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Topic: Review: Close-Up Magic For Children Ė Practical Magic
Message: Posted by: Red Shadow (Oct 9, 2010 08:54AM)
Review: Close-Up Magic For Children Ė Practical Magic

This DVD is a collection of close-up effects designed for children. The main two teaches are Ethan Leeds and Russell Leeds. A cameo effect is taught by Jeremy Le Poidevin.

Let me start by saying that professionally, Iím a full-time childrenís entertainer. And in the 15 years I have been performing, I have never been hired to do close-up magic for children. The few times I was in the situation, I was hired for the adults and numerous children wanted to see an effect. So there are several ticks on this DVD for those situations. I could argue that any of your normal adult close-up magic would be more than enough to entertain the children. I could argue that just because there are kids at the event, you should still entertain with adult magic as that is what you are being paid to do. I could argue a lot of things, but Iíll move on for now.

The positives:

1) Technically it is perfect. Good camera, clear sound and edited well. There are no editing problems to remark about and it looks good.

2) Russell is a great kidís show entertainer. It comes across in how he talks to the children, laughs with them and puts them at ease. He is also very creative and the tricks he teaches are the best on the DVD. Mr Slime is one of the best tricks he has ever released along with his Balloon-a-Bike. Ethan comes across as more of a close-up magician. Iíve spoken to him and he does say he does kids show, but looking at him, he fits the image of a bizarre magic / adult close-up magician far more. His effects were also along that same line with fire and Mentalism involved. In that environment, he excels and I look forwards to the day he releases a DVD on magic with that theme.

3) Disc 2 is a discussion with Craig Petty as the host. They discuss the business of getting close-up magic for children. I applaud them for adding this, as I am one of those magicians that love marketing talks and strategies for getting work. I always believe that you can get some great ideas from discussions like this, and while I have heard that some magicians donít like marketing lectures / talks. I for one love them.
As for the idea of actually getting close-up work for childrenÖ well thatís a whole other augment entirely. All I will say on that subject is my regular childrenís show is easier to sell, in much more demand and pays a lot, lot more than any close-up for childrenís gig.

4) Value for money. There are 13 effects taught over this 2 DVD set. A discussion on the business and it includes two Mr Slimes. It is great value for money and I have personally taken away Russellís Mr Slime routine and balloon-a-bike and incorporated them into my show. I have made some adaptations for them to work how I would like them, but the primary work has all done for me and they are superb effects.

The negatives:
1) It was recorded in an abandoned warehouse. Not only are the visuals completely out of place for a DVD on childrenís magic, but the three children they corners to get in there were scared stiff. I donít know who they were, but if I was a child and some strangers pushed me off the street into an abandoned warehouse, the last thing on my mind is seeing a magic trick. Those children were scared. They hid it and I do believe they knew they were safe, but they definitely did not want to be there and felt rather intimidated. Russell was by far the best at putting them at ease and even made them laugh. But when Ethan bought out a lighter and lit a flameÖ Those kids were ready to run.

2) The effects taught are not all usable. Quite frankly, teaching effects with fire as something allowable in a childrenís show is ridiculous. I want to be nice to you guys but I cannot hold my tongue on this one. You wrote on your business card with a friction pen, took out a lighter (scaring the kids) and lit the back of your card. When is it ever okay to play with fire? When is it ever okay to Ďheatí the back of a piece of card? Are you not worried in the slightest that a child in the real world will try the effect themselves and burn themselves? And its not just one effects, there are several that use fire. Quite frankly, Iím shocked you even suggested this, never mind promote it.

3) Many of the effects use Mentalism as the theme. Maybe itís my years of experience that tell me that Mentalism is a complete no-no with children. They simply donít understand it. Itís hard to describe this problem to a non-kids show magician, but children donít understand what mind-reading is. They simply donít get the effect. Another series of tricks completely unusable in the real world.

4) Requiring gimmicks. Mr Slime is great, and you get two of them when you purchase the DVD. Mine lost his face on the first practice session. The ink just rubs off. I got out my sharpie and drew it back on. Again it was gone within 5 minutes. This trick is amazing and well worth going to the effort of getting a needle and thread out and sewing a face to him. But be aware that it is something you will definitely have to do.
Other gimmicks are required for several of the effects as well. Iíve already mentioned friction pens, lighters and miniature bikes. How about a small top hat, sponge bunnies, and lots of gimmick cards to make up the various tricks with. Buying this DVD is not the end of your financial requirements. You will need to go to some shops and magic dealers to buy the equipment needed to perform the effects. Very few require items found around the home.

This DVD has two great tricks on it which made it into my show. That is a big, big compliment as that only happens for 1 in every 30 DVDs I watch. I know the review above is not great. There were some big mistakes made which is a pity as this could have been my favourite DVD of the year. Unfortunately some of those mistakes are quite big (abandoned warehouse & fire) and I have to feature that into my overall review.

It is well worth buying and learning the effects, but not to entertain children with, but to adapt and have ready for adult shows. Yes, Mr Slime may have instant appeal to children, but will easily work for most adults as well. The DVD is a good purchase and if youíre willing to overlook the tricks that are obviously Ďfillerí, there are some absolute gems that are well worth the full DVD price on their own.
Message: Posted by: Ethan (Oct 10, 2010 05:35PM)
Hi Stephen,

Many thanks for taking the time to review our DVD.

You have brought up a few interesting points that I'd like to comment on.

You seem to be very passionate about your view of using a lighter or any fire in the context of a kids show. To the point of showing surprise we would promote any trick using fire. While I accept that there is a valid argument for your position, I don't agree. In the first place I along with many other chidren's entertainers for many years used a chick pan with a fire production. I never had any problems with this and it alway's got a great reaction. To this day I use a lighter in every show to light the candles on the birthday cake just before the child blows them out. This is a tradition that I've never heard anyone complain about. I think possibly there is a little too much political correctness creeping in. As I said I do appreciate the arguments against using fire I just think on balance they don't hold.

Another point you make is that you have never been hired to do close up magic for children. Ok that may well be the case, however we have and many many times. Let me give you two examples, which are in fact dealt with on the DVD. We are hired by quite a few restaurants to do close up magic. Some of these restaurants want to move more into the family market and are more keen on what we do for the children, than the adults. In these situations, close up magic for kids is perfect and it is far preferable to have magic that is clearly aimed at children than trying to adapt adult magic. However often a booker just books you to do magic for children, what magic you do is your decision. They may not specifically request close up, but it may be the best option. Have you ever done a party where there should have been 10 children, but it ends up being 3? I have and in such a situation I have been very glad to have close up material. Have you ever performed at an event like a Christening, where you are doing walk around and there are kids of every age? again close up is the best option. Another time I often use close up as indeed I mentioned on the DVD, is when booked to do a children's party for 5 year olds and when I arrive there are a couple of older brothers. If at all possible I'll do a bit of close up with the older ones before the show to get them onside and reduce the risk of them being disruptive.

You commented on the children being scared and your right I feel they were intimdated but it was not by the abandoned warehouse, which was in fact their local Church hall, neither was it by the fire. By the way the effect with fire you think scared them was the favourite effect of a number of the children. I think the problem was more simple. We had a large camera a few feet away and also had to stand in slightly awkward positions to get everything in frame. It clearly was this, as off camera they were much more confident.

I'm not sure in such a thorough review why none of Craig's 3 routines were mentioned.

Finally glad your looking forward to an effect from me that is mentalism, as I have one coming out with Alakazam for Blackpool. Might even be 2 effects.

Kind regards and thanks again

Message: Posted by: Dan Bernier (Oct 11, 2010 12:14AM)
I've done a few close-up pre-shows for children and what I found for me is the great deal of attention needed to control the children.

What I mean is that when you start doing close-up magic for a few children, you end up with a bigger crowd of children around you that you will have to control because of angle issues and such. Plus, just the fact that the children want to climb up your legs and climb into your pocket, (if you know what I mean.) :)

Children, imo are tougher to control than young or old adults, especially with close-up magic.

Now, if we are talking strolling from table to table (table hopping) I've done a little bit of that as well. It's a little easier to control the children, but when they see what's going on at one table they all want to see what's going on.

Maybe this just happens to me. (lol) I no longer do pre-show close-up magic as it's just too much to worry about that it gives me little time to concentrate on the magic that I'm trying to perform.

Does the DVD cover any of these important issues when performing close-up for children?
Message: Posted by: Red Shadow (Oct 11, 2010 04:10AM)
Hi Ethan.

I thank-you for your reply. We are all different children's entertainers and will perform tricks differently. It's what makes our culture so diverse and different with each entertainer giving a different show.

As for fire... The magicians of the 80's had a single flash in a dove pan which was extinguished immediately. There is a big difference between that and taking out a lighter in front of the children's faces and 'lighting' the back of a piece of cardboard. Whatever the justification, this is 2010 and not only is playing with fire a massive NO, but smoking is now banned and even showing a lighter will get you thrown out of some places. Will the children complain - no. Will the adults? Maybe. Will you ever get hired back? I would never hire an entertainer who played with fire in front of my children. I doubt anybody else will.
You can call it political correctness and fight the system, but at the end of the day, we need those parents to book us and pay us. I'm not trying to redefine there version of suitableness of using fire in front of kids. I'm simply not going to do the effect.

As for the close-up magic for children, and this covers Dan's posts as well. I have had several residency bookings doing Sunday Brunch close-up. Yes, there were kids and adults present and I entertained them all. But I'm not about to carry an extra box of tricks around that only work with children - a true professional chooses tricks that play equally to both children and adults. Professor's Nightmare, Sponge balls etc. Lugging around additional effects for the rare cases when you have children only is too much work, especially when you normal adult material will quite easily suffice.

For Dan, the DVD doesn't really talk about the pitfalls of pre-show close-up. But to their credit, that is not something you cant really talk about. Different audiences and entertainers have different styles and if your having problems with pre-show routines, you need better routines. I would advise looking at the extensive range of tenyo tricks for that situation. But I too no-longer do pre-show magic simply because it becomes the show itself and children can only watch so much magic before getting bored. I prefer the clock timer to start when the show starts so that I have them sat down for the longest time possible. Any pre-show work I do is comedy and a balloon game. I agree with you that you shouldn't be doing close-up magic before your main show as it will cause control issues later on in the party.

Message: Posted by: Ethan (Oct 11, 2010 08:13AM)
Hi Dan,

A very good point, I've experienced groups of children become massive groups so I know what your talking about.

Let me explain how I use it, just maybe it may be some use to you. If I'm booked to do a 5/6 year old party I'm usually set up and ready 10 minutes before start time, sometimes a little earlier. It's also often the case that there are a number of older children for example around 10 years old. Sometimes these children can become a little disruptive during the show aimed at their younger brothers. Hopefully your show works across the ages but this does not always stop the older ones trying to take over. Therefore if you can get these older kids onside before you even begin your already ahead of the game.

This is where close up comes into it's own. As you say it's possible you may have a bigger crowd than you planned and so you need to choose close up material without angle issues to have to worry about. None of the effects on the DVD have any real angle issues. In my case I usually manage to keep just the older ones, in fact they often will ask younger ones to leave as I do it, as a kind of special bit of magic just for them. I often will suggest that if I get some time at the end I will show them a bit more. This contributes to their good behaviour during the show. Parents have often commented how pleased they were that the older brothers or sisters were not forgotten. It's also amazing how much more they go on to enjoy the show and not unusual for these older ones to even help with controlling the young ones as they now feel they have a special relationship with you the magician. I also get extra bookings as during this bit of close up magic I let them know we do magic parties for their age group where we teach magic as well. Many children's performers get very few parties for 8-12 year olds. We get loads.

Dan I hope that helps, it won't work for everybody but for me Russell and Craig it works great and if you give it a try I'm sure it could work for you too.

Kid regards

Message: Posted by: Ethan (Oct 11, 2010 08:24AM)
Hi Stephen,

Clearly we disagree particularily on the fire issue. I'm sure if you were thrown out from somewhere for producing a lighter it would be because smoking was banned for health reasons and not for possible fear it would inspire in the children. I wonder if we should allow children to blow out candles, after all we are giving them the impression they can control fire. Stephen I don't want to argue about it. You don't like fire effects. That's fine, don't do them. I do them, Russell does them and Craig does them, none of us have ever once lost bookings or had any issue because of it. We do get a lot of repeat booking, we also send clients a feedback form and to the best of my knowledge we have never had a negative comment about a fire effect.Maybe if I had I would be forced to change my view. As it is my view won't change so let people be free to come to their own position.
Message: Posted by: MaxfieldsMagic (Oct 25, 2010 12:05AM)
This sounds like a great set. Thanks for the info and review.

Re: the fire issue - if you ever take your child to the circus, chances are you'll see plenty of fire, specifically because it's dangerous, flashy and adds excitement to the show. At Disneyland and on July 4th in the States, fireworks are set off to end the evening. Kids also see plenty of simulated explosions and fire in their action cartoons, video games, etc. But, with anecdotal exceptions (and there are probably other issues there...) they don't play with fire because they saw someone jump through a flaming hoop, or juggle flaming clubs.

I dunno, I just remember seeing magicians and Polynesian dancers (during a trip to Hawaii) use fire when I was a kid and thinking how awesome it was - not that it was permission for arson. If anything, fire safety is more thoroughly taught today than 30 years ago, and at a younger age. It would be nice to still be able to give kids a little credit for common sense. If we can't, then that's clearly a regression, rather than progress.
Message: Posted by: Craig Petty (Nov 16, 2010 04:20AM)
Hi there Guys.

I thought I would just jump in on this thread and give me two pence worth. I was very happy when I was asked to be a special guest on this project.

Close up magic for children is big business for me as it is Russell and Ethan. The real gold in this DVD set is the discussion between Jeremy, Ethan, Russell and myself. We go through a lot of information on how to get close up work for children, why it works and how it can increase your income. I've had emails from many people saying they have been booking in extra gigs just as a result of the information on this DVD.

Obviously the tricks are also good, Mr Slime by Russell and The Dr Who Trick by Ethan are both excellent. My own effect 'Over The Rainbow' was also the hit of my lecture at Kiddology and this has been included on the DVD.

Overall it is a very good DVD which I feel fills an important gap in the magic marketplace.

Hope this helps

Message: Posted by: takeachance (Jun 7, 2011 03:15PM)
Well I've found this a rare review and discussion, an honest warts and all discussion amounst professionals. Which is why is probably stayed civil. I do not do childrens magic usually, however, having the generation after mine in our family producing what seems hundreds of them, I'm always looking for things to do on our weekly family get together.
I can honestly say, because of this review I'll be picking this up today.
Really good balanced review Steve and thanks for the other side of the story Ethan
Message: Posted by: Ethan (Jun 15, 2011 12:59PM)
Glad you have found it useful and I hope you get at least a few great ideas from the DVD, I'm confident you will.


Message: Posted by: Razamabaz (Aug 2, 2016 05:51AM)
I've always thought the Okito doll would go down well with children.