The Gnat and the Lion is a storybook app and animated short film developed by Nite Light Studios, based on the classic Aesop’s fairy tale of the same name. Kids can follow along with the story as it is read aloud by narrator Nuku Watson, or they can choose to read it by themselves. The story is set against a background of African grasslands and features nature sounds and some African-inspired music. Basically, this is a story about a lion that is tormented by an annoying gnat for a long period of time. In the end, the gnat gets what is coming to him, as after treating the lion very badly, he becomes trapped in a spider web where he must await his fate.
My kids (ages 10 and 7) and I listened to the read-aloud story and watched the animated short film together before bedtime. We liked the animation, and watching African animals such as the lion and the rhino encouraged a discussion about African grasslands and the animals that live there. We liked the fact that the words are highlighted as the narrator reads them, which is very helpful for children who are learning to read. We also liked the narrator’s voice and accent and how it tied into the African-themed story.
My kids questioned both the point and moral of the story as they listened to it and again when they watched the video. They felt very sympathetic to the lion and felt bad when the lion was taunted, stung and generally annoyed by the gnat. They also felt bad when both the lion and the rhino hit their heads on a tree and were worried about whether the animals were okay. They also found the ending to be somewhat baffling when the gnat becomes trapped in a spider web. They felt that while the gnat got what he deserved, they thought that the idea of the gnat getting eaten by a spider might be scary for younger children. Also, they did not like the fact that the lion, who they thought was the “good guy” in the story, was gloating over the gnat being caught in the web knowing he would soon be eaten. For parents who plan to read this story with their children, be prepared to discuss issues of good vs. evil and the golden rule. For these reasons, I believe this story and video are most appropriate for children ages 6 and older.
As the animation demonstrated in this app is very good, I think Nite Light Studios has a lot of potential. However, we didn't like this choice of fairy tales or its message. My opinion is that the developer should try again with a more light-hearted and upbeat classic or else choose a modern-day children’s story that will appeal to all ages.