks to the storyboards resulted in Karoo- with no tail, somewhat artificial-looking legs that do not seem to match his body, an overall koala-like appearance, a kangaroo pouch, and meltingly huge eyes reminiscent of Mort from the Madagascar franchise. He is, for all intents and purposes, Elmo of Amazia. He speaks somewhat incomplete, toddler-ese English in the third person (“Luna love Karoo? Karoo love Luna!”). He’s tactile, kinetic, and bouncy- figuratively and literally (“It’s bouncy-bouncy-boing-boing-time!”) He’s super affectionate and loves to “huggle” everybody.

As for unique environments, Amazia is a magical fantasy world of bright colors and fantastical creatures. It is a place where the Impossible becomes Possible. It has an ecosystem regulated by a rainbow, which controls the amount of glitter produced by the Glitterflies’ wings. This glitter regulates the growth of Fluffy Flowers. And Fluffy Flower seeds turn into Jelly Trees, and Jelly trees make up Jelly Forests, which are crucial homes, and food sources, for the animals and other beings in Amazia. There are also forests of balloon trees, and at least one volcano. The series also features a mood willow tree that changes a character’s hair color to suit their mood when they walk under it. Wiggly lily pads also react to characters’ emotions. It also rains popcorn, butter, and salt.

All of which happen in twenty features across eleven episodes in season one:

• Episode 1: “Amazing Amazia Rainbow” — On her birthday, Luna receives a magic toy chest, which leads her to the enchanted world of Amazia and new best pals Bibi, Sammy, and Karoo.

• Episode 2: “The Fuzzlings / Now We’re Cooking” — When three frightened fuzzlings go astray, Luna and her pals team up to find them. / Luna tests her leadership skills while filling in for Chef Zesto.

• Episode 3: “Grumpy Volcano / Shadow Show” — Cranky volcano Ashton refuses to erupt into fireworks, so Luna tries to cheer him up. / Luna plays detective after her three pals’ shadows disappear.

• Episode 4: “Star Dust / Popcorn Storm” — Luna offers to clean Amazia’s dusty stars, but can she restore their twinkle all by herself? / Luna helps Sammy conquer his fear of popcorn storms.

• Episode 5: “The Crystal Queen / Seahorse Hero” — At the queen’s welcome party, Luna “assumes instead of asks” and chaos ensues. / When Bibi loses control of her giant seahorse, Luna leads the rescue.

• Episode 6: “Lost Land / Boom Shine” — Unaware that boy wizard Melvin has cast a spell, the crew gets stuck in Lost Land. / Zoom Shine tries a risky stunt after her showoff cousin goads her.

• Episode 7: “The Show Must Go On / Great Train Chase” — To create a show for the Queen, the Amazia pals try some teamwork. / When dizzy Karoo makes Sammy’s train run wild, a special crew flies to the rescue.

• Episode 8: “Wishy Swishy Wishing Well / Painting Day” — Karoo causes the wishing well to explode, but Luna has a plan to fix it. / On Painting Day, Karoo mopes until his pals show him how to make art fun.

• Episode 9: “Take Off Your Dancing Shoes / Dream Boat” — To get shy Sammy to dance, Bibi gives him magic shoes, but is magic what he really needs? / Unable to sleep, Luna joins her pals on a dream boat trip.

• Episode 10: “Sammy’s Grammy / Melvin’s Magical Mix-up” — The crew helps Sammy entertain his quiet grandma during her Amazia visit. / When Melvin’s magic fails, the pals must convince him to accept their help.

• Episode 11: “Happy Jollydays” — Luna learns all about Jollydays in Amazia, but can she save the holidays after she breaks the Jolly Clause rule and makes her pals’ gifts disappear?

EVERYTHING IS AMAZIBUBBLES? has outlined what they consider to be important features to look for when selecting high-quality children’s programming – Activities Worth Repeating, Constructive Ways to Resolve Conflict, Strong Male and Female Characters, Positive Role Models, Characters From Around The World, Lessons that Foster a Love of Learning, Humor That Appeals to Parents and Children, Characters From Different Age Groups, and Few or No Commercial Messages. These points are touched upon with details of how they pertain to Luna Petunia.

Activities Worth Repeating: Most effective when there is an educational component, such as letters or sounds. There are recurring themes within the show, but they mostly are silly, nonsensical (i.e. Luna exclaims “That’s amazing!!” and Sammy corrects “That’s Amazia!), and not necessarily beneficial except to establish a culture within the group of friends. Bibi’s scrapbook is a helpful plot device from time to time, but its appearance is intermittent. The most noticeable repeating theme is “Stop, breathe… and believe!” I feel that this message is pretty much the ONLY thing Luna Petunia has going for itself. Mindfulness (breathing exercises, meditation, and calm-down-techniques) is lately finding a home among families, classrooms, and caregivers of small children to help little people deal with big emotions. This is working very well, and is becoming an important part of many children’s lives. It is nice to see a show that helps promote mindfulness among its characters, even in the rushed, shallow, and reduced capacity of Luna Petunia.

Constructive Ways to Resolve Conflict: This is another of the very few points Luna Petunia has in its favor (aside from being a fluffy distraction that will potentially keep a kid occupied for 20ish minutes.) Plot devices and conflict abound in the show. However, resolutions are often hurried, shallow, glossed over, and unrealistic. For example: during one event involving teamwork, two members of the group experience sudden and out-of-the-blue self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence to perform their required tasks. Luna instructs them to take a deep breath, tells them she believes in them, and amazingly and instantaneously, their self-doubt is shed, and they are restored to their previous, self-confident, self-assured selves, and the crisis is resolved. Also, conflict, and various crises are resolved with equal rapidity, AND often whimsical magic. I feel that preschool aged children, while satisfied with the overall resolution of the conflict, will not necessarily gain any benefit from watching a “know-it-all” (good leadership skills?) glittery little girl always figure out the correct solution on the first try, and complete it magically.

Strong Male and Female Characters AND Positive Role Models: This show is so “girly”. It’s themed in glitter, rainbows, flowers, gems, cutesy fantasy animals, more glitter, ponies, fuzzy things, butterflies, a queen, beings called Glitterflies, and more glitter. The only male main characters are Sammy Stretch (to my mind, an only-vaguely-helpful buffoon), and Karoo (essentially Luna Petunia’s version of Elmo). Luna is the only character who seems “strong” – she is confident (sometimes to a fault), a go-getter, brave, and willing to help. She’s also too headstrong, a bit bossy, and really a complete know-it-all, but much of that is to drive the plot. Certainly empowering for a young girl, no doubt, but mildly irritating to adults who appreciate the well thought out complexities of quality children’s programming.

Characters From Around the World: Amazia is inherently fantastical, so everything about it is diverse. The main characters are a steampunk-esque robot man, a silly bubble-girl, and a koala-creature, teamed up with a spunky little girl. Other fantasy characters show up resembling cats, caterpillars, octopi, and a myriad of other beings. Diverse? Indeed. Realistic diversity illustrating what children might encounter in their daily lives? Maybe not. Certainly not to the degree of diverse immersion as Sesame Street.

Lessons that Foster a Love of Learning: There is essentially zero educational value to the show. Lessons about expressing feelings, self-esteem, and creativity are important, but shows like that are a dime a dozen. I feel that a quality preschooler’s television show delivers supplemental educational lessons integrated in: colors, shapes, patterns, matching, letters, words, and so on. Foreign language is often integrated easily into children’s shows – with a plethora of Spanish-teaching shows out there, Cirque could have made a bit of a splash while teaching French. However, the only foreign language in the show is a Cirquish-gibberish, translated by Sammy. This rubbed me the wrong way, since preschool aged children are already working hard to learn actual languages, sometimes more than one. How does having a made-up nonsensical language appearing in a television show help anything? Though the success of Dr. Seuss books probably proves me wrong, but granted, I never enjoyed those personally anyway. I feel that the lack of an educational component is a big sticking point I have with this program, and a big hit against it overall.

Humor That Appeals to Parents and Children: It’s there in small amounts. For example, the main character, moments after having been welcomed to Amazia and greeted by three new friends, is told dramatically that she must pull a magical rainbow out of a pond by the end of the day, or Amazia will never have any glitter, the “ecosystem” will crash, and Amazia as we know it will never be the same! “No pressure!” the characters chirp. Quirky. But, these instances are few and far between within the show.

Characters from Different Age Groups: Essentially nonexistent. We never see Luna’s parents or any siblings, and aside from Sammy’s frequent mentioning his Papa (to quote something pertinent he once said in a gibberish – Cirqueish – language, and then translate), families are kind of not mentioned. Luna has an aunt Zuzu (who is suggested to have spent time in Amazia herself, as characters often refer to how much Luna reminds them of “Z”), but she is seen once briefly in the opening episode, and never again.

Few or No Commercial Messages: Being on Netflix makes this one easy to accommodate. However, there is rumored to be a merchandise line of Luna Petunia products, including books, toys, and clothing, in development.


While watching Luna Petunia, I found myself making comparisons to PBS’s Dragon Tales. Dragon Tales utilizes essentially the same plot device: young children (a brother and sister) travel to a magical land inhabited by dragons and other magical beings. There is a trio of primary dragon friends, and preschool situations are presented. Similar lessons to Luna Petunia are addressed, including trying new things, problem solving, and feelings. However, while watching Dragon Tales, I perceived a sense of calm stability, patience, and sensibility. Also, the conflicts are built upon more slowly, and crafted more carefully. Luna Petunia seems to set the conflict off like a glitter-filled neon-colored rocket, and drags you along with it, slipping like a stone across the surface of the plot, before resolving it abruptly with a fantastical solution. The resolution at the end of each episode is comforting, as is the lesson of “Breathe…… and believe {in yourself}”. In this day and age, many parents are using mindfulness (breathing, calm down techniques, meditation) to help manage big emotions in their little people, so it is refreshing to see this utilized.

If Cirque du Soleil wanted creative and imaginative, they achieved their goal. But I feel overall, if it’s simply an entertaining show, a good distraction for kids for a period of time, without any real “meat and potatoes”, it’s simply a surfeit of sugar. I feel it is lacking in structure, and is just over-the-top pink and glittery. As a mother to a young son, I find myself disappointed that it is SO pink and powdery and glittery and fluffy. Not that there’s anything wrong with boys and pink by any means, but it appears to be a strongly stereotypically “girly” television show, and that I find disheartening. So much more could be done with this show to make it more educational, less fluffy, and more appealing to young boys, or less-girly girls. And I feel there was so much untapped potential in marrying Cirque du Soleil with children’s entertainment. French language could have been integrated (a great nudge to the roots of CdS), interactive coordination activities could have been included (“Jump! Stand on one foot! Touch the ground!”), acknowledging the acrobatics that have made CdS so famous, and introducing children in gymnastics, movement, and dance. They could have explored various kinds of dance, similar to how The Backyardigans (Nick Jr.) explored a different style of music in each episode. I feel that this was a wasted opportunity for Cirque du Soleil to make the most of their Cirque du Soleil Junior brand and interest children in activity, fitness, and circus-arts.