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A dentist from New Jersey is likely the only dentist in the world that children actually want to see. A video of Dr. Eyal Simchi using some cute sleight-of-hand to amaze an equally cute young lad has gone viral after it was posted on social media. The video has been seen more than 25 million times on Facebook and Twitter, and has launched the professional tooth wrangler to internet stardom.

It turns out Simchi has been using his magical talents to put his patients at ease for a while now. There’s videos of him pulling coins from ears, turning medical gloves into balloons, and performing “stand-up dentistry,” which is funnier than it sounds.

“Truly a great way to build trust with your patients,” Simchi commented on one of the videos of his impromptu performances. “Little tricks can go a long way with a nervous or frightened child.”  

Simchi clearly has dentistry prowess equal to his sleight-of-hand . His practice has a perfect five star rating on Facebook.

Naathan Phan has been on the road charming audiences as a member of the latest Masters of Illusion tour. The multi-talented performer is also taking a turn on the small screen. He recently tweeted that he filmed an episode of an upcoming show called Junk Drawer Magical Adventures. The premiere is May 5 on Universal Kids, and Naathan is credited as simply playing himself.

The new show was inspired by a YouTube show titled Junk Drawer Magic, where two young performers teach viewers magic tricks that you can do with everyday objects. Both programs are from DreamWorksTV and star hosts Akira Sky and Walker Satterwhite.

While the YouTube version is pretty much a well-produced magic tutorial series, it seems like the upcoming television series will have a fictional and fantastical bent: the description of the first episode on imdb.com mentions both ghosts and resurrections. But the duo will probably use a mix of magic and MacGyvering to get out of the supernatural shenanigans.

Dovid Robatnick was diagnosed with Atypical Parkinson’s disease back in 2013, and he thought his career in magic was over. Rather than let it destroy his dreams, he buckled down, rethought his approach to his work, and has continued to practice magic despite his debilitating condition. He created Slow-Motion Magic as a way to chronicle his journey in living Parkinson’s and to bring awareness to a wider audience. In his latest video, he’s teamed up with a youngster named Seth to perform a neat card trick after opening with some updates on a recent Parkinson’s fun run he took part in. 

For updates on Dovid’s work, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel for his latest exploits, check out Dovid’s Patreon to see more information about his project, and visit the Michael J. Fox Foundation to learn more about Parkinson’s and what you can do to help. 

Kids used to be easy to entertain, at least until the advent of the tablet. Now everything you do has to compete with the unending allure of Clash of Clans, Minecraft, and the eternal sociopolitical power struggle that is Facebook. Fortunately, Underbelly Festival in South Bank, London, has just the thing to keep your awful spawnlings (aged 6+) entertained for an hour: magicians! And strong women, comedians and a hula hoop specialist.

The Variety Club 4 Kids is split into two shows taking place at 3:30pm on the 29th and 30th of May.

The first show includes:

Betty Brawn –  A strong lady who “uplifts audiences worldwide with a playful mix of strength, grace and comedy.”

Neil Kelso – A magician who invites audiences to “experience beautiful mystery.”

Howard Read – A touring comedian whose shtick is a combination of stand-up, animated skits and songs. 

Sam & Mabel – Who don’t seem to have a website but do promise “Sketch comic children and probable adorableness.”

While the second show consists of:

Ada Campe – Of Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck fame. Described as resembling “an unhinged supervillain,” by Diva Magazine. 

Oliver Tabor – a multi-award winning magician and illusionist. 

Kalki The Hula Girl – I think this one is pretty self explanatory.

That lineup is so good I honestly think it’s wasted on all those awful tiny proto-humans. Tickets are on sale now and start at £10.25 plus a £1.50 booking fee.

Kids’ magic is an established genre of performance, but teaching magic to kids is another animal entirely. Discover Magic is an educational magic company taking the idea of magic for kids in an inventive new direction by focusing on building life skills through magic tricks. It’s a magic curriculum that can be adapted to any situation, anywhere: a summer camp, an after school program, even activity time on a cruise. 

Discover Magic students may never pursue magic professionally or take the tricks they learn beyond their summer camp days, but building young magicians isn’t the primary goal. The team behind Discover Magic is willing to bet that kids who learn to be respectful, creative, authentic, and humble will carry those traits with them for the rest of their lives. And if they fall in love with magic along the way, well that’s worth bonus points.

Michael Ammar was the first of three Discover Magic founders. Ammar is known around the world as a prestigious performer and inventor, with a legendary wealth of knowledge about the art and history of magic. Ammar brought his original idea to Brian South, a professional magician who had experience with the business side of the industry through successful companies like Creative Magic and Teach by Magic. “I loved the idea,” South tells GeniiOnline. “With social media and smartphones, people are disengaging. Ironically, social media is killing social skills, specifically the skill of caring about others. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been, we have more relationships than we’ve ever had, but those relationships don’t go as deep.”

Together, Ammar and South decided to focus on a younger demographic, tackling this social skills gap where they saw a market need—with summer camps and after school programs for kids aged 8-12. “Magic is an empathetic art. It forces you to think about others, what they’re experiencing, what they’re understanding, and it builds communication skills and confidence naturally.” There are plenty of magic camps and classes dedicated to making lifelong magicians, where the tendency to teach magic skills first, and let the life skills unfold as a natural byproduct. Confidence and communication skills were being treated as a side effect of magic education, not the goal. “What if we started there, that the focus is to build these life skills, and wrap the magic around that?”

In tailoring their magic curriculum for kids, Ammar and South decided to bring on magician and actor Michael Rosander as their third partner. With over a decade of experience teaching kids magic at his North Carolina summer camp, No Sleeves Magic Camp, Rosander rounded out the tripod of Discover Magic’s expertise: magic, business, and kids. These days, South and Rosander steer the business, with Ammar on board as a trusted friend and advisor taking a less active role in the day to day.

Ammar, South, and Rosander first announced Discover Magic to the wider magic community in spring 2015, when they were still incubating the idea. Over 400 people signed up for the waitlist to buy a license to teach the curriculum, and the curriculum didn’t even exist yet. “We started testing things with kids and creating the final content,” says South. “By the end of 2015, we rolled out our first course and the company has been growing more and more ever since.”

Practically, the Discover Magic curriculum is divided into a series of standalone courses, identified by the wands kids receive upon completion. “We’ve created it like karate, where kids advance in colored wands. At the end of each course, they get their purple, green, orange, or blue wand. But unlike karate, there’s not a sequence you have to follow,” says South. To earn their wands, students learn and perform magic tricks using custom-designed props. Bonuses like online video content and “top secret file folders” get kids excited about the world of magic by making them feel like they belong to a private club that’s full of mysteries to unlock.

The most important technology underlying the curriculum is that each wand teaches a selection of Discover Magic’s eight traits of a true magician. “We started with a huge list of traits and characteristics,” says South. They pulled from other educational life skills programs, like the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, and Eagle Scouts before settling on: respectful, prepared, enthusiastic, confident, humble, authentic, creative, and giving. The idea is that any number of life skills can be packed into these traits: kindness, honesty, and teamwork, for example.

Kids are aware of the eight traits, but they’re presented more as a pathway to becoming a true magician than as a list of life skills to learn. Laying a foundation for respect ensures that kids interact with each other and with instructors in a positive way moving forward—they’re taught to look each other (and look the audience) in the eye, introduce themselves, and address others by name. Teaching kids to be prepared ensures they’re ready for magic class and ready for their performances, and establishing enthusiasm that’s powerful but not disruptive tunes kids into their surrounding environment.

And although the Discover Magic courses don’t have to be presented in a set order, each trait does lead to the next, in a way. Teach kids to be respectful, prepared, and enthusiastic, and a certain sense of confidence just follows suit. “I’ve never once questioned our eight traits—what they are, what order they’re in,” says South. “There was some divine intervention in coming up with those eight traits, and they’ve affected me personally. I’ve seen the influence on my life.”

Of course, all of that is wrapped into the tricks. Discover Magic’s trick development process involves updating simple, well-known gimmicks to make them relevant and exciting for a young audience today. “Whenever we come up with a magic trick, the first thing I start thinking about is what will make this fun for a kid,” says Rosander. One of their recent releases is called Mind Trip. It’s based on a gimmick called Mind Control: “It was a cool trick, but the problem is magicians had been doing that for over 50 years at least. Nobody had ever changed it. It needed a story.”

The original trick is a multiple-out setup that lets the magician predict whether the spectator would choose a yellow, red, or blue dot on a piece of paper. “Instead of three dots, we made postcards to crazy destinations that any kid could travel to,” Rosander explains. “There’s the coral castle, where you can play go fish against a crab to win sunken treasure; the jungle treehouse, where birds deliver pizza all night long; or the moon, where martians are having a disco pool party. They can’t find the pool but it doesn’t stop them from getting funky.”

Discover Magic’s update leans into Rosander’s belief that every trick needs a story to make it come alive for a kid. “Without a story, it’s just a magic trick, but look at the difference we can make for a kid. If they’re excited and laughing, they know that somebody else is going to laugh about it. They want to share that, and magic only exists if you share it with others.” South swears Rosander thinks like a kid. “Even my wife says I’m just a big kid,” Rosander admits.

Mind Tripis also an example of how Discover Magic sets the bar high for quality in everything they produce. The artwork on each postcard mirrors the patter kids are expected to learn, so the storytelling is supported by the props themselves. And the props are designed to last: “It’s important to us that we give kids a good first impression of magic,” says South. “We want kids to have a good experience, so we force ourselves to be on the extreme of not cutting corners. We’re in a position to have a whole generation that expects more detailed instructions, better illustrations, better videos, higher quality.”

Most Discover Magic tricks are simple gimmicks, making them easier to learn and more adaptable for all ability levels and age groups. Across the country and around the world, presenters, as Discover Magic licensees are known, craft their own approaches to teaching the curriculum to best suit their local communities. Some presenters teach weeks-long summer camps where the curriculum progresses every day, others teach one after school classes one afternoon per week, breaking up the curriculum into smaller chunks. South and Rosander actively support presenters in building successful businesses in their local markets.

“All they have to do is call and we’re there,” says Rosander. “I spent two or three hours out of my day with presenters yesterday. Somebody wanted to talk about grants, somebody wanted to talk about pricing, another presenter asked about how to manage kids better during class time.” The support presenters receive sets them up for success with their programs, and also gives Discover Magic a communication avenue to ensure that their curriculum is being honored and taught as designed.

The Discover Magic business model is built on a licensing agreement. “It’s not a franchise, it’s a license to teach our curriculum,” says South. He likens the structure to buying a Costco membership: buy a license in order to purchase student kits, swag, games, puzzles, and more from the Discover Magic store. Whereas franchisees typically expect a fully formed product that can (and must) be modeled perfectly anywhere, the licensing format gives Discover Magic freedom to grow the curriculum organically and incorporate feedback, ideas, and requests from the presenter community.

“Discover Magic is a living, breathing curriculum,” says South. “When we opened it up to the first 50 presenters, we were very transparent about the fact that we’re not saying the program is perfect. Part of being a presenter and a licensee is that you’re on that journey with us and you’re helping us figure it out.”

Individual presenters all come to Discover Magic with varying backgrounds in business and in magic. Some presenters have been involved with the magic community for decades, some are burgeoning entrepreneurs at just barely 18-years-old. Some presenters grow their programs so extensively that they train non-magician assistants to teach more classes to more kids. “I would say that it does not matter at all what level of magic experience you have,” says Rosander. “If you have a passion to make a difference in a kid’s life and you want to leave a legacy, Discover Magic is a great tool for you to use.” 

This was my first year attending Magi-fest, and one of the first things I was delighted to notice was how many kids were there. They were into it, too, racing to sit in the front row at lectures and jamming with older magicians every chance they got. Their enthusiasm radiated off them in waves, and it was impossible not to be swept up in it. I got to talk to a bunch of them, and discovered their passion came from a place of pure joy – a happiness they couldn’t wait to share with others. (Let me tell you, there is nothing more charming than a young magician literally jumping for joy when he discovers you’re a layperson he can dazzle with his skills.) 

Chris Ramsay, who filmed the above video at Magi-Fest, is an inspiration for the next generation of magicians. His YouTube channel has more than half a million subscribers, some of whom got the chance to talk to him at the convention. But after watching this, it’s tough to say who came away more inspired – the kids or Ramsay himself. If these future superstars are any indication, magic is in very good hands. 

And solid shout out to those parents who support their children’s passion. You’re the best assistants a magician could ever have. 

Back in November, actor and magician Neil Patrick Harris released the first entry of his middle-grade novel series The Magic Misfits to rave reviews (including our own), and has since spent seven weeks on the the New York Times bestseller list. If you or your children have been clamoring for the further magical exploits of Carter Locke and his cadre of conjurers, Entertainment Weekly has you covered with an exclusive first look at the next chapter of the series.

Simply subtitled The Second Story, the book will continue the Misfits’ adventures, this time with a larger focus on Leila Vernon. Leila was an orphan before being adopted by her two loving fathers, and has since grown into her talents as an expert escape artist. Not much else is known about the plot of the book, but expect it to have the same playful tone as the previous book, along with secrets, codes, and actual magic tricks to learn.

Entertainment Weekly has the full scoop on its site, including exclusive cover art and non-final page excerpts from the book featuring more gorgeous illustrations from Lissy Marlin. You can pre-order the book ahead of its September 25, 2018 release date on Amazon.

A recent study at Johns Hopkins revealed a fascinating paradox in mice. Scientists tested two sets of mice. One set watched another mouse perform a magic show. The second set of mice watched TV. Not surprisingly, the scientists had the mice watch Tom And Jerry, a cartoon where the mouse (Tom? Jerry?) outsmarts the cat (Jerry? Tom?).

The group of mice watching the magic show became bored and left the theater soon after it started while the TV watching mice stayed seated in their seats for more than three times the length of time.

This may come as a surprise to some magicians, but not to kid show magicians. We already know about this paradox. Children will watch movies on television like zombies for hours without losing interest. This, despite the fact that in many cases they have seen the same movie dozens of times. Yet, during a live magic show the children can lose interest easily and in some cases, even attack our props.

Isn’t that strange? You would think that a new experience, a magic show, performed by a live person, would hold their attention better than a movie on a two dimensional television.

Readers who follow me know that my philosophy of performing magic for children is to put as much interaction as possible into your routines. I call this Increasing Your Interactions Per Minute. By performing in this style for 20 years, I know that this technique is the best way to hold the attention of children watching a magic show.

In my routines there are approximately seven interactions per minute. This means that, on average, the children are reacting to the show either verbally or physically every nine seconds. This continuous interaction is like a magnet holding their attention. At this rate of interactions, there is no time for children to get distracted or bored.

Yet, even the best technique for holding the children’s attention is not perfect. May I introduce to you the family dog, the toddler who just learned to walk, and the mother who thinks the little darlings have to eat right now. Not to mention outdoor shows, which have even worse conditions with heat and sun.

And yet, these monsters sit, frozen in their places, as they watch Frozen for the hundredth time. What can magicians for children learn from animated movies about holding a child’s attention? First we have to concede that the conditions in which children watch TV are very different from the conditions in which children watch a live magic show. As we all know, it can be the distractions we suffer through during our show which are the main culprit stealing their attention. When children are distracted during a show you can see their eyes wander, they check their email, or get up and walk away entirely.

But there are few distractions when children watch TV. The television screen is mounted on or sitting against a wall. The television is the singular focus. There is no activity behind the television to distract the viewers, like a bouncy castle, a dance floor or a wall of tempting toys. Without distractions children become hypnotized by the television. We have all experienced the mom entering the room to ask a question several times before she can wrestle attention away from the TV.

Not only are there no visual distractions, there are no aural distractions, either. As we know, parents are perfectly happy to talk during a magic show. It’s as though they don’t even consider the option of not talking. Yet they respect the TV enough not to talk while children are watching. And any sounds in the room are instantly eliminated with a simple, “Mom, shut up! I can’t hear the TV.”

So TV already has innate advantages over us. Damn you, TV! You ruined radio and now you are all cocky about how well you hold kids’ attention.

What about the content of the movies children are drawn to? What is it about these films that holds their attention so well? And how can we apply those techniques to our shows?

USE LOTS OF COLOR

There are several elements of animated children’s programming that I have isolated that we can incorporate into our shows. The first is the use of bright colors. Animated movies for children use lots of color in every frame. The colors are bright and lush, bold not nuanced. Arielle has red hair, Nemo is bright orange, and Belle’s ball gown is yellow. (And the skin tone of most of the princesses is Caucasian.) Using bright colors holds their attention and makes it easy for children to instantly recognize the different characters.

 To apply this idea to your show be sure to use colorful props and colorful sets. Most magic created for children is colorful, in the Supreme Magic style, so that’s covered. But there is more. Put away the black and white tuxedo from the Robert-Houdin Collection and wear colors. Add color to your gray roll-on table by using Velcro to attach colorful panels to the front and sides. And people who use back- drops and banners should remember to keep them full of color as well. The only thing that should be black and white are your magic wands.

PERFORM ROUTINES WITH SIMPLE PLOTS

Because children need more time than adults to process new information, the plots in these movies are simple and are revealed slowly and clearly. (Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, boy buys tie-in merchandise.) Children get easily overloaded because unless the plot is going slowly, their mental processing simply can’t keep up.

This should remind us to keep the plots of our tricks simple. The magician cuts a rope then puts it back together. An unusual-looking metal pan is empty then there is a foam cake in it. A ball on a stick moves around while the magician overacts. You can lose the attention of your audience if you perform routines with complicated plots.

VARY THE PACING OF THE SHOW

In these films the speed and style of the action from scene to scene varies. There are exciting segments, like action scenes or big musical numbers, followed by slower segments, for character development or to move the plot forward.

This would suggest that the tricks in our shows should alternate between fast and slow tricks, loud and quiet tricks, interactive and passive tricks, decent and lousy tricks. You can also vary consecutive segments by performing non-magic skills in your magic show. Break up the magic by singing a song, then juggling, then pitching Herbalife. I use this technique in my show. I do an hour show but the magic portion lasts about 40 minutes. During the rest of the hour I perform other variety arts.

How long should these differently paced segments last? Well, if you look at the old Warner Brothers cartoons, like Bugs Bunny and yes, Tom And Jerry, you will see that every one of these comes in at about seven minutes in length. Likewise the scenes in animated films are always seven minutes or less.

HAVE A DEFINED CHARACTER

In popular animated films for children the characters are well-developed, with personality traits that are clear. There is the lovely princess, the wicked witch, the good fairy, and the wisecracking animal (who, if you ask me, should really be the one who gets poisoned by the witch). The use of clearly defined characters keeps the kids watching because they are interested in these characters and want to see what happens to them.

If the character you play is well-developed with an obvious and fun personality, then the children will care about you and pay more attention to your show. If you play a generic, interchangeable magician, with no distinguishing personality traits, the children won’t care as much about you and may lose interest in your show.

TAP INTO CHILDREN’S FANTASIES

Children live in a world of fantasy. When children play “pretend,” anything is possible. These films tap into many different kinds of fantasies which children have. One fantasy is that their stuffed animals, dolls, and toys speak and have personalities. So movie makers use this fantasy to entertain children. Cars talk in Cars, bugs talk in A Bugs Life, and toys talk in Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3. (Those toys won’t shut up!) Is it any surprise that this technique is used constantly in these kinds of movies?

When children watch magic tricks such as “Peek-A-Boo Bunny” and “Run, Rabbit, Run,” it is this fantasy that allows them to accept that the pictures of animals are alive. Puppeteers and ventriloquists also use this fact of a child’s life.

Magicians also use this fantasy when they give personalities to their props, a technique called The Ornery Prop. A good example of this is the “Silver Scepter,” which is a magic wand that misbehaves to the frustration of the magician. It is as if the wand has a mind of its own. (“How many times is this idiot going to let me hit him in the head?”)

Children also fantasize that they have superpowers. Children can acquire these powers via their favorite superheroes. One superpower children fantasize about is the ability to fly. Levitating a child is a perfect way to give children the fantasy of flying. (That is, if Superman flew on a wooden board and a folding chair.)

Do children fantasize about having the ability to do magic? Does Harry Potter go in the woods? This may be the easiest fantasy for magicians to satisfy. We can fulfill a child’s fantasy of being able to do magic by having the audience say the magic words in order to make the magic happen as well as having an individual child assist us on stage and empower him to do magic.

When you watch these films yourself, search for other techniques to hold the attention of your own audiences.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to seeing the results of a study starting soon at the Mayo Clinic. Though this is a study of mice, it should teach us something about performing magic for children. In this study scientists will be testing to see how many times mice can watch the “Banana/ Bandana” trick before they drown themselves. 

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Genii Magazine.

As the holidays approach, so too do the many gatherings at which kids end up either bored out of their socks or watching YouTube. Pry them away from the screen for a bit by teaching them this very simple, but highly effective card trick, presented with panache by Chris Westfall. You’ll probably have to teach your young protege the difference between clubs and spades, but with a little practice, they’ll be able to wow everyone at the dinner table. 

Cosentino is easily Australia’s most popular magician, with multiple prime-time television specials and a tour that’s currently running throughout Asia. But that wasn’t always the case. As a child, Cosentino had trouble learning and performing basic tasks in school, and it wasn’t until he connected with magic that he finally found an outlet that let him find his confidence. Now, Cosentino wants to give something back to kids who may feel the same way, and has partnered with Scholastic Australia to co-write a book series for grade schoolers.

The series is titled The Mysterious World of Cosentino, is co-written with Jack Heath and illustrated by James Hart, and each entry recounts the adventures of a cartoonified version of Cosentino, along with a cadre of magical friends, each one based on magic tools like playing cards or a magic wand. Each book will also contain kid-friendly instructions on how to perform an assortment of magic tricks.

“I know what it’s like to be that kid who sits up the back of the classroom and avoids asking questions so you don’t look silly,” Cosentino told The West Australian. “I thought it was a good way for me to give back to some degree. But also to explain to children [that] you may see me on TV or see my live show but it wasn’t always like this. I was that kid who was struggling, who had learning difficulties.”

The first book in the series, subtitled The Missing Ace, is currently only available in Australia for $9.99 AUD. Future books are planned, with the second installment to arrive in February, and two more titles coming later in 2018. Australian buyers can order the book from Booktopia or other local retailers. If you don’t live in Australia but are still interested in picking it up, Amazon has imports of the book available through third-party sellers.