Monday, April 22, 2013

Meeting Leo Howard from Kickin' It

Ballerina beaming while posing with Kickin' It star Leo Howard at Zoo Miami's Radio Disney Event
The Disney TV show Kickin' It is a hit at our house. Husband discovered it one fateful Saturday morning on Netflix while clicking through to find something new the whole family would enjoy. We have seen all episodes on Netflix at least twice. The kids love watching episodes over and over. For a good long while, Builder's favorite expression was, "Holy Christmas nuts!"

The star of Kickin' It, Leo Howard, plays Jack, a skilled young martial artist who joins sensei Rudy's Bobby Wasabi Martial Arts Academy. He was trained by his grandfather, who also happened to train the original Bobby Wasabi many years before. He quickly makes some friends - Milton, loyal and school-smart, Jerry, somewhat dim-witted and fun-loving, and Eddie, kind and eager. He also meets Kim, another black belt from a rival dragon academy who in the close of the two-part first episode joins Rudy, Jack and friends as part of the Wasabi Warriors. Although reluctant to join the Wasabi Warriors, as Rudy's students call themselves, Jack becomes its symbol and defender.

The show is pure fun - Jason Earles is a hoot as Rudy, and although all the kids do a great job, Jack and his martial arts skills do steal the show. We also appreciate the fact that the show portrays good values such as perseverance, hard work, honesty, loyalty, and friendship.

Leo Howard played the young Conan in the latest Conan the Barbarian movie, and his experience in both martial arts and acting show. 

We had the pleasure to meet him today at the Party for the Planet celebration at Zoo Miami. But i'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a little background info.

Husband and I didn't tell the kids thinking that if there was a cancellation it wouldn't be so bad. Ballerina especially is taken with "Jack", as she refers to him, and we didn't want to disappoint her needlessly. Plus we knew that she would not have gotten a good night's sleep prior to the big day.

We drove to the zoo (an hour and a half away) early and partook in games and trivia questions by Radio Disney. The kids were skeptical they were really going to see Leo Howard (previous scarring having occurred when the cartoon heroes Diego and Phineas turned out to be tall people with giant cloth heads). 

When he made his appearance, cool as a slice of watermelon while we were dripping sweat, the kids kept saying that he looked just like him and he talked just like him. It is him, I reassured them happily. I don't foresee any cartoon character visits in the future. 

Leo Howard is nice. He has the kind of calm, mature demeanor that future mothers-in-law love. He answered questions thoughtfully and intelligently, and Builder was lucky enough to be picked to join him in a martial arts belts matching game! Husband, who was watching Explorer as Ballerina, Builder, and I experienced the Leo Howard meet and greet, was also thrilled to see our son interacting fearlessly with a famous guy on TV. Builder, eager to show off his knowledge of taekwondo, arranged the belts in the right order confidently, making this mother proud. Builder is a green-black belt.

It was a blast seeing Builder so grown-up looking at nine, talking to Leo and Leo putting a hand on his shoulder. When we stood in line for autographs, we played "three animals starting with a letter" game to pass the time. Ballerina was thrilled to finally meet Leo face to face. She was smiling from ear to ear when he said her name and dedicated the picture to her. 

A half hour later when the meet and greet was over and we saw Leo was still hanging out, and Builder went up to him and showed him one of his combination kicks. Leo rattled off the names of his kicks and told him to keep up the good work. It was a high point for Builder. 

I met Leo's dad, and we had a short but pleasant conversation about the need to keep an eye on a child who's famous, no matter what his age. I respect anyone who has a commitment to good parenting and keeps a watchful eye over his fifteen-year-old son.

We were all happy to meet Leo Howard, a cool teen with a great future ahead of him. If there are any other events in our area, we will be back. Both kids were musing, "He looks just like Jack in Kickin' It." Builder thought he wore a wig for a show, because his hair looks so good. Now he knows his hair really does look that nice. Leo Howard is the genuine article, folks.

After the event, Ballerina asked me, "Can we go see him at his home, Mama? I would love to play a game with him too. Can we invite him to my birthday party?" I tried to explain to her that Leo lives at the other side of the country, in the same state as her aunt, and that it was unlikely he was going to be in the area so soon. Her sixth birthday is July 31. She doesn't even like boys. No boy has ever gotten her attention. But she likes Leo Howard. Perhaps we could write to him. I will have to find out his e-mail address or fan snail mail address.

When Builder was talking to Husband, he said that after meeting Leo he felt inspired to keep doing his best in taekwondo and in life in general. He has never said this about anyone before. Isn't this what all role models hope from their fans?

Builder with Leo Howard
On stage for a game
Being protective of his sister before Leo arrived

Leo signing his name on a picture for Ballerina

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