Based on the Caldecott Honor Children’s book series Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, Stillwater is produced by Gaumont and Scholastic Entertainment and centers on siblings Karl, Addy and Michael, who are typical kids with typical kid challenges – meaning that sometimes even the smallest things can feel insurmountable. Fortunately for these three, they have Stillwater, a wise panda, as their next-door neighbor. Through his example, stories and gentle humor, Stillwater gives the children a deeper understanding of their feelings as well as tools that help them face their own day-to-day challenges. Stillwater also brings newfound fun and adventure for the three, opening their eyes to the quiet wonders of the world around them, and guiding them to their place within it.  KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Stillwater is a unique offering this winter, combining stories from around the world with an endearing cast, as well as profound morals. This superb bundle will surely be attractive to young viewers!” See his full review below.


By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Stillwater is a unique offering this winter, combining stories from around the world with an endearing cast, as well as profound morals. This superb bundle will surely be attractive to young viewers!Stillwater revolves around siblings Karl, Addy and Michael who have a unique anthropomorphic mammal as their neighbor – a wise panda named (surprise, surprise) Stillwater! Stillwater loves tai-chi, trying new things and eating bamboo shoots. Plus he seems to have the answer to any question the three kids ask. Thus, they have a very special friendship and bond with Stillwater; his stories help shape their perspective on life, the worl, and their relationships with others.

James Sie, Judah Mackey, Eva Binder and Tucker Chandler make up the main cast of this film. Binder and Chandler, who play Addy and Michael respectively, are secondary characters, whose performances don’t necessarily take center-stage, but still are quite skillful. Speaking of center-stage, Sie, who plays Stillwater the zen-friendly panda, puts on a superb performance. He succeeds in capturing the essence of what (at least, I think) a panda would sound like if it could speak, with his deep and sonorous voice. Sie was a great choice to play Stillwater, who discusses Chinese and East Asian culture in the show since he himself is of Chinese descent. I also love Judah Mackey’s portrayal of Karl, the inquisitive, sensitive youngest child in the family, who has a special affection for his panda friend. Mackey, along with many of the other characters in the film, help the show maintain its momentum because of their strong performances. A tip of the hat is in order for all the writers of the show, as well as the animators and producers behind it, as they seamlessly and intricately detail Stillwater the panda’s famed stories with backdrops of Chinese villages, Indian temples, Central American forests and adorable cartoonish animal characters from all regions. The inclusion and appreciation of cultural elements, specifically from Asia, is refreshing and exactly what we like to see! The score of the show also really stands out, as the serene notes of the Xiao, sitar and guitar help accent all of the six episodes’ action-packed scenes.


Each episode of this show promotes a different, positive message. These include perseverance, patience, recognizing your inner talent, overcoming your fears, teamwork and being there for those you love. Stillwater promotes positive social behavior and is a great family watch.

I give Stillwater 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 7. Stillwater is releasing on Apple TV+ on December 4, 2020.