If you’re the parent of a toddler, chances are you’ve watched Yo Gabba Gabba, the colorful kids’ show that’s the darling of the Nick Jr. cable network.
This live action show celebrates childhood with inventiveness (think stop action animation), silliness, music, and fun. It also showcases the latest popular bands and artists. Not surprisingly, producers Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz were musicians themselves BK (before kids, they each now have four). Once they turned a discerning eye to kids television, they realized there wasn’t much out there for guys like them. That led to the creation of YGG, which premiered in August 2007.
Now, the stage version of the show comes to the Orpheum November 4th, with Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! It’s Time to Dance! I spoke with Schultz to find out what makes this clever show tick.
MP: Which kid shows have influenced your style?
Scott Schultz: I loved H.R. Pufnstuf, those kind of live action cartoons. New Zoo Revue was another. They had all these colorful, strange characters. Of course, everything Jim Henson did had a huge influence on us. Although I think our show is more like the Muppets because we’re trying to make a show kids and parents can watch together.
MP: Yo Gabba has a sort of nonsensical quality to it. What’s up with that?
Schultz: We see the way kids play, you have toys you bring to life with your imagination. In a way, we do that with DJ Lance, a kid who brings toys to life and all these fun things begin to happen while he participates in that. But we also build each show around a theme and write songs that help kids with daily activities, like sharing, dressing, or eating your food.
MP: What goes on behind the scenes?
Schultz: Creating the show is a very collaborative process. We start out writing scripts and music together around a theme, so we’ll have hundreds of songs, with four to eight people writing at the same time.We’re both musicians, so the design of the show was as a music show at the core. Everything is built around catchy songs and then we have fun.
For example, MGMT dressed as colorfully Vikings and painted a Jackson Pollack-like backdrop as they sang Art Is Everywhere. Another time, comedian Sarah Silverman riffed on how to mime.
MP: Each year the show grows up a little more. Has that been interesting?
Schultz: I think parents appreciate that we’re reaching out to bigger, better comedians, celebrities, bands. We want to share in the process of being a kid again and I think that resonates with people. We actually had Jack Black ask us to be on the show. The luxury of dealing with an audience of children ages 3 to 5 is that they don’t know who’s who.
We had the Flaming Lips come on, that was magical for me. We’ve also had Amy Sedaris, Tony Hawk, Sugarland, Chromeo, a real range of artists.
MP: What do your kids think of the Yo Gabba Gabba?
Schultz: My oldest two, Max, 10, and Penelope, 13, were the inspiration for the show. Now, my 3-year-old is the biggest fan ever, and my 7-year-old comes up with ideas. It’s totally humbling to be a part of this – to be a part of a show that’s in people’s consciousness.