February 10, 2011

Imagination Movers teach kids to brainstorm

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Television at 3:37 am by dinaheng

“Reach high, think big, work hard, have fun!”

The advice may be aimed at youngsters, but the Imagination Movers’ motto clearly speaks to adults, too, as the New Orleans-based rock band for preschoolers returns for its third season on the Disney Channel next week.

The season opener, which airs Monday, Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, is part of the launch of Disney Junior — aimed at kids ages 2-7 — that replaces the Playhouse Disney brand. Disney Junior, which will offer learning-focused programming on several platforms, will expand to a basic cable and satellite channel in 2012.

“Our goal was to make a live action TV show that combines the old fashioned style of ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ and ‘Captain Kangaroo’ with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beach Boys,” explains Rich Collins, the drummer who’s also the father of five young children. “We want to model a creative problem-solving process, and show kids that there’s no bad ideas in brainstorming.”

Creativity and problem-solving is a big part of the Imagination Movers identity. The idea for the Movers began in 2003 when Scott Durbin, then an elementary school teacher, noticed a lack of male role models in children’s programming. Durbin talked with his friends — Collins, a journalist; Dave Poche, an architect, and Scott Smith, a firefighter — about starting an act they’d want their children to watch.

The quartet began writing songs, playing local gigs, and released their own CD. With the support of New Orleans fans, they  started to gain regional recognition. Then Hurricane Katrina hit. Three of the guys lost their homes, and the fourth, firefighter Smith, was part of the search and rescue effort during the disaster.

“One of the things Katrina showed us is that we’re survivors,” says Durbin, who wears the “wobble goggles” on the show. “One day, you’re going about your business, the next, you have no home and job, but you survive. The Movers helped us to recover and give back to the city that helped us survive and get to where we are now.”

In the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane, fans sent the band everything from clothing to e-mails, thanking them for giving children a sense of normalcy amidst the devastation. When the Movers played at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of Playhouse Disney Worldwide, was in the audience. Before long, the four neighbors who started out with an idea for entertaining and teaching kids were on national television.

“We wanted it to be a smart show for kids, to energize them to be creators, rather than consumers,” Durbin says. “Our early songs were all based on the early years with our own children. Kids can see and sense that we’re truthful with our music.”

The “blue collar brainstormers” have now taken their act on the road with a rock concert that brings their Idea Warehouse to life, along with appearances by Nina (Wendy Calio) and Warehouse Mouse (Kevin Carlson). An Imagination Movers concert special will air in early March.

“What we’ve done is what we’re trying to teach,” Collins says. “If you work hard, you can create your own reality. You can make a whole new world for yourself and the people around you. It’s a message of hope.”




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