Last night I schlepped out to the fragrant Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn so that I could play fangirl to the best of kids’ music at the kickoff of a three-day family music conference called Kindiefest. Cocktail in hand, I tried to play it cool. Soon it felt like I was at the sidelines of the Kindie red carpet. A flash of pink tutus told me The Not-Its had entered the room. Look over there! Bari Koral is talking to Ashley Albert of The Jimmies! Then in walks Dan Zanes’s hair, escorting the wonderfully talented Dan Zanes. What’s up, Hipwaders? And, could it be…? It is! Recess Monkey has entered the building.
But my super fangirl swoonfest was saved for the Friday night keynote given by Scott Schultz, creator of Yo Gabba Gabba and The Aquabats Super Show. I’ve often joked that I had another kid just to have a reason to keep watching Yo Gabba Gabba, so it was a real treat to hear Scott Schultz talk about the genesis of the idea and how it then came to be in my living room.
He identified his aha moment as sitting with his one-year-old watching TV, and thinking about the large spectrum of music not being provided in kids’ TV. He and Christian Jacobs quit their jobs and went full speed ahead to create a show, thinking they’d make an Aquabats show. Soon that was playing second fiddle to Yo Gabba Gabba, which they realized should be first out of the gate.
Schultz showed Yo Gabba Gabba in its earliest iteration, a crazy weird sizzle reel that they made in their garage. I wish this was online so that everyone could see it. The early Muno and Brobee costumes were monster costumes that provided foes for The Aquabats. It’s like the Yo Gabba Gabba you know and love, but weirder. They knew they could never pitch a show that weird (Schultz used the word ‘weird’ as much in his keynote as I’m using here), so they fundraised among friends to the tune of a hundred grand and made their own pilot. That’s the very pilot that caused me to end my no-TV-until-age-2 rule with Olive.
I still say bravo to Nickelodeon for picking up this show that broke the conventional wisdom of kids’ TV and letting it be the show Schultz and friends set out to make. As Schultz said, “We really bent some brains.” Bravo also to The Hub for giving Aquabats a home. And now, bravo to music video channel Vevo for giving the new Strange Island a home. While not a kids’ show, I can’t wait to see what else springs from these minds. Check out the madness:
This Keynote was great inspiration for every doing creative work. Schultz outlined steps on his road to success, and it’s a great list to keep tucked away in your creative brain: have flexible expectations, be opent to inspiration, make magic, find the believers, and move forward.
Back on music that IS for kids, Kindiefest is going on for one more day. If you’re anywhere near Brooklyn tomorrow, get yourself to Littlefield, and awesome venue that will be showcasing the likes of Bari Koral, SteveSongs, Apple Brains, and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s WeBop.