A small production company that makes Catholic content for kids is making big strides. Spirit Juice Studios earned a 2023 Gabriel Award from the Catholic Media Association for an episode of its kids show, Juice Box, titled “How To Pray.” The 15-minute episode is free to watch on YouTube and is featured below:
This energetic and colorful show engages kids with music, animation, and concise explanations from the show’s two hosts, Melinda Simon and Steve Angrisano. Simon and Angrisano explain various elements of the Catholic faith in terms kids can understand, without talking down to the kids, either. For example, at one point Angrisano explains the term “supplication,” which none of the kids can even pronounce, but that doesn’t stop them from learning what it means.
The pair play sing-along songs on the ukulele, sometimes throwing on little costumes to emphasize their points, and they draw kids’ attention with smiles and broad gestures. The result is a program that entertains while it educates about the faith.
After all, as Producer Rob Kaczmark told OSV:
“If (kids are) laughing, they’re learning,” he said, stressing as well the need to “stick with a theme” and avoid presentations that are “dry and boring.”
Not a moment of the award winning episode “How to Pray” could be called dry or boring. Opening with their colorful animated mascot Dilly, the kids are quickly drawn in by questions of how to have fun with little gibberish sounds that almost sound like real words. The show expertly uses this as a springboard to talk about how words can also be powerful, which leads the topic to prayer.
The episode goes on to cover quite a bit of Catholic theology in a short amount of time, from the Sign of the Cross and the mystery of the Trinity, to the purpose of prayer and how to pray together. Simon and Angrisano’s playful antics are often mixed with quick cuts to kids’ reactions to the explanations, which helps keep the episode flowing by allowing the hosts to interact, albeit indirectly, with the little ones’ questions and comments.
The children are rarely in the same room as the actors due to the brief amount of time child actors aged 3-6 are able to work. In his interview with OSV, Kaczmark explained that these are sometimes the hardest scenes to get:
“You have a bunch of kids with their parents and the crew in the studio, under the lights and with all the people staring at them,” Kaczmark said. “Sometimes they just freeze up. You have maybe a 20- to 30-minute window with them, and they’re done.”
Still, if we had not read his OSV interview, we might not have even realized the kids weren’t in the same room. The quick cuts fit seamlessly into the rest of the program thanks to some clever use of animation that emphasizes whatever the kids on screen are doing.
Over the last year or so, Spirit Juice Studios has produced hours of educational Catholic entertainment for kids. Visit Spirit Juice Studios on YouTube to freely explore their offerings. If you like it, consider supporting the group on their Patreon, where they get the lion’s share of their funding for this unique and valuable endeavor.